Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It happened in Athens

Yes, I survived Athens. The city didn’t actually seem so bad from the 21st floor of our hotel (the pool bar).




Not to mention it was practically a ghost town, with everyone away for diakopes (vacations). We had an excellent view of our old neighborhood from the hotel –


and Thanos went out bright and early Saturday morning and got me some tsoureki from our old bakery (I’ve not had tsoureki quite as good since then). The weather was actually pleasant for July – plus I think Athens is less humid in general than Thessaloniki so the dry heat didn’t seem so bad.


The wedding was beautiful, the bride and groom looked fabulous and the reception had the usual “Greek wedding reception” elements but a few twists thrown in, including fireworks and a buffet. I’ve actually never experienced a buffet at a wedding before. The food was decent and there was something for everyone, yet Thanos and I still experienced “buffet sickness” the next day. No matter how good a buffet is, it just never quite works out for me. Unfortunately, none of my pictures of the reception venue turned out, because our camera is s*#t and it was too dark (same with the interior of the church, I got a couple of passable shots of the artwork inside, but most of it was dark). Too bad, because the place was kinda cool with a modern design, on a huge property among other such venues snug on the slopes of Parnitha.

The flight there was a bit dicey – a delay on the runway because of too much traffic in the Greek skies, and then again mid-flight. Add some turbulence on landing and it was a rough ride. On the flight back I was certain they hadn’t locked the cargo door (we were sitting right over it and I saw it close but I didn’t hear or feel the corresponding kalump) while Thanos rolled his eyes every time I said it. I’m even more amused by passenger behavior than ever. I’m trying to figure out why exactly people have to be first to board when boarding means getting on a bus to get to the plane and the people that get on first just have to wait on a hot bus for ten minutes. Then the minute the plane stops 90% of the people jump up and start gathering their crap only to stand there for ten minutes while waiting for the door(s) to be opened. And what exactly is so hard about finding your seat on a plane? People get on board and it is like all common sense regarding numbers has been lost on them. If your ticket says row 22 you can be pretty sure you need to keep moving towards the back of the plane. Then when people get to their designated seat they stand in the aisle, puzzled, as if not sure what to do next. Sitting down is a good rule of thumb, or at least get the hell out of the way so the rest of us that can count can get to our seats. Honestly, is life really that difficult for some people, or does travel stress just overcome them? If the latter is true, I guess I can’t blame them. I’m sure anyone who knew English on the plane didn’t appreciate my constant chatter about the cargo door being unlocked.

So I guess Athens is ok – if you are just visiting. I still wouldn’t want to live there again, even though I do recall a few good times in the old neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

I too have always found Greeks to be complete dickheads when it comes to using planes - apart from the seating numbering being totally beyond them, the ridiculous applause when the plane lands makes you wonder why any of them risked getting on the plane in the first place!!

CaliforniaKat said...

When my brother was here for Athens 2004, he asked me why people bum rush the bus, tram or metro to get on when people haven't gotten off because it doesn't make any sense. I had no answer, except that's how people are. Can't change it, accept it.

Same bum rush occurs on airplanes, as you described. People are lined up for the gate well before boarding occurs, then when they announce anything -- could be special boarding for kids, disabled and seniors -- everyone gets up like they're giving away free TVs and there's an unnecessary amount of pushing and shoving. At this point, I see one of two things happen: a) Staff tell everyone to sit down and they refuse to board anyone, b) they roll their eyes and just board them anyway because (obviously) it's common behavior and explaining how it should be done is a waste of breath.

So sick of pushing and shoving was Swiss airlines that they refused to board anyone and announced this in Greek until everyone behaved. Made the flight late by an hour. I guess they'd had enough that day. I was proud of them.

Anonymous -- I joke that they applaud because they're happy to be alive after enduring so many crappy landings with Olympic Airlines ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't know what kind of plane you all board but last time someone clapped in a flight to and fro and whithin Greece was in 1993.
Have any of you boarded an Italian plane for Rome or Napoli? Cause that is some serious clapping business.

Anonymous said...

My poor grandma used to push telling me that if you didn't you'd never board the refugee ship and be killed by the Turk in '22, in what is now Izmir. Some things just don't change. It's part of Greek life and genetic makeup, accept it.
And Olympic Airways crappy landing??? Are for real? Crappy service, yes but landing? Have you been on an landing with AA in JFK? That WAS scary!

OA had 4 accidents in all last one in 1976.

melusina said...

Well, the inability to find one's seat and the need to be first certainly isn't only found in Greek airports and on Greek planes. I guess I find it interesting because they are phenomena I've witnessed since I first set foot on a plane. Incidentally, the seat finding problem also occurs in theaters so I wonder if there is some psychological "crowds with assigned seating" thing going on there. However, Greeks certainly tend to find ways to be first when it comes to standing in line, although since it seems to be a cultural phenomenon, it is acceptable, because most people here do it.

I have never been on a plane where people clapped on landing. My husband says that used to be a time honored tradition to pay homage to the pilot, kinda like the way people used to clap at the end of movies. Personally, I think both things are stupid, but hey, if you want to clap, clap!

Anonymous said...

Mel says:

"Well, the inability to find one's seat and the need to be first certainly isn't only found in Greek airports and on Greek planes."

Yes! you are absolutely right, Mel. It's not just a Greek thing! I'll be the first to criticize my own people for behaving badly - and I often do, but I have experienced idiotic and irrational behavior across the board and not just when boarding planes. It happens on ferry boats, it happens on metro trains and upon boarding buses too. And NOT only in Greece.

I live in North America and I see this behavior from Asian and African immigrants, especially the older generation. I have been poked and prodded by numerous old Italian and Portuguese and Spanish women too when getting in a bus. This practice does not discriminate. It is plain rude and ignorant.

CaliforniaKat: Not to be rude, but when was the last time you traveled in the USA? Or in a country besides Greece?

I have traveled by many different airlines and find Olympic Airways to be far superior to other North American Airlines. I feel safe and confident when I travel with Olympic. The airfare may cost a little bit more but it's worth it.

And as for the clapping, I've only encountered it on trips to Greece. My husband, a non-Greek, has traveled by plane to other European countries and was surprised when upon landing in Athens, the passengers applauded. He had never experienced this clapping custom before and he found it amusing.


Anonymous said...

I am laughing hysterically right now because all this stuff I am reading is so true. Greeks are a funny bunch.

Olympic Airlines has the best pilots, and that is a fact!

Greek people push and shove and speed because they think they have to be first anywhere. Only to get to a red light and wait like the rest of us, or board a plane, but just wait till everyone boards. They think that if they don't push and shove to get on a bus,to get their space, it is like they are being cheated. And for a Greek, that thinks they know better and knows everything, that is just unacceptable.

These negative traits, amongst many others, are the reasons why Greece was at one time the seat of civilization, and now, is a country that is still way behind the rest of Europe!