Saturday, June 22, 2013

When in Rome...

After four days in Athens (read about our Greek adventures here and here in case you missed it), we flew into the Eternal City, Rome. We were to meet my parents there and take our Mediterranean cruise the following day. The very first thing that shocked us was the taxi fare. Coming from Greece where everything is cheap, a 10-min ride for 50 euro seemed to be a little too much! But we were very glad to meet my parents. In the evening, we decided to go out into the city. The hotel ran cheap shuttles to and from the city, so we took it to see Rome. Driving by the ancient ruins was very exciting! We arrived near the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), or the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, which is also known as "the wedding cake" due to its dominating size and pompous and un-matching architecture. Not unmatched, but un-matching, as in not fitting the Medieval neighborhood.

   We walked among thousands of tourists, took pictures, and had wonderful Italian pizza. It has very thin crust and white sauce, which makes it deliciously different from pizza that we are used to. Ancient buildings several feet below the current street levels (due to time and numerous floods that would bring dirt to the roads) were breathtaking and made me really understand why Rome is called the Eternal City. 

During the first night in Rome we visited the Trevi Fountain, which is truly breathtaking. According to the legend, those who throw a coin into the fountain will surely return to Rome. Two coins guarantee that you will meet your love in Rome, and three that you will not only fall in love, but also stay in Rome forever. We stopped at one coin.  

We also stopped by the famous Spanish Steps (which were built by the French and have nothing to do with Spain, by the way), and took a picture where Audrey Hepburn had ice cream in the 1953 film Roman Holiday.

We were completely in love with Rome by the time we decided to head back to the hotel around 10:30 pm. We went to the bus stop, which was by the very pretty old building, and found lots and lots of people waiting for the same bus.

The next bus would be leaving in an hour, so everyone was trying to make it on this one. When the bus came, all hell broke loose. People ran to the door, pushing each other. I once again felt like I was in Russia. I managed to squeeze in pretty early on and saved three more seats for my husband and parents. I felt so smart! But only a couple of minutes later the driver announced that no one is allowed to save seats and that not everyone will make it to the bus. I started panicking. By this time, my parents were on the bus, but my husband was not. The driver said that only four more people would get on. I almost started crying and ran to the exit, loudly saying that I was not to leave my husband alone in Rome at night when I saw him at the door. Praise the Lord! This experience definitely spoiled some of the excitement, but not for too long. We still loved Rome and were looking forward to spending three more days there upon our return from the cruise. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

European Honeymoon - Greece Part 2

There were many interesting things that we got to see and experience in Greece. Below is a rather random list of them. 

- IKEA is truly everywhere! Except for Nashville :(

- Greek food is fresh and tasty! And cheap.

- Lots of little cafes around town. This one is just getting ready to open in the morning.

- Gorgeous amphitheater in Acropolis, in a great condition.

- Lots of homeless dogs around the city, including the marble steps of Acropolis.

- Light, refreshing Greek beer for only 1 euro ($1.32).

- Authentic Greek salad in Athens was very good.

- It was so good that I ordered it again at another cafe. 

- The Acropolis Museum was built over the ancient ruins that can be seen through the glass floor. It is an amazing feeling to walk over them!

- What do you think of when you hear "grilled fish?" This is grilled fish Greek style. Surprisingly, it was delicious.

- This cocktail was not that good... due to Bailey's and Grand Marnier not mixing well together. As a result - curdled cocktail. 

- However, Greece is not a wonderful fairy-tale resort. I am sure it can be, if you pay enough, but we wanted to experience the real thing. And the real thing... is full of graffiti everywhere. Even some stones near Acropolis were vandalized. Every single building in the city is covered with "paintings" as well. I had never seen anything like it! 

- Athens is the city of contrasts with new and old buildings next to each other, and both are covered in graffiti.

- The weather was amazing there, about 90 degrees in Fahrenheit (+32 in Celsius) every day; yet, Greek women love wearing boots even when it is hot. 

- Guess what it is. To me, it looks like potatoes, but it was grilled cheese. 

- The Panathenaic stadium was originally built in Athens in 330-329 BC! All the seats are made of marble.

- Greek feta cheese is creamy and delicious! I want to find something similar at home.

- Greeks love coffee. They drink it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Coffee and nothing else. They call it frappe - coffee, sugar, water, ice and milk. Surprisingly refreshing! And costs only $1.00. 

- Athens reminded me of Russia in many ways, such as crazy driving, lots of motorcycles, and people staying out until late during the week days. Speaking of Russians, we met a lot of them in Athens. Many come to Greece to buy... fur coats. Even though it is summer and the weather is hot, fur coats shops are almost everywhere. We were offered some of them, but, thank goodness, I had an excuse - it is too hot in Houston for fur coats at any time of year. 

This is about it for Greece. Three days in Athens were a little to much to our taste, but it also gave us an opportunity to go at our own pace and truly dive into the local culture.