Day 22, Monday - Istanbul to Athens, Stranded at the Benaki Museum +
The next morning we went to the airport. Turkish security is very tight. It took a long time to examine the luggage. They did two body searches on Pam using an electronic scanner. When we arrived in Athens, we immediately felt the intense heat. Athens was in the middle of a heat wave. It was at least 20 degrees warmer in Athens than in Istanbul. When we finally looked at a weather report, we found out it was 100 degrees.
We didn't have much time, so we went directly to the Benaki museum to buy an icon. The icon depicts the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she is with child. I wanted that particular icon because it represents the origin of my name. In Greek, this event is known as Evangelismos. It means good news. It is also the origin of the word evangelical. In Greek my name is Evangelos. In English my mother had the sympathy to shorten it to Evan.
We made it to the museum just before the 2:00 p.m. closing. All Athens shuts down for a siesta at this time. Stores reopen at 4 or 5:00 p.m. For many this is the end of the day.
When we left the Benaki we tried to hail a taxi, but none would stop. These people aren't sufficiently capitalist oriented to make a few extra drachmas by working past their siesta hour. We had all our luggage, so it was impossible to walk to our hotel even if we could find it. Pam became very upset at the thought of being stranded in the heat of downtown Athens with all our luggage for the next three hours. She finally went up to a cab driver stopped by a red light and gave him a sob story complete with tears. Greeks are pushovers for women in distress, so as a favor he took us to our hotel.
When we got to the hotel we unpacked and immediately left for the plaka. Pam bought an embroidered apron for her Aunt Helen. I bought a miniature ceramic vase which Pam promptly dropped and shattered. I was not happy.
We had been complaining to the hotel clerk about the mediocre food. He suggested we go to a restaurant in Pireaus. He gave us the address and even called a taxi for us. The restaurant, named Mykonos, was at a pier called Microleanau. The pier was crescent shape with many restaurants all along the shore. It was a weekday at 7:00 p.m. All the Greeks eat at 9:00p.m., so we were about the only ones along the whole pier. We had fish which was even better than what we had in Kusadasi. We finished with a delicious brandy made of strawberries called Stafalina and made on the island of Mykonos. We could have stayed and seen a little of Pireus, but Pam was tired and we had another early plane to catch in the morning.
On our return to the hotel, the same clerk who was there when we first arrived was on duty. He remembered us and laughed about out experience with the corrupt taxi driver. We spoke for awhile about San Francisco. He asked us what the Turks thought of the Greeks. Another American from Los Angeles was sitting on the sofa. He taught electronics at a junior high school. We told him about our trip. We said good-bye to the hotel clerk and headed for the elevator to our room. While we waited for the elevator to arrive, the clerk called out "Remember your roots. Now that you have found them, don't lose them. Remember you're a Greek !" I assured him that this would never happen. As we were going up to our room for the night, Pam compared my complexion darkened by three weeks in the Mediterranean sun to the color of the olive green wallpaper in the elevator.
Evan C. Economos
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