Saturday, April 30, 2016

Great and Holy Saturday Outing

While everyone was in church this morning, we jumped in the car and drove to Sounio. It was the baby's first outing to an archaeological site. He dug it. Heh. Get it?

We packed light.

Sounio was gorgeous today. We decided to bring the dog, because she needed the attention. They don't allow dogs at the Temple of Poseidon, but there's a nice hill opposite the temple with stunning views. Bella and I crawled all over it while Phil, my mom, and the infant checked out the temple site.

There's the temple, and my family members, on the adjoining hill.

Here's an incredible view of the water from my vantage point. If you're wondering why it's out of focus...

Transcript: [horrible wind noises] "Something you should know about Sounio...[horrible wind noises]'s almost always really windy. [horrible wind noises] Here's the dog. [horrible wind noises] Windy!"

 I'm so glad to have my mom here. She's been a huge help to us. The timing worked out perfectly. She really wanted to be here for Easter. We're really glad she's here for Easter, not the least because she was able to do some pre-Easter shopping for us. After today, the stores will be closed until Wednesday. Normally, everyone would go back to work on the Tuesday after Easter, but because tomorrow is also May 1st, May Day, or Labour Day (a big deal in Europe), the Greek government decided to push observance of that holiday until Tuesday.

I opened the fridge yesterday and found this. At least we'll have enough milk.

I'm not going to be live-blogging church tonight, because it won't start to get good until midnight. There should be a bunch  of church bells, fireworks, candles, lanterns, and other assorted celebratory happenings. Church goes for a while after that, then everyone runs home to break their Lenten fast with lamb stew. I'll do what I can to document, but no promises.

I'll leave you with some pretty flowers.

These were on a tree outside a bakery. 

These were a gift from our friends who stopped by to see our infant.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Holy Thursday, Good Friday

It's Holy Week or, as it's known in our home, Finally Greek Easter. Yesterday was Holy Thursday. Across the street, worshipers brought flowers to decorate Christ's bier. The church was open almost all night. I took a photo of it at 11pm. My mom saw people going in and out at 1am. By 4am, it looked like everything had shut down, but possibly people were still allowed in and out.

11PM, Holy Thursday.

Today is Good Friday. There has been a lot of church, and a lot of bells. These bells are mourning the death of Christ. They are...incessant.

Tonight, they had a procession with candles, a cross, and the bier. They just got back after a half hour walk to somewhere. They are currently having a liturgy and yelling, very literally, into a microphone. According to my mom, who was out on the balcony watching the proceedings, when the procession made it back to the church, all the lights were turned out. She said it looked like someone was preventing them from entering. That's when the guy started yelling, and as he reached his climax, all the lights came back on, and they moved inside. Very exciting. I've got to re-read the Bible to figure out what it all means.

Here's some video from tonight:

Before the Procession
Lighting up the candles.

Start of the Procession
Check out the cross coming down the stairs.

After the Procession
The decorated bier is going up the stairs.

As of the last balcony update, the bier's been hoisted above the door, and everyone is walking into the church underneath it. It looks like they're exiting through the side door afterward, and going home. They have another super-big, super-late church day tomorrow. Speaking as one who is already sleep deprived, I deeply hope they shut off the microphones and go to bed soon.

Reporting live from Greece, I'm Jane. Back to you, America. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Greek Birth Certificate

Due to the itinerant nature of Phil's career, we had to start working on child's first government papers almost as soon as we cut the cord. In Greece, there are (at least) two steps to obtaining a birth certificate for your kid. The first step is to register the kid at the hospital. Phil did that last week. He had to give his full name, my first and last name, the full names of our fathers, the first and last names of our mothers, our translated marriage certificate, a copy of our passports and ID cards, a declaration of our religion, our favorite colors, candy bars, cars, political philosophies, and science fiction book series authors, and 15 euros. I might have made some of that up. In return, he received a certificate of the kid's birth. 

The birth certificate from the hospital does not formally declare the name of your baby, because that would take all the bureaucracy out of it. To give the kid a legal name, you have to obtain an entirely separate form from an entirely separate building at an entirely separate time. Earlier this week, we trudged to the local town hall to get the kid's christening certificate. It was everything you could ever expect from a government office, but in a language we couldn't understand.

These signs are telling you to take a number from this machine and wait. We had to be told by an employee. I still don't know which button you're supposed to push, but probably the signs explain that, too.

Here we are at the window, filling out naming paperwork. They did not speak much English.

Greeks get the hospital birth certificate within a day or two of their child's delivery. They tend to wait to get the christening certificate until later. Until they get the second certificate, they'll only refer to the child as "Baby," even if they have a name picked out. It's some sort of superstitious thing. We started referring to our kid by his chosen name before he was born, so we're toast. 

We got the christening certificate. Now we only need to apply for an American birth certificate, a passport, a visa, a...

I'm going to take a nap. Here's a blurry shot from baby's first walk:

I spy Bella.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Day 6 of Motherhood

I was in a deep sleep on the couch this afternoon, when I felt a little body stirring somewhere down by my feet. I sat up as quickly as I could, and reached under the bundle to pull it to my chest. Cradling its head carefully in my hands, I gently kissed my little bundle, and began rocking it lovingly.

It was my dog.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scenes From a Hospital

My medical care throughout this pregnancy has been fantastic, including our stay at the hospital. I have one more day in here, then I get to go home and apologize to my dog for abandoning her. Recovery is going well so far. The first day and a half were rough, but we've had a lot of help from the nurses and midwives.

We were up late last night conducting an illicit diaper change in our room. It wasn't actually illicit, but the service here is so fantastic, standard practice is to call for a nurse when you need a diaper changed. They'll wheel your baby away in its little tupperware crib thing, and bring them back fresh and clean.  You could go your whole hospital stay without touching a single diaper.  Last night, we couldn't find anyone around to change our son's filth, so we did it ourselves with a diaper I'd brought from home. I confessed to my midwife this morning. She brought a stack of diapers to our room, with towels and rash cream and everything. If we have a similar situation tonight, we can take care of it quickly ourselves. All we have to do is report when he poops. I'm just realizing that this is not an interesting story, but I'm going to leave it in anyway as padding for this post.

Overall, I'm feeling upbeat and tired. I'm at that stage of sleep deprivation where you can kind of hear a pleasant buzzing noise in your brain, and every once in a while you jerk your head up and realize you've been asleep. This kid is going to do wonders for my writing.

A beautiful gift from our friends here in Athens. It was a great surprise.

The view of Athenian suburbs from our hospital room. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Parents

Remember when I wrote that I really needed to get that blanket done before I went into labor?


I was feverishly crocheting through the early contractions, but even with my heroic efforts,  I did not get it done. On the other hand, I did give birth to a child, so that's pretty cool.

We're all tired, but doing well. More details to follow, as soon as we're able.

View from the hospital bed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Phil's Guide to Athens

When our friend came to town last month, Phil wrote this wonderful guide to Athens. He's like Rick Steves, without the $10 million net worth.

To see everything he's listed for Athens proper, you'll need about 3 days. To see everything he's listed in total, you'll need 8-9 days, plus a driver (or ferry) to take you to the places outside of Athens. If you're with us, you could probably guilt, bribe, blackmail, or otherwise convince us to drive you. Here's a scan of Phil's list, followed by a typed version, if you're too fancy for handwritten.

Phil's Guide to Athens

Things to see:
All prices are approximate. You can get discounts in some places with a student ID. Some of these sites are linked to blog posts I've written about them. Click, if interested.

(plan for approx. 3 days; download the TfA ticket app for android or apple if you're planning to use public transportation; wear good walking shoes)

Acropolis and Mars Hill (Areopagus)
  • 20 euros for combo ticket from April-October
  • Go as early as possible.
  • If you don't go as early as possible, go to Temple of Zeus/Hadrian's Arch site first and buy your combo ticket there.
Acropolis Museum
  • Separate entrance fee, about 5 euros
Ancient and Roman Agora
  • Included in Acropolis combo ticket
  • Ancient Agora is much cooler, plan to spend more time there
Monastiraki and Plaka streets/markets
  • Souvenir central. Also, pickpocket central.
  • Plaka is a great place to take very Greek-looking photos to show off on instagram
  • Monastiraki is a great place for gyros
Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch
  • Included in Acropolis combo ticket
  • Really great place to take a distance-photo of Acropolis
Panathenaic Stadium
  • Separate entrance fee, about 5 euros
Syntagma Square, Parliament, National Gardens
  • Free!
  • Full changing of the guards ceremony in front of Parliament every hour. Less cool ceremony every half hour.
National Archaeological Museum
  • Separate entrance fee, 10 euros
  • Between Victoria and Omonio metro stations
  • Not the nicest neighborhood
Lykavittos Hill
  • Free to explore.
  • Great views of the city. There's an old Orthodox church on top, and a restaurant.
  • You can walk, or pay to take a funicular (about 8 euros). It's a steep hill, and a hard walk in the heat.
  • Free to explore.
  • Interesting place to walk around, if you're in the northeastern suburbs.
  • Close to The Mall Athens, if you want to see a movie, or shop for U.S. brands at European prices.

Outside of Athens:
(would need 5-6 days, and a driver or ferry to see all of this at a brisk pace)

  • 1 hour drive from Athens
  • Temple of Poseidon archaeological site (about 4 euros, 8 in the summer), and gorgeous beaches (free)
  • 2.5 hour drive from Athens
  • Ancient site of the Delphi oracle (about 8 euros)
  • Gorgeous mountain views
  • Touristy ski town
  • Definitely an all-day trip

Day Trip Islands
(prices vary, depending on ferry service; you can get a combo ticket and see all three in a day for under 100 euros)

  • 1 hour ferry
  • Ancient stuff, pretty beaches, very close
  • 1-2 hour ferry
  • Rick Steves' favorite
  • No cars on island
  • 2 hour ferry
  • Uncharted territory for Phil and Jane

Peloponnese Sites
  • 1.5 hour drive from Athens
  • About 8 euros
  • Ancient fortress with definitely haunted cistern
  • On site museum included in entrance fee
  • Plan on spending 2 hours here
  • 1.5 hour drive from Athens
  • About 4 euros
  • 2 sites included in ticket: ancient Olympic stadium, and Temple of Zeus
  • Short add-on trip when looking at other nearby sites
  • 2 hour drive from Athens
  • 3 ancient fortresses: the big one is about 5 euros, the second biggest is free, the third is on a tiny island off the port, and probably not worth the ferry ride.
  • Fantastic gelato
  • Can spend most of the day here
  • 2 hour drive from Athens
  • Site of an ancient theater
  • Best seen with a ticket to one of the summer productions they have at the site, or as an add-on when visiting other sites nearby
  • 1 hour drive from Athens
  • Site of the Corinth Canal (free)
  • Ancient Corinth archaeological sites (about 8 euros)
  • Plan a half day, at least

Places to Eat:

Traditional Greek tavernas often won't open for dinner until 8pm. Some close for the month of August while the owners vacation. You should always be able to find something open downtown in the tourist areas of Plaka and Monistiraki. McDonald's is across the street from Syntagma. No judgements.

Greek Food:
  • Monastiraki Square
  • Famous, touristy, but lots of locals still come
  • Great gyros
Karavitis Taverna
  • Classic taverna
  • Address: Pafsaniou 4 Athina, 11635
  • Taverna in Kolonaki, near Lykavittos Hill
  • Address: Ploutarchou 15 Athina, 10675
  • Taverna in Kolonaki, near Lykavittos Hill
  • Address: Xenokratous 19 Athina, 10675
Dipylo Restaurant
  • Monastiraki
  • Address: Ermou 121 Athina 10555
Tzizikas & Mermigas
  • Near Syntagma
  • Address: Mitropoleos 12 Athina
  • Quick Greek food near U.S. Embassy
  • Address: Dim. Soutsou 8 Athina 11521
"Paper Chicken" (See Phil's photo for Greek name)
  • Near U.S. Embassy
  • Roasted chicken and french fries dumped on a paper-covered table
  • Address: Sinopis 18 Athina 11527
  • In Psichiko, northeast suburb
  • Address: Adrianiou 31 Athina 11525
Taverna Kissos
  • Fantastic, small taverna in a quiet neighborhood in Chalandri (northeast suburb)
  • Address: Roumelis 28 Chalandri

Flower Pizza
  • Near U.S. Embassy
  • Salads, Naples-style pizza, and (for some reason) omelettes
  • Address: Dorylaiou 2 Athina 11521

The Burger Joint
  • Neo Psichiko (northeast suburb)
  • Address: Soloumou 4-6 Neo Psichiko 15451

New York Sandwich
  • Near-ish to U.S. Embassy
  • Address: Sinopis 3 Athina 11527
Hole Bagels
  • Chalandri (northeast suburb)
  • Address: Leof. Pentelis 142 Chalandri 15234

Taqueria Maya
  • Very good, very close to Syntagma
  • Address: Petraki 10 Athina 10563
California Grill
  • Chalandri (northeast suburb)
  • Address: Kolokotponi 10 Chalandri 15233

Para Siempre
  • Tapas near U.S. Embassy
  • Address: Charitos 43 Athina 10676

Enjoy, friends!