I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Greece 2007-Two Girls, Two Guidebooks, Two Weeks

When I went to Italy three years ago I fell in love with the ancient ruins, and knew I needed to get to Greece. I am a lawyer and lasted two years and one day in a big fancy schmancy law firm before I fled to the government for a 50% paycut in exchange for getting my life back. My close friend and neighbor K stayed over five years before she reclaimed her life, but her change was much more dramatic. Rather than just go to the government like the rest of us, she decided to spend the year in Pristina, Kosovo. Now that's a statement! It's not quite as unexpected as it sounds. She spent eight years in the Balkans during the war. She is in Kosovo working at an NGO on law system issues.

I knew I wanted to come see her while she was in Kosovo, so we were discussing what we could do. I mentioned I wanted to go to Greece and it was done and done. We decided to rent a car in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and drive into Greece to Thessaloniki, Meteora, Vergina, Delphi, and Athens. In Athens we would part, she'd go back to work and I'd head to the island of Naxos. Her boss decided to give her an extra week off at the last minute, so she'll be heading to Corfu after Athens, with a visit to Butrint in Albania, an amazingly preserved Roman town.

I turned 33 the day I left for my trip, and K is a very young 40. We are both fair haired, light skinned, and unmistakeably American when we open our mouths. We are not super-typical Americans. K has a lot of language competence including fluency in Serbian and Croatian plus some Albanian, Russian, Spanish, etc. etc. and many years of living abroad. My accomplishments are much more modest--pretty good Spanish, rapidly deteriorating French, and a smattering of Italian. I offered to be the Greek speaker for this trip, but when I saw that not only verbs but nouns have cases I gave up. I did the Pimsleur tapes from the library for accent and pronunciationand learned the pleasantries and got pretty good at reading the alphabet.

K and I have traveled together before, first to the Dominican Republic for a week, then to Vegas last year. This was our first road trip and longest vacation together. We get along very well. K is laid back and this helps control-freak Type-A me unclench just a little.

K's guidebooks was Lonely Planet. Its backpackerier-than-thou tone is amusing. My guidebook of choice is DK Eyewitness Guides. I love that it has pictures because when you're looking at something that may or may not be significant, you can compare with the book and see if you're in the right place. Because, you know, I wouldn't want to accidentally enjoy something beautiful or interesting that turns out to be historically or aesthetically unimportant. We enjoyed pitting our guidebooks against each other.

I was nervous about the car part, as I have never driven in a foreign country and drive only twice a month at home. K had gone to Albania with another friend who doesn't drive a standard transmission. She said, "You're going to do some of the driving, right?" Um, of course!

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