Saturday April 6, 2013
In America, spending the day at the beach in the beginning of April is practically unheard of. Normally at this time, we are gradually switching out of our winter clothes and into capris and sweatshirts. But here in Athens, we were able to spend the day at the beach! For the past couple of weeks we have been able to lay out on the boys’ porch upstairs. Judging by the weather on the days that we had been outside, we figured the beach might have a little breeze but the hot sun would compensate for that. This was a day that had been put in the making for quite some time now. Throughout the rainy months of February and March, we knew that this would be the perfect way to spend our day off.
We were decked out in all of our beach apparel. It was our first beach day of the seasons: we had to go all out! We walked down the streets of Athens in our sundresses with bathing suit strings hanging out of the back, sunglasses on, and large beach bags full of towels, sun block, and snacks. Locals must have thought we were crazy. To us Americans, this was amazing weather; to them, it was just another chilly April day. As we strutted towards the trolley looking like this, we past by people in jeans, sweatpants, and heavy jackets. I still don’t understand how they aren’t hyperventilating in all of those layers!
In order to get to the beach, we had to take a trolley bus for seventeen stops throughout Athens. Not only was this our first beach day, but it was also our first time on a European trolley. I gotta say, it was just like everything I had expected and nothing out of the ordinary. We bought a ticket on the side of the road from a lady who scooted us through the line as if she was the world’s busiest woman. By this point, it is towards the end of our stay in Greece and mostly everyone has seemed to enjoy or at least pretend to enjoy helping us as much as they could. This booth lady must have just been having a bad day…just maybe. Either that or she just hates her job. Who knows?
We waited for about ten minutes for trolley number 4 to arrive and escort us over to the beach. As we saw the wires connecting to the top of the trolley start to jiggle, we knew it must have been coming towards us. We picked up our bags and followed the people crowding over towards the thick yellow stopping point line. Normally in Greece, people are layed back and slow paced but when it comes to trains, buses and trolleys, people will push you right out of the way so that they can be the first ones in or to get the good seats. We accepted it and continued in behind the crowd, giving us only enough room to stand up and hold on to the rubber handles hanging from the ceiling. Good thing we had a nice supply of hand sanitizer with us!
One thing that I find very helpful is my understanding of the Greek language. In a way, it allows me to appreciate the little things that happen around us. If none of us had known the language, we wouldn’t have known that the little girl standing near us was talking about how beautiful we all were and how she wanted sandals like ours. Or we wouldn’t have known that the large buildings and yellow taxis speeding by the trolley completely amazed the little boys sitting with their grandparents. In my own opinion, being able to understand what is being said around me and sharing that with the group has opened our eyes to a lot of more things that we would normally pass by as nothing.
Stop number 14, 15, and 16 came quick, only giving us a little time to get ourselves together in order to scoot by everyone at stop 17. We exited the trolley onto a bed of grass and weeds. If we hadn’t been watching out of the windows, we wouldn’t have had any idea where to go from there. This stop was literally in the middle of nowhere. Bushes, trees and tall grass surrounded us. I don’t know if everyone else agrees but I thought it was quite a strange place to get dropped off. If we hadn’t been looking out the windows, we wouldn’t have known that right on the other side of the bushes, there was a large sidewalk and sandy beaches! It only took us a couple of minutes to find the opening to get on the other side to our final destination.
We walked down the sidewalk and stopped at a stand full of salted peanuts, dried apricots, raisins, and cashews. Since it was in our minds at the time that we were on some sort of diet before beach season hit, we thought it was a good idea to get pounds of all sorts of healthy assortments. Needless to say, the couple working the stand was very excited. I’m sure they hadn’t got that much service all day! After each getting a pound of mixed goodies, we went on our way to find the perfect beach spot.
As we walked, we realized that there weren’t very many good places to lay on the beach. There were spots that were either too close to the water, too dirty, or too crowded. We finally picked a spot that wasn’t necessarily the perfect one but it was good enough for the time beings. We were surrounded by teenagers who looked about fourteen years old, smoking cigarette after cigarette after cigarette. It was absolutely disgusting but at the same time sort of impressive in a weird way. There were also large men in Speedos sitting over by the rock wall closest to the sidewalk. Nice. We avoided all eye contact in that general area of the beach.
Although we were on a beach in Greece, it was nothing like what you would see in pictures of the islands. No clear blue see-through water with white sand and white pebbles. Nope, just like what you would see at home. We definitely kept in mind that we were still in the city so we couldn’t have expected much more out of it. We layed out our towels and sat with our clothes on because there was a bit of a chill in the air. It only took a few minutes for the layers to start coming off since the sun was beaming right on us. It also only took a few minutes for the first sunglass vendor to come over and bug us about buying a pair of fake Ray Bans for 20 Euros. Real Ray Bans are very expensive but ones that don’t even have the right spelling of the logo are definitely not worth the 20. You can find fake pairs for 5 Euros or even less, and they say the actual logo instead of ones like Rory Brands or Retro Bans. As if it were a single file line of vendors coming our way, the next guy came up and bugged us about buying his fake DVDs. Who knows if the flimsy containers even had a working DVD inside of them? Definitely not worth taking the risk.
None of us attempted to go in the water after putting our feet in to have a temperature check. We had only hoped that the water on the islands next week was going to be much warmer. A base tan is what we needed for the islands! What a great time to start working on it! As we layed there, we closed our eyes and listened to the sounds of waves crashing onto the beach, some soft music playing from someone’s cell phone, and unfortunately the commotion of cars driving by. Relaxing with a hint of annoying.
An hour and a half went by and we decided it was time to explore around. On the trolley ride towards the beach, we saw a few tents selling clothes and things. We packed our bags and walked down the road to the trolley stop. The same hustle and bustle surrounded us on the way back towards the shops. Only a few stops away and we were there. In order to get to the shops quicker, we took a shortcut through a fruit market. It was much bigger than the one down the street from our apartment every Saturday. It must have been a little less than a mile full of fruits, vegetables, fish, flowers and plants. Everything was so mouth watering and so tempting to indulge in. But we had already spent too much money on the dried fruits and nuts before the beach.
Finally we had made it to the little shops on the side of the road. Unfortunately it was like nothing that we expected. They were full of raggedy old clothes that must have been used before but clean enough to be worn by someone else. There were also shops full of cleaning supplies and different little gadgets that would one day just end up in someone’s clutter box. Little tent shops like these that were closer towards our apartment had many more interesting options. More options for people our age.
It only took us a few minutes to walk on by and to the next trolley stop to go back home. It was time to go home and relax before a night out with our friends who we met at Hellenic American University. It was our friend Paul’s twentieth birthday so it was only necessary to bring in his new age the right way! Overall we had a great day. We were able to see a whole new side of Athens. I knew it was a big city but I never realized it was that big. It was the perfect time to explore more sides to where we’ve been living for the past 2 and a half months!