Too Many Drummers.com
Journal 1 - The Land Downunder
Journal 2 - Indonesia
Journal 3 - Singapore & Malaysia
Journal 4 - Thailand 1
Journal 5 - Thailand 2
Journal 6 - Indian Ocean
Journal 7 - Red Sea
Journal 8 - Egypt
Journal 9 - Suez to Israel to Petra
Journal 10 - Turkey
Journal 11 - Greece & Italy
Journal 12 -
Balearics, Gibraltar, Canaries
Journal 13 -
Canaries to Cape Verde to Atlantic
Journal 14 - Barbados to
Journal 15 - Trinidad
Journal 16 - Bahamas DC-3 Plane Wreck
Journal 17 - 34 Things I've Learned in 33,000 Miles
GREECE & ITALY
Just put up a new video called Calamity Strikes!
Click here to watch it....
Question: What is Greece’s greatest
contribution to western civilization?
a) It’s the cradle of democracy and logic
(and deductive/inductive reasoning, which are nearly
impossible to differentiate. How can something based on logic be so
b) The Olympic Games
c) Antigone and Oedipus
d) John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
e) The gyro sandwich
f) All of the above
If you answered “f”....I’m sorry, but you are wrong. Don’t be upset. Three
weeks ago I would have agreed with you…but three weeks ago I had much less
experience with gyros.
Gyros (pronounced “yee-rose”) are the Greek equivalent of Middle Eastern
shawarmas and doner kebabs. Like its eastern counterparts, a gyro consists
of a flat bread containing spit-roasted chicken, French fries, and sliced
vegetables. The ancient wisdom of the Greeks is present in the addition of a
thick yoghurt sauce. Little things can make a big difference.
Sarah and I frequently ate doner kebab sandwiches in Turkey. They were
relatively cheap, authentically local, and quite filling. Unfortunately, our
taste buds were usually unsatisfied with the blandness of the meat.
This has not been a problem with gyros. There is some variation in overall
taste, but they are consistently yummy. Sometimes pork, sometimes chicken,
but always a flavor sensation….
We're heading west at a relaxed, yet hardcore pace. Our goal is to arrive in
Gibraltar by mid-October. The main challenges are the prevailing winds which
seem to consistently come from whatever direction we want to go. Sometimes
the wind blows hard enough to pin us down in an anchorage for days at a
time. One such wind blows so regularly in this region of the world it has
earned a name (the “meltemi”). Click here and enjoy a short video clip Dad and I made to demonstrate the
intense nature of the meltemi.
Athens was an excellent side adventure. Mom and dad had already been, so
Sarah and I set off alone to see the Acropolis and National Archeological
Museum (as you’ve probably gathered by now, we’re party animals. I’m
almost embarrassed not to be doing something much less mature and far more
rebellious than visiting museums and ancient monuments…I’m going to come out
of this trip without any street credibility.)
Hold on a second....Wow....Mom just pointed out an article in the newspaper.
Apparently Athens is so over-crowded with vehicles that between Monday and
Thursday they have instated something called an odd/even rule for cars
driving through the city center. This rule means that between certain hours
only even-numbered license plates can drive downtown, while the next day
only odd-numbered plates can, etc. The fine for breaking the rule is 166
euros (roughly 190 US dollars). OK, back to the narrative....
Our trip to the Acropolis coincided with the busy part of tourist season.
Sarah and I were swallowed by the mass of humanity flowing through the site
in a stream of flash bulbs and pointing fingers. Much to our surprise, most
of the main buildings are covered by construction scaffolding. Apparently
the Parthenon temple is in the midst of a restoration attempt to fix
mistakes made when they tried to restore it 50 years ago.
From the look of things, Athenians learned a lot about crowd control from
the Olympics. Even with the huge numbers of people pouring through the
ruins, they managed to keep everything running smoothly. Even so, sometimes
the powers that be overcompensate by making too many rules....which is how
Sarah and I embarked on our unintentional rule-breaking spree.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with The Acropolis Chronicles of
Chronicle 1: Our first clash with authority came in the Acropolis
Museum, where I battled fruitlessly to stop Dad's incomprehensibly high-tech
camera from flashing with every photo I took. It did not take long before I
was informed repeatedly that flash photography was prohibited in the museum.
The cycle went like this: I take picture, camera flashes, I push random
buttons on digital interface to try to turn it off, museum lady yells "NO
FLASH!" across the room, I apologize, and thinking I have fixed the problem
I take another picture, camera flashes, I push random buttons, museum lady
yells, etc. Eventually (to my shame) I got in an argument with a museum
guide who was very aggressive, so I took a flash picture of her and ran for
it. (Incidentally, since when does flash photography hurt stone sculptures?
Haven't those stones spent the last millennium in direct sunlight?)
Chronicle 2: Whistle Guards abound. These merry souls are
stationed throughout tourist sites to make sure we behave ourselves. They
are quick to blow their whistles and completely unafraid to scold complete
strangers. Sarah and I watched a German tourist step past the barricades and
climb up onto a temple floor to win the day's prize for "Most Obvious
Flaunting of The Rules". He managed about three steps across the temple
before a Whistle Guard noticed and tried to knock him unconscious with
hypersonic sound waves from her whistle. The guy shrugged helplessly and
climbed back down to face the wrath of the hyperventilating Guard.
Another incident involved a tourist who posed with some rather suggestive
statues in a way which irritated a Whistle Guard. She whistled angrily for
about two minutes without ever leaving her shaded lawn chair.
We only got whistled at when we trod off the approved walking path.
Chronicle 3: No Posing Rules. If I worked at the museum, I'd invent
rules too. The most random of these rules are the "No Posing" zones. Every
once in a while guards stop tourists from taking pictures of each other
posing in front of certain statues. It was ok to take shots of the statues
on their own, but not with people in them too. This seems so odd that I have
to assume it is the work of random boredom. Very strange. I wouldn't even
think it was true except that I saw it happen.
Thankfully, we didn't get arrested or anything. After seeing the crowds I
can understand why the authorities keep tourists on a tight leash. If every
person who went to the Acropolis walked wherever they wanted, there would be
chaos and a lot more graffiti. Memories of the relatively relaxed
atmospheres in Egypt and Petra made it difficult to adjust to the more
structured touring in Greece.
It seems like I say it about every place we go, but the locals we met in
Greece were super cool (barring the Whistle Guards). Like most Europeans
they put me to shame by speaking Greek, English, and about 12 other
languages while I depend on random hand motions once we get past "hello".
Well, that's not entirely true...I speak enough arabic to be polite and
enough french to be rude....but I'm still impressed when people bother to
learn other languages.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, gelato is Italian ice cream.
Any ice cream is good, but high quality gelato transcends
description. Gelato is sold in parlors called "Gelaterias" (usually at quite
expensive prices), and the best ones make it on the premises. Sarah, Mom,
and I stumbled across a Gelateria in Nafpoli, Greece that redefined "yum". I
was going to describe the gelato-making process here, but I just realized I
have no idea how it happens. Hang on while I ask the rest of the crew....
OK. Sarah says it has something to do with stirring fruit into milk. Dad
says they steal it from Italy. Mom says she doesn't know. I say they make
incredibly long ladders that reach high enough to swipe it from heaven's
freezer. Mom says that could be true.
Greetings from Ithaca, the island kingdom of Odysseus! For those of you who
don’t remember, Odysseus is the hero of Homer’s epic stories: the Iliad
and Odyssey. (At this point I should mention that
Western Classical literature was the only class I had in college where
attendance was not mandatory. This, combined with the fact that the course
started at 8 in the morning, means that my recollection of Homer’s epics is
largely based on notes a fellow classmate was kind enough to loan me to
I can tell you this much for sure:
1. Homer has nothing to do with the Simpsons.
(learned that one the hard way...you would think a
teacher would have a better sense of humor)
2. The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War. Odysseus
left Ithaca to fight the Trojans after they kidnapped Helen of Troy. The war
lasted 10 years until Odysseus (who was a general in addition to being a
king) hit upon the clever idea of building a giant, hollow wooden horse on
wheels, filling it with soldiers, and leaving it outside the gates of Troy.
It is a bit of mystery why the Trojans pulled the strange statue inside
their city walls, but they did... At nightfall the soldiers in the horse
snuck out and opened the gates, letting in the rest of their army. Thus
endeth the Trojan War and the Iliad.
3. The Odyssey begins where the Iliad left off. After
ten years of conflict, Odysseus was itching to return home to his family and
kingdom. Unfortunately his ploy with the wooden horse was a bit too clever
and irritated some of the gods, who made his relatively short boat trip home
very difficult. 10 more years pass before Odysseus returned to Ithaca to
reclaim his kingdom.
Our own voyage has eerie parallels to the Odyssey:
1. We left the USA in 1994 aiming to circle the globe in 18 months. A
car wreck in New Zealand put the circumnavigation on hold indefinitely…
2. My sister and I went to college for almost ten years.
3. I wake up every morning surrounded
by empty boxes, enormous mounds of popsicle sticks, and mysterious stacks of
blueprints for a large wooden statue of a badger that I apparently draw in
4. After eleven years, we are on the home stretch of our odyssey..
Anyways, back to Ithaca.....
We anchored off Vathi, a charming little town lined with waterfront cafes
and outdoor restaurant terraces. Like everywhere else in Greece, the town
slept during the day so it could party late into the night. On our final
night in Ithaca the town square was packed with hundreds of people watching
a Greek soccer game on wide screen TVs. Any goal scoring or intentional
fouls were met with standing ovations or roars of disapproval by the entire
town. I didn't watch the match, but judging from the blaring car horns at 1
am, it was probably the local favorites.
Vulcano Island, Italy
Any island named after a volcano is guaranteed to be an awesome destination.
As you would expect, Vulcano Island features a big steaming volcano that
looms over an unsuspecting town. Its presence permeates the town with a mild
sulphurous stench that blends into the background after a few hours. Vulcano
is a major tourist attraction. Ferries arrive and leave every fifteen
minutes, loading and unloading hordes of wrinkle-nosed tourists. The
island's other claim to fame beside the volcano are the mud baths. Loads of
tourists pay money to strip down to their skimpiest swim suits, smear mud
all over their bodies, and sit in a large thermal pool. This isn't the first
time we've come across mud baths in our travels, but it is the first time
I've ever been close enough to see one at work. It looked interesting, but
not something I'd be willing to pay for.
Unbreakable Law of the Universe #1,442: If there is a volcano within
two miles of you and it is not currently erupting with molten lava, you have
no choice but to climb it.
The volcano climb was one of the highlights of the Med. A well-traveled path
made for an easy trip up and the view from the top was tremendous...Clouds
of noxious steam rising from the northern side of the crater gave me
dramatic film footage...On the way down we took a shortcut through a scoria
field using the time-honored method of "moon walking" (that's what Dad calls
it when we sprint headlong down a steep slope of loose stones by leaning
back and sliding down one leg at a time. It is a very fun and efficient way
to go, as long as you don't fall. If you do fall it is even more efficient,
but much less fun).