Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reflections on a glimpse

How is it that there are any skinny people at all in Greece? Seriously, with the way they eat! Don't even get me started on the delicious topic of what they eat... I may actually turn in to a pig if I lived there.

A flying visit to Athens.... no really, 25 hours from landing to take-off. And I didn't do one touristy thing whatsoever. Except buying giant Toblerone from Duty Free. I think that is going to be my duty-free tradition from now on. I don't smoke, and in my line of work coming back with many bottles of spirits is somewhat frowned upon, which leaves chocolate and perfume. Now, while I would love to buy a new perfume every other time I pass through customs, I just don't earn that sort of money. And anyway, I've established that I don't wear perfume often enough to justify one bottle, let alone many.

Flying in to Athens at 6pm... beautiful. It was just getting to twilight and there were big black clouds all piled up at sea, above the islands set in the pretty blue water. My first thought was "Oh I could definitely live here". I was made for warm places I tell you. It was warm when we landed, and I felt so justified in my choice of a leather jacket (vs wool), which was just right. Going from the airport to the city you could see that it is a warm place- the rocks, trees and the dust! I had imagined the trees, the blue sea, and the rocky hills, but the dust was a surprise. So far as I'm concerned it is essentially still winter, and mud reigns rather than dust. But it was dusty, and I think that, more than anything, was what made me feel at home. It compares favourably with London, that is for sure, but I don't know if it stands up against the East Coast of New Zealand.

Now, I got to see a nice, probably posh part of Athens, which was probably a good thing. I couldn't help but notice that although the cars were all Audi and BMW, and the houses were lovely, they were hidden behind pretty, but essentially high gates and fences. The pavements, even in nice parts of town, are all cracked and broken, and weeds grow rampant through them. Now this doesn't bother me personally, but experience tells me that it does bother the sort of people who generally live in those mansions with their lovely green lawns behind those big high fences. Which leads one to speculate as to why they are in that state. I know there has been an 'economic crisis', but my essentially complete lack of knowledge about anything Greek beyond 300BC makes it difficult to identify what the reasons might actually be. Maybe they just don't care about weeds growing through cracks in the pavement. However the contrast with the well-trimmed emerald-green lawns and newly painted walls was stark, and somewhat surreal. If felt like stepping in to a very different place, just the other side of the fence.

I think I could get used to it though, they're unpretentious and, from what I observed, very loving and close. Although the complete lack of seperation of Church and State is a little bit weird, apparently you can't be buried if you haven't been baptised... good thing I want to be created and squashed into a diamond huh? Wonder what they do with all the other bodies...

Presently on the way back to London, I think we are flying over Italy, although I couldn't really say for sure. We are roughly half-way there in flight time, which roughly correlates with my vague geographical understanding of the flight path the pilot annouced earlier on.... Albania, Croatia, something..., Italy, Switzerland, France (slightly North East of Paris) then towards London. I wish his accent was a little clearer, I would have been interested in the details of the earlier part of the flight, but I had a hard enough time getting some of the countries, never mind the cities, most of which I had probably never heard of anyway, with the possible exception of flying over what I think was Italy, there seemed to be an endless sprawl of city lights which at first made me wonder if we were flying over Paris, and then made me think of the saying "All roads lead to Rome"... if that was Rome then I'm inclined to agree!

I think I've learned a few things from this trip, the most important two being I definitely want to go back to Greece, and that I would prefer to travel Europe by land. I would say that I don't have anything against flying, but actually I do. My ears are going to kill me by the time we land (they're okay mid-flight, but descent is a temporary form of insanity for me), and it is much worse for the environment than any other form of transport (except maybe driving a big, American 4WD all on my own). Oh and you don't get to see the beautiful countryside you are travelling through, and you're squashed in to tiny seats and asked to remain seated behind some guy who keeps tilting the chair back while you've got your drink resting on it. But mostly I was impressed by the countryside in Greece- it is beautiful in a similar way to home- a bit rough and dry, but beautiful all the same. I would love to have travelled through it, even at 200mph on a fast train. We're flying over another anonymous expanse of lights... this one has what might be a river through it, but I couldn't be sure. Sometimes the edges of the lights (which disappear below the plane in my vision) suggest a coastline, but they could be long, steep valleys where only one side has been lit-up by human intervention. I would be able to tell you, more or less, where I was if I were on a train. But we're travelling at 800 KM/H 30,000ft above the ground I'm so fascinated by, so I have no way of telling.

Well, I've got my toblerone. I think I will settled down with that for dinner. The Olympic Air sadly don't quite compare with Royal Brunei for quality of meals, although I think the wine is free, so they could be making it up for it that way. Sadly I don't think it would be advisable to take advantage of it, given the fact that I've just taken Lemsip-Max tablets, and the associated reason for having taken them. I would just be even more of a wreck upon landing than I already will be.

Right, time to admire some possibly Swiss lights while I nibble on some delicious -Swiss- Chocolate to make up for my inadequate dinner (which was luckily supplemented by an exceptionally delicious and large lunch).

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