Friday, January 24, 2014

Greece: More Than Just The Musical Your Parents Loved

If the question is: Did I go to Greece for two weeks and stop in Istanbul for a day and make friends with an elephant and have my company pay for it all? Then the answer is: "Yes for the most part, but I did not make friends with an elephant."

I know you are excited for me to talk about Greece...

Is that the Acropolis or Parthenon? Continue reading below to find out the difference...

But I'm going to have to start from the beginning of my journey. It started in March. March 18, 2013. The day I started working at AirFastTickets. I'll pause here to give you time to check out the website....maybe book a flight. Email me for a secret coupon.

OK, so really that's irrelevant other than the fact that AirFastTickets is a Greek company....with an office in Greece.....full of Greek developers....yearning for my knowledge and leadership....which my company decided to provide to the form of sending me to Greece.

So I went to Greece

Which Greek God is that with such chiseled abs? Continue reading below to find out...

But, my boss is from Turkey, so he always stops in Istanbul to see his family on the way to Greece, so, I decided to go with him and check out Istanbul for a day.

NYC -> IST (Although I worked for a travel company, they couldn't get me a flight in Business class.....real classy)

The first thing that I obviously had to do when I got to Turkey was enjoy a big glass of authentic Turkish coffee.

Do you not see how happy I look? That is a smile that only Turkish coffee can create.

From there we ate some foods, saw some mosques and partied it up......

What was really surprising to me was that Istanbul was just like any other modern, westernized city.....with a bunch of mosques in it. I expected it to be very eastern and religious and poor, but it could have been any European and American city (other than the Mosques). The airport was pretty trippy, though. It was a total east meets west culture mix. This makes sense as Istanbul actually straddles two continents (can you guess which ones?). I was actually in three continents in one day....OMG (I checked with Guinness World Records and apparently this was not a record). In the airport I saw this group (you might call it a tribe) of African women carrying their bags on their heads. Some of them were actually afraid to get on the escalator because they had never seen one before.

We also stopped by a couple Bazaars to pick up a little of this and a little of that. They had a whole Bazaar dedicated to pets. PETS! And here was my favorite pet....

LEECHES!!!! Ok, they weren't selling them as pets, but actually for medicinal purposes. Ya know...get out the bad blood. And here I was thinking that this practice had been dis-proven 50 years ago. Silly American doctors and their lack of leeches.

A couple other quick comments before we move on....this was during the Syrian civil war (I guess its still going on...probably no matter what year you're reading this in) and there were many beggars holding passports proving they were displaced from Syria. I thought that was interesting. That's what was hot on the Turkish streets there. Oh, and get this....we're riding the subway to the airport on our way out. Sitting across the aisle from us is this family with a baby. This guy next to us starts speaking Turkish (or similar language) to them. He starts smiling at the baby and doing baby shit. Then the dad picks up the baby and hands it to the guy. I'm like, I don't think they know each other, so I ask my boss and he's like yeah that's not uncommon for people to hand their baby to a complete stranger. And we're not talking some upstanding looking gentleman. He looks closer to homeless than upstanding. He has stains on his shirt and bad teeth and is just all disheveled. WTF is that? The guy gives the baby back and continues smiling and winking for five more minutes. That mother fucker would be arrested in five seconds in the US for just sitting down next to that family. Bazaar-o land. See what I did there?

And of course no visit to Turkey would be complete without a picture of me pretending to pray in front of a mosque. God bless my sense of humor...

On to Greece....


I was in Greece for two weeks, but of course I was there to work. So, most of the time was not spent sight-seeing, but finding and studying odd things about the culture. Lets talk about some of them.

First off, everyone talks about "The Crisis". "Ever since the crisis", "People do [this] since we're in the crisis", "People no longer do [that] since the crisis."    Does anyone have any idea what they're talking about? I hear hear the Greek economy is in great shape.

Next, they have this insane custom....when its your birthday, you buy drinks for everyone else, instead of the other way around. At least they told me that....then told me to come back on my birthday.

Now we'll get to the real crazy Basketball is huge in Greece. They have some American ex-division 1 players. Like I said, huge. My company actually sponsored a basketball team there so we sat down after work one day and watched a game. This is what it looked like...

Completely empty!

But Matt, I thought you said that Basketball was huge there?

Well, I didn't lie. Here's what I was told was the reason for the empty arena. This was the first game of the new season and the home team had been in the championship the previous year. They had been losing so badly that the fans rushed the court and started kicking players and doing other shenanigans. As a result, they ended up banning the fans for three games the next season. Banning the fans. So strange.

And then we started talking about opposing fans at the games and they said that they are basically just not allowed. Anyone cheering for the opposing team or wearing their jersey will get their ass kicked, so no one shows up. Can't we all just get along?

I also feel like no one uses horns there. It's pretty much the exact opposite of driving in India. But they do have awful, awful morning shows on the radio. All it was, every morning in the cab, was sound bites over 80s music. It was the most cliche radio hosting ever. And at least once every five minutes they would play the "This is Sparta" clip from 300. Why would you do that?

So that was some weird stuff that happened. Now I'll tell you about the touristy stuff I partook in.

Athens - Gods, Rocks, Gyros, Greek Coffee (same as Turkish coffee), Tzatziki sauce, Pillars

So to answer the questions from waaaay above...

"An acropolis (GreekΑκρόπολιςakros, akron,[1] highest, topmost, outermost + polis, city; plural: acropoleis or acropolises) is a settlement, especially a citadel, built upon an area of elevated ground—frequently a hill with precipitous sides, chosen for purposes of defense."

So the Acropolis is that whole area on top of the hill and the Parthenon is just the main building up there.

And now you have learned something today.

And as for the nice naked man in bronze above, if you guessed might be right. And if you guessed might be right. Cause they don't know which one it is for sure (almost like they weren't real). And of course, as the racist quip goes....all Gods look alike.

Sooooo, the Acropolis is pretty freakin sweet.

Who is that Greek God?

Pillahs (my boy's wicked smaht)

In addition to the obvious mad old buildings, architectural secrets (no straight lines in the Parthenon, pillars are smaller at top, optical illusions, blah blah blah), and a nice hill to walk up for exercise.....this thing is on top of a giant hill with a ridiculous view of Athens.

Take your time. Stare at it for a while. I'll be here when you get back....

So that was nice, huh?

I know you're asking yourself, "Did Matt make it to a Greek island as well?". Yes I did! Even though it was cold and it was the last weekend stuff was open, I fought through it and went to Hydra just so I could report back to you fine people.

How do you get to an island? You take a helicopter. But if you don't have a helicopter, you take a boat. There's almost 100 Greek islands and so they have a fleet of ferries/boats/things that are constantly travelling back and forth between them. It feels like an airport and feels like a flight. Their boats even look like planes (kind of)...

The island was full of little cottages, winding alleys, donkeys and cats. So many cats. Get that shit under control. There are no cars allowed there, so everyone travels by donkey (or cat if they can train them). There is seriously a never ending maze of alleys between all the houses....seriously. Although cold and lonely.....the island will always have a special place in my heart (tear)

That's all I got. There's nothing more to say. Special thanks to Athena, Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes for showing me a good time.

And I will leave you with a picture of this glorious towel that I know you all are very jealous of. I am making this picture quite large to allow for full inspection.