Terri had said she was going to be working in Athens last week of January, and did I want to meet her for a weekend? This is clearly not something anyone living in London does. The direct flights from London are cattle class seating, not fancy international seating, and my back can’t really tolerate even an hour of sitting still, so rather than saying the eminently sensible words “no thanks” I devised a cunning plan. I would break my journeys and get there unscathed! This turned a ‘weekend’ into a twelve day trip. Effectively a Grand Tour.
I started my Grand Tour in Bergamo, the town whose airport serves Milan. I had two reasons for doing that. One is that Bergamo is not like, say Luton, it’s a real place which is nice and worth visiting and not just a dismal outpost of a proper place which takes a while to then get to. Sorry, Luton, but you can’t really fault me on this.
Well, and that isn’t even the whole of reason one – I had just watched The Grand Budapest Hotel and discovered that there are quite a few funiculars around the UK and Europe, serving random hillsides and sometimes seasides. Bergamo is one such place, with a funicular which takes you up to the older part of the city and then up to the ‘Citta Alta’ at the top. I decided that a funicular was definitely worth seeing, so that was one thing, and then the other whole thing was that I have a friend who lives there. This was not a ‘staying with someone’ opportunity, so I got a B&B and thus added to the financial cost of the trip, but at no cost to my back.
I’d done a little bit of research, mainly because of the funicular, and discovered in doing so that if you got a three day bus pass at the airport you were also covered for using the funicular and in the event it covered all my transportation for that bit of the trip. I was staying in a lovely B&B Ghiri with a lady called Chrisitina. She was very friendly and nice, and much as I imagine I speak Italian, I don’t really, and much as she apologises for her English it’s actually very good. The room was massive and clean and the kitchen was right next door. Reader, I did not eat out at night on my own, I scavenged evening corn flakes and drank tea at will.
When I arrived it was kind of raining and so really, I was hardly likely to start getting all touristic. I unpacked and hooked up to the wifi and relaxed. The next day I spent the morning going up on the funicular and then walking down again. Then I met my friend whose photo blog is cherryadepics and we had lunch in a nooky nook place I’d never have found on my own, and walked around and eventually went to her place where she showed me her new cat and her new camera. The cat I took a pic or two of, the camera I went home and researched and got a version of. I am nothing if not a copy cat.
I took a nice picture of her capsule collection of photography books by way of a ‘portrait’, because she is rather camera shy, but reckon now I’m thinking about it, that you’d probably rather see a picture of her kitty cat, Keats.
I repaired back to my lovely room for the evening, scoffed more cornflakes and drank more tea and went on more internet. In the morning I used my three day pass to get me back to the airport.
Next stop Athens. Athens is not a megacity as such but it’s big and the bus to my hotel took ages. Athens was not hot hot hot, but it was a lot warmer than home or Bergamo. I was looking forward to a swim in the hotel’s advertised roof top pool.
The hotel itself was dirty and also the pool was probably full of germs. I swam in it anyway, and by the way it wasn’t a real rooftop since it was enclosed, it was of course, entirely unheated, and was the first time I had ever used a pool with an electric current that you swim against. It was miserable. I left a really grumpy review on TripAdvisor and I am super glad I didn’t try to get Terri to meet me there. I thought that having a night on my own would be restorative, and planned it so that I would have maximum energy for FUN TIMES with TEZZER and I guess that that is what I did, more or less. At least I recovered from the travelling.
Terri, on the other hand, had found a really nice hotel, the Herodion, which was right up next to the Acropolis and was pretty fancy, really.
This was the view from the roof. And my iPhone only has a really crappy digital zoom, so you know it was actually close and not just something that could theoretically be seen, as long as you had a long lens.
Next to the Acropolis is a little area for shopping and eating and general pissing around. Typically, for us, we found something almost hideous and definitely disgusting to do – we had our feet nibbled by fish. They are supposed to take the dead skin off. Really it’s more like a sideshow activity than a spa treatment, and when I posted a picture on Facebook, people were aghast and suggested that this might be somewhat insanitary. Something I honestly hadn’t suspected might be the case. After all, they’re only fish. Fish that have been eating other people’s feet, and possibly they don’t clean the tanks all that often? I don’t know. I am not going to think about this any more.
We ate and talked and walked up to the Parthenon and I dropped my phone so my phone case now has a war wound accrued on the Acropolis, which is quite cool, if you think about it. There is a lot of work going on up there, digging like normal archeologists, but also building. What they are doing, as they restore, is plugging spaces with white marble so you can see what is original and what is the mend, a bit like the Japanese thing of mending pottery with gold. It is sensitive and clever. See?
Interestingly, Terri had spent the week doing some sort of research project about the layered nature of living with history so of course, I took that in my mind with me to Munich, where I was to spend the next six days loafing around with Ken and doing whatever stuff he was doing with him, and communing with his dogs. We also had a tour of some of the history the people of Munich live with with Jeff of Munich Now the English language newspaper.
Ken had shown me round Munich on my previous trip, and I’d noted the distinct lack of any monuments to any war making ever, and that all the monuments were to the Holocaust, to the resistance, and to peace.
Jeff took us to the ‘scene of the crime’ or, one of the scenes of crimes, where there are grand neoclassical buildings on an epic scale around an area built for marching and rallying in. The question, post war, was what to do with buildings that were designed to intimidate and to promote the Nazi ideology. Mostly, these buildings are used now for colleges and museums. The grand parading grounds are grassed over or are roads, and really, they look not unlike similar university and museum buildings elsewhere. Except some of them here have had their swastikas removed. In the middle of this area full of Greco Roman style buildings there are these two scruffy bits. They were originally mausoleums which were built to celebrate certain Nazis who had died for the cause. So far, they have been simply left to rot. Perhaps the space they occupy will one day be used for something else, but the colonnades that were originally built there have been taken down and the plant life that grows there is just left.
Meanwhile, in daily life, I did a bunch of other things in Munich. I went to something which Ken had billed as an evening something to do with Sylvia Plath, and in my mind I was thinking OH GOD.
Anyway, it wasn’t some girl reading Plath having just discovered her and we did not have to sit through the awfulness that that might have manifested as. It turned out it was the American actress Angelica Page who had had a stage play written for her as a one woman show. The conceit was that this was Plath on the day of her suicide and she is talking about her life. She did the entire first half for us, and there were maybe 20 people in the audience. It was SPECIAL but it a good way and not the way I was expecting at all. Which was super nice. I took this picture of her as she was fixing her light, in Susanne Thiemann’s atelier, which usually hosts basket weaving rather than Broadway style performances.
Also, it was properly cold in Munich and I took a ton of photos of Ken’s dogs in the snow.
Someone on Facebook said this was Breughel-esque. Snow turns old dogs into puppies, and photos into paintings.
My last flight ended up being the worst, really. Less the flight than the arriving home to find that my cunning plan of arriving back to London via Luton because the train from there stops at Farringdon, which is ten minutes from my flat, was scuppered. There was something. A flood, works on the line, whatever. Anyway, it is all sorts of horrible to arrive at Luton Airport, you have to get a bus to the train, that’s dismal, though short, then I had to get off at Kings Cross which isn’t all that far, but I still had the plantar fasciitis, and it turned into a painful march at night and I was tired and grumpy.
However, in general I paced myself very well, and indeed was migraine free for the entire trip, due to a side effect of starting on a drug which had been working since before Christmas and continued working til a week after I got back from the Grand Tour, so although that was disappointing I can’t say I didn’t welcome the break.
Well, both the breaks.