The trip to Greece started nice and early thanks to my cat who decided it was playtime at 5-40 am, and jumped all over the bed with the hair tie in his mouth. I was planning to get up at 7 am, but all right, 5-40 it was. Shower, last cable packing and the way to the airport with the Pakistani driver who told us the story of his life in the UAE since the day he had arrived, which included some passages in Urdu and some passages in Arabic, and the stories about the sneaky Lubnanee people, but what we made out of it, was that at least in Dubai taxi they pay you salary on time.
The airport was the uneventful apart from the fact that our plane was full of Americans going to New Ark, so yes they were talking loud and had way too much luggage for anyone’s good. My seat was at the very back of the plane, and I started passing out even before the plane took off, thanks to the early wake up call. Woke up, plane was still on the ground, and the name of the captain was Ahmed al Barni. I decided to watch another one of the Emirati movies section creation, a movie about Portuguese people trying to invade Khorfakkan, made in Sharjah by Sheikh Sultan al Qasimi. I am not sure that the story portrayed there was true and accurate, but the movie was nicely made. The guy in front was sleeping with the blanket on his head, and we had enough of turbulence to offset all the Americans and people with kids. Arrived to Athens, but not from the first attempt, almost landed, but took another turn around the place because apparently there was some other plane on the runway.
Got out of the plane, encountered the ever-doubting my passport customs guys, got the luggage, went to the car rental booth, where some Germans were trying to rent their probably-German-car, and some eccentric dude tried to explain on the phone how he wasn’t responsible for whatever fuck up he did to the people he was on the phone with, got our car eventually – the Mini Cooper Countryman, that had no logic in operating any of the menus – just like any Sony cameras. Anyhow, set out on the journey to get into central Athens, not without some strange toll situations, which seemed to be the theme of driving around Greece – 2 euros here and there please.
Reached the underground parking, which was a parking with some lift set-up, looked quite shabby but also somehow technologically advanced. Then walked to our hotel with the luggage that was too heavy and too wide for Athens sidewalks, nevertheless made it.
In Athens the weather was quite hot, daytime comparably hot to Dubai, but obviously during the night it was better. In our hotel, they gave us some way too sweet welcome drinks, then we took a lift to the fifth floor where our room was located with a beautiful view on some walls and windows, pretty much just like in Riyadh. Changed the clothes, and ventured out into the streets of the capital city.
Every time you come from the Middle East, you have this thought in your head – it is not as safe as back home, so look after your bag, look after your phone and don’t walk around with your camera on your neck. Last time I was in Athens it was what, like 2015, and it was feeling quite sketchy then, lots of random people, stray dogs everywhere, tags on anything you lay your eyes onto… This time it was better. There is a lot of very random shops in the center of Athens, like selling pipes and lawnmowers and what not, it doesn’t feel like premium real estate whatsoever, but if you look past it, the trees are beautifully framing the streets with blooms, there are people everywhere sipping their fredos and the atmosphere is quite chilled.
We ended up going to some flee market, where we found a cafe with a terrace overlooking a few shops, the closest one was run by some people from Bangladesh as I overheard, but they were talking to each other in Arabic… which I thought was pretty funny, because no matter how far I go, I always find some people speaking Arabic.
Then we went for dinner closer to the Acropolis, had a lovely meal with some sardines involved, walked back to our hotel and the whole night battled with the stupid floor light, which would turn on the lights in the room at your slightest move… so didn’t sleep much so to say.
The next day was a big trip to the south of Greece to the place called Monmevasia, a small town which is located on a small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese.
The island is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length. The fun part of driving there apart from never-ending toll gates, are plenty of one-way bridges, that people try to make two-way for whichever reason… there’s also mountains with snow on tops of them, orange trees in abundance and ruins in various state of ruinness.
Upon arrival to the location, you have to park your car down the hill, and carry your luggages up the mountain yourself… cause the village is pedestrian access only. Thankfully for us, our hosts decided to help us with the luggages, unfortunately for them, cause damn that luggage was heavy. So it was 6 years anniversary since the day we got married, sort of, cause in fact it was the day before, but who cares, therefore my husband rented this massive villa which was good for 10 people, and had three levels of terraces and what not, but we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there for a few days before addressing the actual reason why we came to Greece: the wedding of my husband’s colleague.
In Monmevasia, the weather was hot too, but I enjoy the hot weather. We went down to the “city center” to have some more tzatziki and sardines before going up the mountain to see the ruins of the Medieval city, that are still pretty ruiny right now, and pretty much unsupervised, so anyone who wished to end their life in the premises could easily do so.
I noticed most people tend to visit the ruins during day time, so it must have been pretty sporty with the Greek sun hammering you on the head and not much shade provided, but we went during sunset time. The sunset wasn’t too much exciting, and in general at that very time I realized that it is perhaps time for me to retire from my role of the landscape photographer, because I just couldn’t find joy in shooting vast views of the area, endless sea, the castle itself, and was more drawn to shooting videos of bees on the flowers, few people appearing in the vicinity of the castle. I have truly become so drawn to shooting people that landscapes don’t call me any more. I don’t know if I should be happy or sad about this fact, this is just what it is.
After the sun set, I said we should go back down to the city because it would soon get dark and I didn’t wanna break my legs walking around these ruins… forgetting however, that in Europe there is a true blue hour, which lasts like an hour of dusk, not the same 15 minutes that we have in the Middle East when it just suddenly turns dark. So when we went back to our multiple terraces situation, we still had some day light, even though it took us almost an hour to descend.
For a while we had a music competition with our Greek neighbors from the other terrace, who tried to play their Greek hits of the last century louder than our music, I photographed some stars, which were dimmed a bit by one crazy light which was illuminating the whole mountain. By midnight we also had a Greek Yacht show that showed up in the vicinity… some Greek billionaires on a crazy yacht, that was more luxurious than some of Dubai hotels, we calculated that my husband’s monthly salary would be enough to rent this yacht for 3 hours or so. Had spent a good amount of time spying on the yacht activities with my long lens, and then went to sleep.
Next day, I woke up at sunrise but was too lazy to even get up and check it out of the window, then woke up second time and roamed out in search for some Greek breakfast that didn’t disappoint. Started to feel the effects of the sun on my skin, so decided to go invest in a hat, which also didn’t disappoint.
We went to investigate places down the island, found plenty of people cleaning their boats, the million miles rundown truck, and tourists with big cameras, apart from wildflowers and ferries ready to take you to other islands, if you were done here.
Came back to the terraces, I looked at all the provided vegetation, including the pomegranate trees, the olive trees with micro olives, and the variety of cypresses and cacti.
Ventured down for a late lunch, where we found ourselves next to some French couple who tried to figure out how else they can enjoy their holidays on a budget. Huh… Went down to the city center to enjoy plentiful encounters with cats, an awkward American in Greek style wedding, and more complaining French people (why do they always end up next to us?). Decided to make the dinner of olives and local sausages on the top terrace, shooting more stars. Had no yachts to parade in front this time, but some kitty came to visit our rooftop. Out of boredom and curiosity I was checking the stars in the Sky Guide app, and we saw the ISS, along with long time retired Soviet Sputniks which are nowadays considered space junk…. And there is a lot of them out there. The stars were pretty, but next day we were supposed to drive back to Athens for the cocktail party of the wedding, so sleep was required.
In the morning, we did breakfast in the same place, fed some cats with parts of our breakfast,
battled with the suitcases on the way down, and set off on the road to Athens through the cities of Sparti, Argos, Corinth along some big ports and big factories, went back to the airport to dispose of the Mini, where I saw some people I knew from Dubai queuing for the taxi funnily enough. It is at this moment that a bunch of Saudis started writing to me on various social medias asking if I was in Greece and if I was going to be in Greece next week, because there was a shipping conference there… alas, I was scheduled to be in France sadly next week, though I’d gladly do the shipping conference or two in Athens.
Eventually we reached our turn to get the airport taxi, that traditionally drive without much care and without seatbelts as well… to get to the hotel where we were staying in the Glyfadas area. This hotel reminded me so much of all the holidays we ever did in Cyprus and the area. It was called the Seaview Hotel, but to see the actual sea view, you had to stick your body pretty much out there on the balcony. To get anything from the bar downstairs you had to possess all the sabr in the world, and maybe more. But overall it was decent.
Again we changed our outfits, went downstairs to meet my husband’s boss, and set out on our way to the cocktail place. It wasn’t really next door, but we eventually made our way there. It felt a bit of a cheapish Dubai brunch with fried food in the buffet and people fighting for drinks at the bar, but at least everyone was having a good time… there was a greek band hating their life for playing music for the crowd who had no clue what those songs are, and the general pretentious Dubai crowd engaging into never-ending selfies and challenging each other for who can drink more shots, anyhow, sunset was beautiful that day and I spent a good moment on the beach admiring it.
We found some other guy from my husband’s office and formed a coalition at our table of people who feel out of place in this kind of crowd. Eventually they kicked everyone out by midnight, so we returned to our hotel area, where we had another few too many and went to sleep.
The next day people hardly managed to gather themselves for a breakfast after previous day banter, I of course had a brilliant idea that I want to go see some art at the EMST, contemporary art museum of Athens… my husband wasn’t thrilled about this idea, so I told him I’ll go alone, but of course he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of me going alone either, so we also gathered his boss and went all together. The museum didn’t want to let us in without the masks, so the boss had to go and buy some masks across the road (why wouldn’t you sell some at the museum?) anyhow, it was an interesting experience, especially being hungover, going there was kinda surreal and trippy, but I laughed myself off in some parts, felt bored in others, some parts gave me a proper headache, I saw disturbing stuff, but also inspiring stuff and the view from the roof was very nice.
I am not gonna lie, I enjoyed seeing the pain of my companions dealing with contemporary art, but me being quite familiar with it as I get to shoot it on a regular basis, nothing shocks me any more, they were just not understanding at all how these things can be called art at all …. was funny.
We returned back to the base, took a bit of rest and went for an hour long walk to the sunset spot along the beach of Glyfadas. The sunset wasn’t as good as the day before, but it was still nice. Again, I was more catching the people doing random stuff on the beach than shooting the actual sunset, but the food and the moment was good, so no complaints.
Then we walked back for another hour, didn’t manage to get any attention at the bar of the hotel and went to sleep.
Woke up the next day, the plan of my husband was to chill at the pool, I wanted to go see another museum, he reluctantly agreed to accompany me just once again in this adventure… We decided this time to take a tram instead of the taxi. On the way down in the elevator, some Greek dude who was with us told us that thankfully this day has come and there is no more mosques in Greece from 1st of June. My husband got a bit unnerved by this news, and said khm its just not right to be happy about this stuff and say it out loud like that, muslim people still need their place in here even if they are not very welcome… to which I responded that I think that the Greek guy meant there are no more masks, as they lifted the restrictions. So we ditched the masks and went on with our adventure.
If you are planning to use the tram, and you want to do it in a proper way with a ticket and all, just want to let you know it is close to impossible to get the ticket, most people don’t even bother to validate their tickets even if they have them because nobody checks. On our 40 minutes journey by two trams to the heart of Athens nobody cared a bit that we had no tickets. The museum, called Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, we went to visit was properly nice, and had a great collection of good names like Rodin, Picasso, Van Gogh, Botero, and a bunch of others. It was a beautiful building with friendly staff and kids tours around the area. At least it gave my husband some hope in my sanity.
Anyhow, we had to go home and get ready for the wedding of his colleague. The venue was like an hour away from the hotel, but there was a shuttle bus provided, so we all loaded in there and set off on our way. I don’t want to go into details about how this wedding event went, but let’s just say it was a drag and I don’t regret leaving from there on the first shuttle. Beautiful place though.
Next day we were supposed to depart to France… this is when my husband suddenly realized that the validity of his vaccination had expired, so we needed to find a place to do a pcr or antigen test in order for him to be let into his homeland. He was pretty annoyed about this fact, but everything got arranged at the end. We had a few fredos, the last portion of sardines, and went to the airport to stand in the long queue of people who wanted to go to France. I don’t know if I lost the habit of traveling or what, but these three hours or however long it took to get to Charles de Gaulle Airport were long… I also had a wine dick in front of me for most of the flight, and I didn’t know what else to look at. It felt like eternity, and the very tanned Greek woman in front of me was coughing and coughing endlessly.
Most of the people who attended the wedding ended up with corona, but we either somehow avoided it or didn’t feel anything at all. Alhamdullilah.
Hope you’re all well,
Take care of yourselves friends