They Just Don’t Get It

Sometimes people don’t get it.

Let me explain what I mean. Yesterday, I was looking at how I would go from Athens to Istanbul. Taking a ferry back to Turkey was my first idea since it did not cost me too much the first time and I liked the idea of stopping at another island on the way.

Because I did not know which ferries to take, I thought I would stop by at a travel agency to ask about my options and get help booking the ferries. I guess that was a mistake!

I found a place located close to Athens’ main square. Unfortunately I was not received very well. The clerk was very tense from the moment I entered. When I asked her how I could get to Turkey by ferry, she said she could get me a ferry to one of the islands and then I would have to book the ticket from that island to Turkey by myself.

That is fine, however when I started asking about how to book the second ticket, the agent became plain rude and sharply responded that she was not tourist information and I should know how to get where I wanted!

Well, I understand if she did not have the information, but man why be rude about it. Furthermore, if I knew what ferry to take and simply wanted to book a ticket, I could just use the internet and not the services of a travel agent. I think in our new age of Internet, travel agents must offer more than just booking services to be competitive. Information and help is expected and good service is essential. During my trip I have dealt with many agents that have gotten the idea, but it looks like this lady has not.

Anyway, I told her she must be having a bad day and just left. This shop was not going to get my money! The not so funny part was today when I happened to be passing by the shop again. I heard the same lady having a fit and yelling at the other employees. Everybody just looked miserable. Then, a tourist walked in asking for help completing a transaction she had initiated on the internet. The lady refused to help this tourist in any way, even though there were no other clients and the 4 clerks were idle, since they were not going to make any money from it. If you ask for my opinion, helping the tourist would have been a sure way for them to make themselves a good name. I just wonder how these guys are staying in business.

At the end, I logged into the internet and booked a flight from Athens to Istanbul with Olympic Airways for later today. It is fast and I don’t have to deal with any travel agent :).

Getting a Feel for Athens

Athens, like a lot of cities with a great past, can exhibit two faces based on what you are looking for. The ancient Athens dedicated to the cult of goddess Athena and the modern Athens dedicated to bringing Greece into the 21st century.

Today, I tried to get a feel mainly for the modern part. A lot of people had told me they did not like Athens as a city so I was expecting a dirty and crowded place. But I did not get such an impression at all. I actually found the city quite nice, reminding me in a lot of ways of Paris (maybe that is why I liked it).

The paved streets West of Sindagma square are a perfect shopper’s heaven with scores of fashion and accessories boutiques.

The districts of Plaka, Monastiraki and Psiri, which are all located at the foot of the Acropolis, are densely packed with restaurants, nice and trendy cafes, night clubs, art galleries, souvenir shops and everything else needed for entertainment. It is where I ended up watching the semi-final between France and Portugal and where I got my daily souvlakis (gyros).

Later, I dedicated the rest of the day to visiting the National Archeological Museum.

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It is very impressive, as to be expected, with an extensive sculpture section that covers more than half the museum, exhibiting some great items like the Aphrodite and Pan sculpture. The bronze collection is also very nice featuring great items like the jokey of Artemision and an antique mechanism of an astronomical and calendar calculator dating from the 1st century AD.

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I was especially attracted by the section on the Mycenaean civilization which I don’t remember having studied at school. It presented the finds from a group of tombs called Grave Circle A at Mycenae. It is interesting to point out how rich in gold these findings were. After learning a bit more, I was fascinated to find out how greatly this civilization has influenced the whole Greek mythology that forms the base of the Hellenistic culture. Characters like Perseus and Agamemnon are said to be related or at least based on important people living in Mycenae.

Tomorrow, I plan to explore more of the ancient face of Athens by extensively visiting its main monuments.

Super Night Club

Wednesday night 9:50PM.

The next football game is about to start in 10 minutes and I did not have dinner yet. I had made my way to that sandwich place close by to get some take-out food. I am just waiting for the skewers to cook and the clerk to fix my sandwiches. It is a quite hot inside so I am waiting outside when the strangest, most surprising and unexpected, and the wickedest thing in this whole trip happened.

A bitten down old bus parks in front of me. The front and back doors open and from there spill out women of all shapes and sizes wearing the most outrageous “club” outfits preferably 2 sizes too small. There are not just one or two, but more than 20 women, mostly white, that make their way down a small alley to a place called the “Excellence Super Night Club”, ignoring all the guys hanging out in front of the sandwich shop.

I had read about super night clubs in the guide book and the section on night clubs in Beirut or Jounieh (party town close to Beirut) spells it clearly: Stay away from super night club as they are not really night clubs but strip joints.

I knew that there were 2 or 3 of these clubs in the street but I could not believe what was happening there. I was so astonished seeing them arrive all together in this bus, of seeing them so out of place that I did not even think about taking a picture! Thinking about it, it might have saved my camera and myself some hard bitch-slapping as some of these girls were definitely bigger, stronger and meaner than me ;).

Weird experience!

P.S.: The owner of the Italian restaurant nearby told me it was happening every night at 10PM so if you are ever in Beirut, plan your dinner accordingly ;).

[06/17/2006: Edited after constructive comments from my Editor In Chief :)]

The Holy City


Jerusalem was definitely interesting. Rod and I visited the old city back and forth over three days and it is a very impressive place. Petra was a great place to visit but it is a dead city while old Jerusalem is still inhabited and that makes it so much more impressive.

Some of the streets covered with shops catering to the locals (butchers, grocery stores, tailors…) and the other catering to the mass of tourists (souvenirs and whatever the tourists would want to buy) are bustling with activity while some other streets are just quiet and peaceful with just some locals minding their business or going home.

Old Jerusalem is also critical because of the 3 major holy sites it houses and it is sometimes like if every stone was of most importance to one religion or another (at the end, it might be better than when two or more religions fight over the same stone!).


The church of the holy sepulchre is a major sacred site for Christians. It is a very impressive monument that exhale a lot of spiritual power. Also, even if it is not always perfect, the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox churches all live together peacefully there.

Hiring a guide was more than rewarding as it would be difficult to make sense of all the rooms and places of worship on one’s own. He was stinking like a dead rat though and I stayed as far as possible during the whole time trying to never face him so as not to take the risk of smeling his rancid breath!


We spent some more time around the church after the tour. My favorite places are the holy jail and the little Jacobin chapel located behind the Educule mainly because they were the quietest parts while being quite important spiritually.


Since we already had seen 5 of the 14 stations of the Cross, we also went around and visited the other 9 stations located on the Via Dolorosa (a street of Old Jerusalem that is supposed to mark the path Jesus walked with the cross after his condemnation). Only one advice, try to not come on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday as it is more difficult to visit the holy monuments on these days ;).

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The Kotel or Wailing Wall or Western Wall might well be the holiest monument for Judaism. From a pure architectural standpoint, it is just a wall so there is not much to see but this is not really what matters. I went there twice. First on Saturday (Sabath for Jews) and it was impressive to see so many people there. The second time was the day after as part of a tour of the city and it was quieter. I realized that I don’t know enough about the Judaism and especially rituals since I could not make sense of everything that was going on there.


The Temple Mount is a disputed site that houses two holy Muslim shrines today: the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic monument located on a sacred site to the three religions. It is an impressive monument that is usually a symbol of Jerusalem. Both monuments are closed to non-Muslims. It is a bit sad but after reading more about the situation, I kind of understand.


The rest of Jerusalem is more like a Western city. On Saturday night, we assisted to something that looked like a Frat party with more Americans than I had seen in months! The fact is that on many occasions, it felt like all the American Jewish college kids had descended on the city.

Welcome to Jordan

Yep, I finally did it, after lingering and enjoying everything the red sea and Dahab have to offer for 18 days, I left and found my way to Jordan.

I left yesterday morning at 10AM. It took me 1 hour to reach Nuweiba where I bought my ticket for the fast afternoon ferry that was scheduled for 3PM.

I went through the police control inside the port and found a place to seat while I was waiting for the boat. Around 2PM, I started to kind of wonder if I was at the right place since there was not that many people around especially no foreigners! I started walking around the docks and found a policeman that told me the boat would be here in 15-20 minutes. Once it got there, I waited outside and came aboard once everybody coming from Jordan had debarked the boat.


The immigration agent that controlled my passport was not happy since I did not have a departure stamp… Well, nobody really told me about that at the first place and since I could not read any of the signs, I did not end up where I should have been and I did not get the stamp. Anyway, we are in Egypt and police has its way so they stopped one of the big empty tourist bus that was driving by and ordered the driver to take me to the right place, once there, an agent filled the form for me and stamped my passport in less than 30 seconds without much questioning, then another policeman stopped another of these empty bus that took me back to the ship. All in all, it took 5 minutes to get this stamp while I am sure it would have taken me an hour in line to get it if I had known I needed to go to a specific place before boarding the boat! In place, I had plenty of time to read the Jordan section of my Middle East Lonely Planet and listen to my IPod. I also stroke a conversation with one of the guy moving stuff in between the trucks and the boats.

The boat trip went very well. I gave my passport to the Jordanian immigration agent early in the boat and recovered it once we had debarked in Aqaba. I found the way to forget it in between that moment and the bag check though but I realized it and got it back without much trouble. It might not have been a good day after all since I usually do not loose or forget things!

Anyway, I found a hotel in Aqaba. The first thing to know is that things in Jordan are way more expensive than in Egypt. The country is way more developed. Looking around at the type and quality of the cars that Jordanians drive is just one example of that development. It really looks like a European city.

I am now planning my trip through Jordan. I will report about that later :).