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Athens Graffiti Gallery

I know most people fall into  opposing camps on the matter of graffiti: they either love it or hate it.  I’m firmly in the street art lovers category.  I understand that it’s not always appropriate, like the instance my friend always cite of tagging in Florence.  However,  I feel graffiti, the artistic, non tagging kind, can do a lot for an otherwise boring neighborhood or brutal communist-era block buildings.  Plus, when done well, it often adds to the sense of community in a neighborhood.

That said, Athens is a pretty interesting place all on its own, and probably doesn’t need any graffiti.  Luckily, for the fans like me, the artists are everywhere.

This gallery is on the hill itself, smack dab in the middle of a beautiful pedestrian/scooter area:

A Few Days in Greece (More Reports from My Summer Adventures)

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The strongest memory of my first trip to Athens, in 1996, was my godmother telling my mom that she was taking me to live sex shows all over the city.  After my mom’s shock and our laughter, we told her about all the frisky cats  doing their business on the streets.  This year, I’m sad to say that we didn’t see a single free sex show on the streets of Athens.  And I almost forgot the rest of what I had seen in Athens eighteen years ago, which makes me think that travel has a half-life, somewhere between 15-20  years.  So, if you’re not going back somewhere because you’ve already been there, maybe enough will have changed in two decades to change your mind.

This time Athens was less lively, but that may also be due to the financial crisis.  Despite the crisis, Mom and I still found restaurants full of people enjoying themselves.   The only obvious sign of economic problems, at least to a tourist, were lots of empty storefronts.  We stayed in an airbnb apartment in a residential neighborhood, and walked to tourist areas, where there were shops and hawkers aplenty.

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view from the museum cafe

We were really impressed with the the Acropolis Museum.  It wasn’t there in ’96, and it’s an amazing improvement that definitely enhances your visit.  The opening hall has transparent floors, so you can see some of the ruins below as you view the prize collections of Athens.  The top floor has the frieze and other carved adornments that remain from the Acropolis – it’s incredible to see them up close and get the background for their stories.  I also have to mention the cafe – we had an amazing meal there while admiring the view of the Acropolis – I almost like looking at it from afar better than when we saw it up close!

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we walked over these ruins on the way into the Acropolis Museum. The building has many glass floors so you can check out what lies beneath.

Later we hiked up the hill, which is a lovely walk through grassy lots, random piles of old rocks, as yet unassembled, and beautiful trees and shrubs.  The landscape makes the slightly uphill walk really enjoyable.

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Here are some of the random rocks that we saw:

On the way back down the Acropolis Hill, we saw the Agora and a great view of the Temple of Zeus, which was already closed when we tried to see it earlier in the afternoon.

I also visited Dephi back in ’96, but don’t remember much more than the theater.  The Delphi Museum was remodeled since then and is also worth the visit – Greece definitely has Turkey beat in terms of museum design and presentation of information. It’s well laid out and does a great job explaining the phases of worship at Delphi and its various treasuries.  Towns throughout Greece kept some vaults at Delphi during Hellenic times, some of which are still sort of standing today.

Here are some the offers found from treasuries around the site:

When you visit, you really appreciate the site of Delphi, and how well the ancient Greeks picked a holy spot.  I wish I could describe the combination of the breeze, the sunshine, the pine scent and the hum of cicadas that we experienced while climbing through the site – it was heavenly!

The rest of Greece was a bit of a blur.  Mom and I had plans to stop at Corinthia on our way to catch the ferry to Italy, but decided against it as we both like sleeping in the morning, and I was a bit stressed about getting through the ferry boarding administration process.  It’s a little more difficult to board a ferry with a car  Usually you have to go to one office to pick up your tickets, then another to get your boarding pass.  Sometimes they want to inspect your vehicle before you drive it on.  In Patra, once we found an office with friendly workers, it wasn’t that challenging of a process.  We picked up our tickets, then our boarding passes, and then finally found the right port (there’s a new one, further down the road), where we would board, eventually.  Once the stress was assuaged, we found a nice cafe in a pedestrian zone in Patra to enjoy a little more Greek-style frappes and food before we hopped to Italy.

Speaking Non-Stop English in Spain

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Last summer I took a break from a road trip from Turkey to Spain and back by booking a week of volunteer service at Pueblo Ingles (English Town) in La Alberca, a town outside of Salamance in Spain.

the whole group in the town square of La Alberca.  I'm in a the middle of the top row, in a hat.

the whole group in the town square of La Alberca. I’m in a the middle of the top row, in a hat.

Last week I did the program again, but this time in the mountains outside of La Corzola, in the northern part of Jaen, another region in Spain. Even though you do a lot of talking, and in English, participating in the program provides for a relaxing week and builds great friendships with incredibly interesting Spaniards and Anglos from around the world.

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the teachers group at a pajama party. Sadly, I’m the one with the devil eyes on the bottom right.

The program is designed to provide an immersion experience where Spaniards can improve their English. As a volunteer, or Anglo, you’re expected to speak English for hours on end, in exchange for room and board and wine! It’s a pretty good exchange, and I suspect a lot of people would do it for the wine alone, even though it’s the kind you have to drink a lot of to really enjoy. The real benefit of the program, besides language, however, is the fellowship and friendship that emerges in just a few days. When you spend nearly every waking hour with a small group of people, and incessant talking is enforced, you’ll either get very close to each other or quickly run out of things to say. Luckily, I’m a talker, so even after a week of this, I feel like I could keep going.
We spend the day in one-to-ones or two-to-twos, and depending on what type of program it is (i.e. for businesspeople or teachers), helping the Spaniards prepare presentations or classes. Lots of other activities are scheduled in so it never gets boring. Each night, there’s an entertainment hour, which includes presentations on all kinds of things by the Anglos, jokes by the MC, and theater presented by a mixed cast of Anglos and Spaniards. Generally, there’s an activity after dinner or some simple hanging out, where the level and quality of English becomes more social. Because everybody is so interesting, it’s really hard to break away and go to bed, even though you know you have hours with them again the next day.
Since everyone must attend all three meals, the Spanish schedule can be hard to adopt for some Anglos. Breakfast at 9, Lunch at 2 and Dinner at 9 is late for most English-speaker’s schedules, but I adapted quickly. After a night or two or partying into the dawn hours, I was happy to sleep in until just before breakfast. We also got a siesta every day, from the conclusion of lunch until 5 p.m.
In La Alberca last summer, I either went to the hotel pool, napped, or took an excursion to a mountaintop monastery during siesta.


One of my favorite activities was the queimada, which is an ancient tradition of unknown origins (although it’s believed to be Celtic) of banishing evil spirits and welcoming good spirits from and to a place. It is performed by burning some spirits (the drinking kind) with sugar and spices while reading an incantation. I won’t say more about it, because I think each time the players lend a different sense of drama to the event.

me and a queimada witch

me and a queimada witch

I also learned a lot about my own language, English. First of all, we all have different ideas of what constitutes proper English, especially between the American and UK versions. The slang is interesting all the way around the world, as are the idioms. Each hour of talking, you’re supposed to review an idiom and a phrasal verb. First I had to figure out what a phrasal verb was, then sometimes ask around to find their meanings. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s a verb with an adverb or preposition that when combined provide a new meaning to the phrase. Here are some examples: ask out, give up, look into, etc.

If this sounds interesting, or you’re looking for a cheap week in Spain where you really get to meet some Spaniards, I strongly recommend applying for the program.  You provide your own transportation to Madrid and the program takes care of the rest.  They have kids, teens, and adult programs all over Spain, and a couple of programs in Germany as well.

Here’s the link to apply: http://www.diverbo.com/en/volunteer-abroad

If I can swing it, I’ll be back for another round!

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