Travel warning for Greece

1. You may fall in love with this country. It is the easy for English speakers to visit because most people in the hospitality and transportation industry speak enough English to provide excellent service. I find Greek people very friendly towards visitors.

2. If you will check luggage, bring sun block location. I didn’t find it in supermarkets, and pharmacies want €18 for something I pay $8 in the US. There is a lot of sun even in October.

3. I felt very safe in Greece, and observed many locals don’t always lock windows and doors in the countryside. Unfortunately I did encounter some unpleasantry in Athens. I suppose it is not surprising for the anonymity in a large city to let some people think they can get away with doing crime.

I was on the way to bus terminal from Port Piraeus on Subway L1. Subway exit alternated between right and left side of travel direction in the first few stops. So I did not know which way to get out for my stop at Omonoia. I parked myself next to a door on the left side. I had my backpack against the wall and a small bag in front of me facing the crowd. It was about 16:00 and the train got even more crowded at the Monastiraki station. Before the train pulled into the next stop, two men moved toward me. I thought that was an indication for the door to open on my side, for I was getting off at this station. One of them looked like he was in a hurry to stand at the door. I crushed my backpack ever more tightly against the wall to let him squeeze past me.

When the train stopped in the station. The doors on the right side opened first to let out some people. No one around me was moving and I would be making a lot of commotion to surf across the crowd with my backpack bumping into everyone on the way. The guy next to me motioned for me to look to the door on the left as if that door would open any moment. It hadn’t. The guy at the door reached for up as if to find mechanism to open the door. I looked up with him, I looked out. The door opened, but for some reason the guy at the door paused. He did not step out onto the platform. I tried to say excused me… Next thing I know, there was a push from behind my backpack. I half stumbled across the door onto the platform. No one else followed. What was that about? I started walking towards the stairs. Wait, did I not zip shut the front pocket of my small bag? Hmmm. I don’t usually do that. I didn’t even pull out the phone since before I got on the subway train. Wait. Where is my phone? I paused. Searched for my pant pockets. I knew I placed the phone inside the bag before I got on the train. . Shoot! My phone is missing. Was I robbed? How could I be so careless? I even felt a guy’s hairy arm touching mine on the train. I had my left across the small bag. How and when did he reach inside? What story was I going to tell when I got home without my phone? I kept walking upstairs. There is no way I am going to get it back now. I paused. I turned back downstairs to the train.

A nice lady at the door of the next car motioned to let me squeeze in when she saw me walking casually towards the train. I shook my head to decline with a smile. The doors closed. I went by the window where the thieves stood behind the closed doors. I clenched my fists, gnashed my teeth, stared at them with all the disgust and rage inside me. I then pointed my right index finger at one of them and said “thieves”. My voice didn’t carry. It was probably more like I mouthed “thieves”… It was miracle that the train hadn’t pulled out of the station in what seemed to be the longest 30 seconds ever for a train stop. Even more miraculously, the woman that came onboard with those two guys extended her hand out toward me with my phone! Have I done enough good deeds and paid sufficient respect to Greek gods at ancient sites that something supernatural moved her? Was my angry stare scary enough even though they were safe inside the closed doors? Or did she just realized that it would be too much trouble to attempt breaking into my fingerprint protected iPhone? Whatever the reason was, I got out my first pickpocket victim experience rather luckily. I was so gleeful for getting my phone back, I forgot that I could have turned on the camera function and take a picture of the crooks.

After initially refusing to “buy” a packet of napkins from a woman shunned by everyone else in the bus terminal, I went back and gave her an euro. At least she asked for money instead of turning to pickpocketing.

A few days ago I notice a video clip on Facebook showing how robberies are done these days in Europe. The video clip is reported from Interpol. I haven’t found the source material on Interpol website, but it is definitely educational even if made up by actors. I saw something rather familiar to my experience in the shoving from behind technique.
https://www.facebook.com/100005417298293/videos/569588896565015/ You should be able to view this video without signing onto your FB account.

I still have fond memories of my 2 weeks in Greece despite this incident, and I still have faith in Greek people. I just need to be more mindful when I use the subway next time.

Travel smart and travel safe.

Do not panic when you are cornered by people. Better get off at the next stop then to make it easy for them to pick your pocket.

Better yet, leave valuables at home. I saw many local Athenians use cheap flip phone. Avoid crowded subway trains if you have something thieves may like to pick.

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Extra frames

I had a few frames left on the second roll of film from Greece that I wanted to use before turning in for processing.

I made one at a Saturday morning farmer’s market.

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I still had 3 frames left when I made it to Carlsbad at about 16:30, which meant I had 20 minutes to find a subject. Thankfully I was next to the beach when the sun set with no cloud covering the horizon. 25450037

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Museums Day 2016-11-19

The Annenberg Space for Photography has an exhibit titled “Identity” – portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders of people that have overcome adversity. https://www.annenbergphotospace.org/exhibits/identity There is a free audio guide of the exhibit, featuring voice recordings of some of the people in the photograph. A 20 minute film of some of the people telling stories of their climb to success was quite good. I did not know Gloria Allred worked as a school teacher in a “bad neighborhood” of Los Angeles before she became lawyer. Justice Sonia Sotomayor told her story about growing up in “the project” – she went back to have her wedding dress made by a friend there.

Second stop was the Broad http://thebroad.org. They are showing a collection on the first floor titled “Creature”. http://thebroad.org/art/collection-installations/creature

I think the picture of “Nurse K02” on the Broad website missed an important element of the current exhibit – lighting.

The one with no shadow on the left is the official photo. In my snapshot to the right, you see the shadow of a devil behind the sculpture. That shadow makes this exhibit more interesting to me. What do you think? Go see it and other exhibits for yourself.

Greece recorded with expired Fujicolor film

I finally had the 2 rolls of negatives exposed in Greece developed by North Coast Photographic Services in Carlsbad, CA. This is the first time I use their service. It was fast – one day to process C-41 and put high quality scans on CD-ROM, but the cost is 70% higher than what I usually pay a smaller local shop. I often had to wait a week for the local shop to scan and put my files on a cloud server to download. The scan are 11.5 to 14 MB in file size for 5035X3339 pixels.

I used my digital camera as light meter for tricky lighting conditions, such as the sunrise at Μονεμβασία. Most other exposures were best guesses with sunny-16 rule.

Below are captured with Fujicolor NPC 160, expired 2003, EI 125.
25440001 The Acropolis as seen through 90mm lens.

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Sunset at Athens. How does one use graduated filter with a ranger finder camera?

25440023 Sunset at Lake Pamvotis, Ioannina (Ιωάννινα).

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The Monastery of Varlaam, Meteora.

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About 1 hour prior to sunset at Meteora.

Below are scans of Fujicolor Pro 160S, expired in 2005, EI 125.
25450001 Mid-day at Geyfra – Μονεμβασία. 21mm lens.

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Sunrise at Μονεμβασία. 90mm lens.

25450017 Moonrise at Palamidi castle, Nafplio (Ναύπλιο).

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25450020 Cats feast at Mycenae (Μυκηνες).

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Nafplio (Ναύπλιο).

25450025 θεατρο Ασκληπιειου (Επιδαυρος) with 21 mm lens. 25450029
Swiss school children getting ready for group portrait after their performance at θεατρο Ασκληπιειου (Επιδαυρος).

In hindsight, I probably should have exposes these film as if ISO 60 instead of 125. I forgot these films expired at 2003 and 2005. It’s pretty amazing I still got usable scans.

 

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Greek Holiday concludes

Since my flight out of Athens was at 06:00, it would not make sense for me to get a hostel bed in Athens and set an alarm for 02:30, when party people are just about to go to sleep. So I designed my last day in Nafplio to end with the 20:00 bus to Athens. I would go directly to the airport and just sort out my vacation photos or do whatever it takes to keeps awake until I board the flight at 05:20.

The bus transfer to the airport went without a hitch. I was there by 23:30. There were already a lot of like-minded people lounging over all available multi-seat cushions. Some were already snoring before the coffee shop closed for the night. I was able to get a seat next to a power outlet, and then I noticed this charging station nearby:
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The US Department of Transportation had just banned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device aboard all US bound flights effective a few hours ago. Hmmm, I guess European authorities did not want to appear to follow US lead blindly without having their own staff conduct their own study.

I am quite impressed by the generosity of Greek people to make it easy for travelers to visit their country, and their resourcefulness and cooperation to make do with what they have at hand. Most roads outside of Athens are no wider than 3 cars width across. Yet they allow people to park on both sides of narrow roads and do not get into standstill.

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It was a good decision to go the first two weeks of October. The temperature was between 20 and 15 degrees Celsius south of Ιωάννινα. I needed a thin long sleeves shirt only a few times in the early morning. I had my picking for inexpensive lodging, and I had no problem getting ferry and bus tickets last minute. This is the kind of leisurely travel for me!

For my next trip to Greece, especially if I had more than one travel partner, I will consider getting a rental car as soon as we land to see sights on the mainland other than Athens. Return the rental car before ferry to Greek islands and then visiting Athens only for the last 2 days of our stay in Greece.

 

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Greek Holiday Stop 9+

Nafplio (Ναύπλιο) was my jumping point to two other important archeological sites in Peloponnese. 2016-10-14 at 13-00-51

Mycenae (Μυκηνες) was the center of a civilization that thrived between the 16th and 12th century BC. This is where Heinrich Schliemann started an excavation in 1874 that is still ongoing today. Without wheels and other tools we take for granted today, I still wonder how they could have built something as grand as the Lion Gate without the mythical cyclops.
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I was amused by the leap of faith by historians and artists from this fresco remains
IMG_3936 to this explanation. IMG_3937
The scholars must have  studied some other supporting evidences not on display.

While waiting for bus, I noticed omnipresent stray cats are fed by tour bus drivers. IMG_3969
There are a lot of cats and dogs wondering all over Greece. They seem to lead a better life than their human benefactors. Oh, yeah. Don’t miss the 15:00 bus or you may be paying over €25 to go back to Nafplio instead of €3,20.

I visited Epidavros/Epidaurus on my 3rd and last day in Nafplio because I got to Mycenae too late on the second day to return in time for the 14:00 bus to visit this archaeological site. Make sure you look for θεατρο Ασκληπιειου (Επιδαυρος) and not other towns that include Επιδαυρος in their name.

The theater was was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. The architecture is very beautiful. G1X02570 IMG_4063

The architecture is also very functional. The theater has been used in recent years for live performances. It has incredible acoustic quality. You can hear someone test squeezing plastic bottle from anywhere, including the top row of the amphitheater. https://youtu.be/aH-0Ldot0lw

Listen to this group of Swiss school children sing a Greek song they learned in a language program. https://youtu.be/sY4LLSlt3S0

This performance was done only after a prolonged solo or duet performances by just about every one in the group for their teachers. In the mean time, some people had to make do off stage to release their theatrical urges. IMG_4108

The museum next door displayed artifacts from the nearby archaeological site, including that of the Asclepieion, temple for antiquity’s physician god. Apparently the sanctuary for healing’s popularity was what brought in the funds to build the theater.

The published bus schedule said that the bus would drop off riders at a cafe about 1 mile from the theater from October to May. However, there was a small van waiting to shuttle us to the theater’s entrance. The last bus of the day at 1810 also picked us up from the entrance to the theater. There was a nervous wait, for the bus was almost 20 minutes late, but it came nevertheless. There was a convoluted system of 3 buses meeting at the cafe to exchange riders to different directions. It all worked out at the end. I even made it in time to pick up a σουβλάκι and my backpack from the hotel before 20:00 bus departure for Athens.

 

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Greek Holiday Stop 9

Nafplio (Ναύπλιο) is a vacation town for wealthy Athenians. The old town is filled with expensive restaurants, jewelry stores, and gelato vendors.

This stylish bicycle was the first thing that caught my eyes as I headed toward my hotel from the bus station. IMG_3858 Just about all taxi in Nafplio are burgundy colored Mercedes. IMG_4043

It must be tough to sit through midday in the taxi line waiting hours for a customer next to the bus station. Hopefully this driver has already made his annual target by the end of summer tourist season?
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The Palamidi is a fortress composed of 8 bastions on a 216 meter high hill above Nafplio. Locals say there are 999 steps to climb. I counted 889 stairs from the sign pointing you to the fortress to the first gate. There are 20 stairs on the ramp to the sign, and many more stairs and slopes to climb once you have paid for admission and are inside the gate. So 999 is a good number to remember. The walk is actually not as arduous as the number may imply. Because the view along the way is so spectacular, you have to try really hard to count that high.

View of the Palamidi from the old town.img_3860

View of the new town section of the city on the way to Palamidi. G1X02540

View of the old town and closest beach just south of the old town. G1X02539 Views inside the Palamidi. G1X02496

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If you take a 30 minute walk along the southern coast line from the municipal beach, you will find a larger beach southeast of Nafplio. It looks like the water should be calmer here. There is a lot more beach access not captured to the left of this frame below, but I did not see shower facility here.
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Along the way, you will see many locals jog on the path. With the right afternoon light, you may see a naturally formed image of a warrior’s head on the cliff. IMG_3992

With any light you will see many plants along the path, including some native cacti.img_3990

I found the smell from this tree along the path unpleasant. img_3982

Morning is all quite along the harbor.
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Save for a few cats looking for free food. IMG_4013

In the afternoon locals come out to town squares to watch kids play.
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All the gelato vendors in the old town district advertise the same price. This one on the western edge of the old town across from a church is recommended by Rick Steves. You will find many Italian goods in the store besides gelato. img_4035

There is no bakery in the old town section. Take a 5 minute walk toward the new town on the Sidiras Merarchias street. Go about a block past the bank and you will see one on your right hand side (south) near a corner.

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