As those of you who have been following my Brazil posts know, I had only a couple of days between returning to Chicago and heading to Greece. Thankfully from a health perspective I got the upgrade on the flight back to Chicago and actually got a good night’s sleep and since Greece was a pleasure trip I had “bought” a business class ticket with miles.

From a stress perspective things were different. And the unpacking and repacking part was the least of it. Given that Brazilian passport stamps take two spaces and that I took that extra trip to Buenos Aires, I had zero, well actually negative, space in my passport for new stamps. So I was worried that they wouldn’t let me on the plane. Somehow, luck was with me and I happened to call the passport agency just as someone cancelled an appointment and get a slot to get new pages added just before I left.

The stress didn’t end there though, as no one could guarantee that the pages could be added, all I could do was show up for the appointment and hope for the best. So I arrived early, and actually had to leave and come back since I was too early, got in line and got to the first window just before my appointment time. Even then I couldn’t get an answer, only a number to wait in another area to talk to an agent. Finally more than an hour later, might have been closer to 2 hours, I was called to the window and the first reaction was that “it’s not going to happen”. Somehow I remained calm and re-emphasized that my flight was that night, at that point the agent, Brian, looked at my itinerary and became my new best friend as he said he would push it through for me. Then, on further inspection he advised that I actually get a new passport as mine was expiring within the year and so beat up that it might not support new pages. Since he guaranteed that he could push that through too I ran, literally ran, off to get some new photos. Upon returning I was able to go right back to Brian without waiting in another line and start the actual process, from which there was no turning back since one of the first steps is for the agent to punch a hole through it’s photo page. I did thank Brian many times and noted that it must have been fate that I got him as my agent as I have a brother with that name.

Another hour or so later, I had the new document in hand and was headed home to hang for only a short time before heading to the airport. Finally I could relax. And relax I did, first in the Red Carpet Club where I enjoyed a nice glass of wine that I “bought” with the coupons they gave me when I entered and then on the plane in business class (yes, there are perks to traveling all the time for work). Sad, but true, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by Lufthansa’s business class after having been in one of the upgraded United business cabins a few days earlier. Not only did we have recliners. which I expected, instead of the new flat beds, they were the most uncomfortable recliners I have ever experienced, and I fly a lot and even had been in Lufthansa business class before and didn’t remember such wacky seats. The controls were utterly confusing and when I did move the seat into it’s nearly flat position to sleep it had the effect of being at just the right angle to make me keep sliding down towards the footrest. Yes, I know, most people fly coach for trips like this so have no sympathy, and I am not looking for any. If, however, someday you do get the chance to fly business, I recommend against taking Lufthansa unless they upgrade their cabins.

In the early afternoon we landed in Munich, what a gorgeous airport, not that I really get into those kind of things, but this couple that I had met in the Red Carpet Club where were also on their way to Greece had mentioned this, and they were right. A huge difference from Frankfort which is where I have changed many times before.

There was the standard trek to and through customs, though this time it did feel weird showing them a virgin passport. And it made me reflect on how I was wearing the exact outfit that I was in for the picture since as you know from above, the passport was hot off of the press.

After a quick stop in the club I headed to the gate to board for Athens, and here again I was not impressed with Lufthansa. All of the signs indicated that boarding was imminent yet there was no indication that it was close once you got to the gate. And there was only a figurative attempt to board in any kind of order. Thinking back, it was similar in Chicago, there were supposedly lines for the various cabins which all blended together. In addition there was some pre-boarding, which is find, it just wasn’t clear to those of us waiting when things would actually start moving.

Finally I was in Athens and waiting for my bag, which did arrive, so I did not have a repeat of my trials of my arrival in Brazil. As I was waiting I noticed a sign for Mythos beer and figured that I would have to try that at some point just because of the name, even though I am not a big beer drinker.

Luggage in hand, it was off to my hotel. Sadly, in a way, I didn’t have to go through customs again since I was flying within the E.U. so I don’t have a stamp that proves I was in Greece. I guess I will have to rely on my pictures.¬†Because I was part of a tour, even though I arrived a day early, I had a driver waiting for me. I tell you, that is such a nice thing after hours on a plane and especially in a place where the languages spoken are not the ones you know. It turns out my driver spoke excellent English, but I’ll save the rest of that story for a future post.

Since I wanted to stay up for a few hours and was not yet hungry I began wandering around the area near my hotel. While I had done some research about the islands we were going to visit I had not had much time to look into things in Athens so I didn’t have any real plans for what to try to see, and as Steph was getting there the next day wanted to save most sightseeing for with her.

So I set out and discovered that Hadrian’s Arch was steps away from my hotel, the Airhotel Parthenon, which was not only in a great location, it was clean and comfortable and the service was excellent. I had actually seen the arch on the way in to town so I knew it was close and it was a good welcome to Greece, and later a good parting shot to my quick trot around a part of central Athens. Of course it also felt good just to be walking after spending the better part of a day in transit.

I continued wandering to see if I could get any good shots of the Temple of Olympian Zeus without getting inside the gated area as by this time everything was closing or closed for the night. I succeeded.

Despite the fact that you can probably already appreciate the grandeur of this structure from these far away photos, I’ll let the cat out of the bag a bit and tell you that the ones you will see in an upcoming post should do a much better job of evoking a sense of how magnificent this building was, and for that matter, still is.

On the way in my driver had noted the Olympic stadium from the 1896 revival of the games and I didn’t think it was too far away so I figured I would try to find it. Of course the streets aren’t exactly in a grid, seems to be a theme of places that I visit, and I headed off in the wrong direction. Along the way I was met by a Roman bath that was visible from a small bridge which was built into the sidewalk.

Since I was actually headed towards Parliament instead of the stadium I actually saw my first view of some of the protests that have been all over the news. It really wasn’t a big deal as they were efforts in place for crowd control and since I had no reason to explore things further in thatdirection I simply turned around and ducked into the park that I had been walking past. It turns out, I had stumbled on the National Garden of Athens, a very unexpected find in the middle of a hot and dusty city. Not that I minded the heat, I actually relished it after having come from late fall in Brazil a few days earlier. Athens was actually experiencing hotter than normal weather and I heard that it had gotten close to 40 that day.

Upon exiting the garden, I finally got myself headed in the right direction and found the Panathenaic Stadium. Again, it was too late to go inside, yet standing there under the Olympic flags, which refused to fill given the stillness of the air that night, was quite an amazing feeling. It was actually a challenge of almost Olympic proportions to get to the stadium, as the road I needed to cross had quite heavy traffic and the lights didn’t change to allow pedestrians to cross very often, and when they did the didn’t stay that way for long.

By now, as you can probably tell, it was starting to get dark. This was also a welcome change as it was probably around 9 PM and back in Porto Alegre darkness sets in between 5 and 6 this time of the year. I still was not very hungry but figured it was wise to eat something to try to adjust my clock so I headed back towards the hotel.

Along the way finally got my first glimpse of the Acropolis, not that I had been actively looking for it, for whatever reason, but it was nice to get that first glipse on the first day in town. It’s a bit hard to see, but if you duck your head under the streetlight and twist slightly to the left, it’s there.

Finally dinner was inevitable, though hunger still eluded me, and I opted for a location just around the corner from my hotel. Since it was a fantastic night, I selected a table near the pedestrian plaza and perused the menu. I decided to actually order something solid, the gyros, and of course some wine. Both were good and I must have been hungrier than I thought as I didn’t leave too much of the gyros on the plate when all was said and done.

All in all it was a good first few hours in Greece and time to get some sleep to prepare for the rest of my adventures.