Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It's all Greek if you're visiting


Athens has style unlike any other

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ATHENS - What it's really like here:

Athenians don't wear shorts ... not even the women ... it's 95 degrees in the sun, they wear black ... their coffee seems to be shoveled from the ground ... there are artifacts displayed behind glass at the subway stops ... things they discovered while digging the routes ... such as a terra cotta water main, circa 500 B.C. ... the Greeks had running water 2,500 years ago. ...

They built the Parthenon in nine years ... less time than it will take to build The Banks ... it took 20,000 men and 16,000 pieces ... the marble was quarried 10 miles away ... pieces of each Doric column weighed 4,000 pounds ... and that was a small piece. ...

Omonia Square, a prominent downtown roundabout, is covered in trees and shrubs ... planted on several inches of topsoil trucked in to beautify the city for the Olympics ... beneath the topsoil is concrete ... the greenery won't last the fall. ...

Ena means one in Greek ... Mythos is a local beer ... Parakolo means please ... "Ena Mythos, parakolo," repeated a few times, will make you forget a long day. ...

The Aegean Sea where several events are close by (softball, baseball, beach volleyball) looks beautiful ... the locals don't swim in it ... it's polluted. ...

The Metro (subway) isn't air-conditioned. In the middle of the day, it's like riding in a clothes dryer. ...

Almost nobody has a single-family home ... people are stacked like cordwood in apartment after apartment ... there is as much greenery on rooftops and porches as in the ground ... all of Athens seems covered in asphalt. ...

Haven't seen a rain cloud yet ... only been here 15 days. ...

You can buy olive oil in a five-gallon container at the supermarket ... if you ever wanted five gallons of olive oil. ...

Souvlaki? Yes. Octopus? You must be joking. ...

A writer I know walked the marathon route ... took him nine hours. ...

They drink a wine here called retsina ... it's flavored with pine pitch. It's an acquired taste, like licking your Christmas tree. I recommend not acquiring it. ...

And ouzo works best with eyes closed. ...

The Greeks invented the words "athlete" and "hyperbole" before there was ever a Dream Team ... They also came up with "chaos" and "catastrophe." ...

They have so much in the way of ancient ruins, in some places it's just lying in piles, surrounded by fencing. ...

All the shopkeepers say they make all the stuff they sell, from leather to ceramics ... probably not. ...

Service at restaurants is routinely awful ... but they let you stay as long as you like. ...

The cabbies and the discos play very bad hip-hop ... they disco-ize everything ... heard "Dancing Queen" by Abba, remixed to sound gangsta ... it was brutal. ...

If you ever come to Athens, skip crowded, touristy Monastiraki Square ... head one metro stop further, to Thissio ... quieter, same prices, same fabulous view of the Acropolis, especially at night, when they light it up like Times Square. ...

Sometimes, it takes longer waiting to interview athletes than it does for them to compete ... U.S. softball team beat Australia for the gold in 90 minutes ... took 93 to get the coach and his players into the interview area, if you care. ...

Unless you're covering an event in the main stadium, at the pool or in the gymnastics hall, no bus ride lasts less than 30 minutes ... the ride to beach volleyball is 45, and well worth it. ...

When the sun goes down, the temperature drops quickly ... Eighty and dry, with a constant breeze ... worth exporting.

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E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




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