note - This map is copyrighted somebody, but I don't remember who. . .
The Drive was long, but we were given entertainment in the form of Bruce Almighty, Two Brothers and View From the Top via the entertainment center on the Bus.
And I had my feisty little iPod to keep me company. Unfortunately, all my plugs are American and every outlet was European. *grumbles*
I brought a lot of electronics with me and learned that my digital camera chews up Double A's like they were going out of style. Good thing I brought a few.
Anyway, back to Greece.
We drove through F.Y.R.O.M. (Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia) which looks a lot like Kosovo and therefore wasn't very exciting. Then we got to the FYROM/Hellas Border.
And I took a picture while we waited.
Hellas is Greek for Greece. Though they don't mind if you call them Hellas or Greece.
Besides, you drive within a mile of the border and you are greeted with this sign.
Now, there is a bit of political strife in regards to names within the Balkans on what to call FYROM (because a lot of people think FYROM is a stupid name) because you can't just call it Macedonia on account of the fact that there is a region in Greece known as Macedonia. It's like, say for instance, that British Columbia decided to break off from Canada as an independent country and called itself Washington. Or maybe that's a bad analogy, as they would probably continue to call themselves British Columbia. Anyway, then we would have to call it the Former Canadian Province of Washington (FCPOW, hmm, that doesn't flow off the tongue).
The point is, see the deal with the confusion of Names? Greece doesn't like that FYROM decided to call itself Macedonia once they broke off from Yugoslavia so in all its infinite wisdom, somebody in the UN came up with the idea of FYROM to appease both sides. From what I understand, its not working.
Anyway, we moved out of FYROM and into Greece in the region of Macedonia. And I was formally introduced to the phrase 'its all Greek to me'.
Fortunately, a lot of signs had a Latin alphabet as well as the Greek Alphabet to help those of us poor fools who can't tell Omega from an Upside down V.
I just thought the signs looked cool.
Ok, to make you a wee bit jealous, this is the view from my balcony. The splendid and glorious view, with a crystal blue pool just off the beach of the azure Aegean Sea.
This is the view just by the pool up to the hotel.
They had this private hotel for us, there is enough soldiers that every time we come we rent out the entire hotel to us, with our own private beach and everything. The only downside to the hotel is the European plumbing. You can't flush paper down the toilet, which means that you have to throw it away in a little trash can next to the toilet. Even if you have to do a number 2.
Being trained in the part of the Western Hemisphere that is the United States, I almost flushed toilet paper down the toilet a couple of times. Apparently, it clogs the sewer system for the entire hotel.
Lovely. Anyway, moving on from the Too Much Information Department. . .
This is me on the beach. Look, my clothes aren't camouflaged and there isn't a weapon for miles!
Yes, I know, I've gotten quite famous for being an advocate of boomsticks, but when you've been lugging one around for the last four months without firing one single shot out of it, you kind of get sick of it hanging off your shoulder serving no purpose otheer then to provide a vector for knocking other people around in the knee caps.
Anyway, back to the beach. It's a private beach, the sand was pebbly and kind of hard to walk on, but it was really nice and relaxing. I would love to go back here in the heat of summer, and then I'll remember to have somebody send me a bathing suit!
Well, if it was a little to chilly to swim in the Aegean, it was perfect weather for collecting Sea Shells! I wanted something to bring home right off the Aegean and though Sea Shells are pretty much everywhere, I thought, Hey, why not? They're SPECIAL SEA SHELLS!
So I lined them up on a rock after finding them and took a picture. Nothing particularly exciting by any means, I just thought they were cool.
I tried to get a few pictures of me on the beach. Yeah, after being forced to wear camouflage twenty four seven, I decided for my little outing in civilians, I would attempt to look like a girl. I even brought make-up. What did I do? I wore a hat and sunglasses most of the time. And I didn't touch my make up bag. Usually I wore the hat backwards.
Nope, no Americans in this group! None what so ever!
See, we were trained on trying to blend into the populace and appear sort of unamerican. The thing is, Americans stand out like a Doberman in a pack of chihuahuas. But we were to avoid the military thing. That was sometimes a problem, I went with two Colonols and a Major in my unit, and I hung out with them quite a bit and often found myself reverting to calling them by rank.
We eventually went by a first name basis, just for the purposes of Greece. Its an old habit.
After settling down at the hotel, where I shared my room with one other girl, we got back in the busses and went down to Iraklitsa, which is where we ate dinner and spent the next three hours just walking around. Very relaxing, as soon as we got out of the bus, everyone started taking pictures.
If we weren't mistaken for americans, we were definitely tourists. And you would pick up on the Americans as soon as they open their mouths. We're undeniable.
We walked along the boardwalk for a while trying to decide between which restaurant to eat at when we settled into our environments. Most of the restaurant signs were in Greek, so we couldn't even phonetically pronounce them much less know what they served outside of the fact of the Octopus tentacles hanging outside drying outside some of the restaurants.
When we finally found a restaurant, we looked at the menu and were a bit baffled by it.
I couldn't make anything out on the menu, well, other then the price, which consisted of us going to the owner of the restaurant, pointing at what we wanted to eat, and grunting. They didn't know much English, we couldn't speak an ounce of greek. There was that language barrier thing going on.
I eventually got gutsy and ordered the Kalimari and the Scampy.
I have had Kalimari once before, there is a greek restaurant in Hohenfels that we escaped to every once in a while to get away from the D-Fac up where we were (which was nasty) and I didn't know what it was then. Now I know. Its kind of hard to not know what it is when they don't even bother to cut off the heads of the food. (I didn't even think about whether or not they bothered gutting the food)
It was good though. The scampy still had the exosceleton on it and I just ate the first one on my plate whole, then noticed that it was a little crunchy. A little Too Crunchy. Hmm. . .
I then started to strip them of their outershells, being a bit unnerved that my food was looking back at me. They didn't even chop the heads off the fish.
I was a bit more leery of eating the Kalimari, though i have eaten Octopus before. The Kalimari was really good though! I cleaned my plate of that, delicious! Kind of rubbery texture, I'm not sure if the Squid Kalimari or the Octopus Kalimari was better.
Then there was the other factor of Greece that I never knew about.
Cats are everywhere in Greece. And this is a stray, probably not owned by anybody. Strays are usually finicky creatures that dart away from you if you try to touch them. Not in Greece. They sit at your feet and beg for food. They still won't let you pet them, but it won't stop them from rubbing against your legs.
I was warned about feeding the cats. I went ahead nad started feeding her my scampy heads anyway. I also threw some of the legs at her as well. She seemed to enjoy them. But I couldn't get her to jump over the baring to fetch the food. For one, a giant dog was over there, and its universal that Dogs and Cats hate each other.
Anyway, after the delicious dinner, we hung out and walked around the beach, trying to find something to do, as it was more of a place to eat and not so much a place to shop.
But I found Ice Cream!
You wouldn't know it was Ice Cream by the sign however. Unless you spoke Greek. Most Europeans sit down and eat when they get something. But not Americans. No, we walk and eat at the same time. We're always in a hurry to get some place (well, at least I am) so we kind of missed the atmosphere of being in Iraklitsa. To just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.
Instead, we started exploring the piers and such. I then handed off my camera nad had a picture taken.
Ick, I'm going to do something that is totally being a girl and say that I can't stand how fat my face looks in this picture! Maybe I should have laid off the ice cream?
Anyway, we walked all over Iraklitsa and enjoyed ourselves. Somebody even saw an octopus in the port. Dang, I missed it. But he took a picture and shared it with me. That was cool.
After trying to find things to do, and buying a Mars Bar (yeah, I need to start laying off the chocolate), we headed back to the busses and prepared ourselves for a quiet and relaxing time at the hotel.
I got my laptop out and proceeded to dump my pictures.
Monday was a good day.