Tuesday, May 12, 2009


What an incredible time we had on our trip to Athens this month! The first impression that greeted us (other than getting ripped off when buying our bus fair to town at the airport and the awfully crowded ride to town) was the smell of jasmine. It had rained in Athens and the air smelled like jasmine tea.

Our hotel was perfect. A two-bedroom apartment, complete with a kitchen and balcony overlooking a few busy streets, parks, and the Hill of the Wolves (Lykavittos Hill). Very central too.

We saw so much in the four days we were there: The Acropolis with its temples, green spaces, and ancient amphitheater; the Ancient Agora, the nerve center of commerce and culture in old Greece; Kerameikos, the most important ancient burial ground in Athens; the National Gardens, a lush jungle-like park in the heart of the Greek capitol; an old turkish-style bath house, beautifully restored; remnants of ancient Roman baths; the fabulous National Archeological Museum, which houses the famous Mask of Agamemnon and other awe-inspiring artifacts.

We also took a day trip 70 km down the coast to Cape Sounion where the Temple of Poseidon punctuates the landscape, the striking white columns contrasting with the vibrant blues of the sky and sea. There we got to swim in the cool, but welcoming Aegean Sea.

In Greece, I tasted the freshest and most marvelous orange juice and the sweetest and most fragrant strawberries I had ever eaten in my life. I got the latter from a fruit seller in Monastiraki Square, a place where the various histories of Athens meet.

The oranges and lemons on the fruit trees were ripe. The temperature was perfect. Between 24 and 28 °C (that's 75 and 82 °F). The sun was out. It sprinkled only for about an hour upon our arrival the first day.

Jonah did fine. Transitions can be a bit difficult with him. This fickleness manifests itself in him throwing tantrums. We managed dissipating those sucessfully most of the time. Considering that most of what we did was grown-up oriented (read sightseeing), he did great. We did give him opportunities to play as well.

The only drawback of traveling to Greece with a child (and no babysitter) is that one cannot enjoy Greek nightlife, for which the country is so famous or proper Greek food. The customary way to eat is late at night -- 10 pm at the earliest -- and most restaurants don't even open their kitchens till then, so I was glad we had our own kitchen at the hotel. With a child who goes to sleep by 8 pm that is a must in the Mediterranean. The tastiest food we had eaten was from a skewered meat seller at a flea market. Each skewer of tender and perfectly seasoned pork for only 1 Euro!

For nights I have had dreams about building ancient cities, which began while still in Greece. As I sit here now in the much-colder Prague, my mind is still half-way in Greece. As I've said to my friends, I left my heart in Athens. Jonah, fortunately, assures me that he still has his heart inside him.

For more pics, go here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

the family protests

Today, our little family of three participated in a protest against neo-nazism in the Czech Republic. We went to express our solidarity with the Roma (Gypsy) community, who has been experiencing an increasing amount of tension, harassment, and violence at the hands of the white majority.

I wrote about our participation at the demonstration on another blog, Roma Rights.

Saturday, May 02, 2009