July 3, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Trip

While you may have suspected I quit the sport of triathlon, moved to the North Pole or gave up my computer, I've actually been traveling like a maniac this entire month and my latest adventure was in Athens, Greece. I was there on business for the Special Olympics World Games and had some time to get out and explore as well. It was a tumultuous time to be in Athens given the civil unrest and protests, but also a very historical one. I had the opportunity to experience everything from this:

To this:

Riots Near Syntagma Square

My favorite part of Athens was the old neighborhood called The Plaka, just on the other side of the protests in Syntagma Square and creeping up the hill to the Acropolis. I wandered for hours, had lunch that lasted for hours and saw some incredible ancient ruins. The Acropolis is clearly the crown jewel of Athens sightseeing, with the Parthenon as the star. How often can you stroll past monuments built 2,500 years ago? And the views from Acropolis hill are breathtaking.

But just below it there is another area of ruins called the Ancient Agora, the former Roman center of the city containing the remains of temples and commercial structures. Everywhere you go there are dogs wandering around. They don't belong to anyone but aren't wild per se. They pretty much ignore you and go about their business. This was my favorite part of the Agora:

Temple of Hephaestus

And now for the best part... the food. You know that Mediterranean diet they talk about that's so healthy? Yeah, not in Athens. My favorite things were of course the heaviest, fattiest of all - garlicky tzatziki (a sheep's milk yogurt dip) with pita, saganaki (fried cheese... yes, fried), moussaka (a sort of eggplant lasagna-type dish) and Greek salad, which never had any greens but was loaded with cucumber and tomato in olive oil and a huge block of feta thrown on top. On the lighter side I ate tons of grilled octopus and the occasional squid. But I generally topped it off with baklava, or some other flaky, honey-drenched pastry. The wine was delicious and I gravitated toward minerally whites that tasted like the sea.


Grilled Octopus

Best Lunch Ever

My final two days were in the midst of the national transportation strike due to the austerity vote taking place in Parliament. I unfortunately got caught up in a riot while walking back to my hotel and the police shot tear gas into the crowd. I can honestly say it was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had. It was jarring, uncomfortable and most of all, made me feel incredibly empathetic for the people living through this disruptive time. I don't think protests and riots are the answer, but I also don't know what it's like to feel helpless and concerned about a stable future. It was a reminder that our lives are pretty good here and our complaints seem petty in the face of the challenges of others.

I had a 16-hour trip home due to the strike, but I made it. Even without the delays the flight is so long (10.5 hours) I watched three movies, ate two meals and still had time to kill. I was happy to be back and am still trying to shake the jet lag.

On the training front things have come to a screeching halt. I had planned to run daily in Athens and managed to make it out the first day, but the head cold I left with swiftly turned into a chest cold and I spent the week with a deep, nasty cough that would not allow any running to happen. I'm still recovering and am planning to ease back in and pick up where I left off. I could let it bother me, but I won't. At this point in my tri life I know I can bounce back and I'm positive I will.


  1. Looks like a great trip. Certainly a rough time for Greece right now.

  2. Welcome back! Saw your updates on Facebook while you were over there and was wondering when you would finally escape Greece.

  3. Wow... sounds awesome... except for the riots and the cold! :)

    Grilled octopus huh? I could do the fried cheese... not the grilled octopus.

  4. excellent trip and great pics!

    better yet your attitude and positive approach - you'll find it


  5. wow, looks like a wonderful trip! and that food is making my mouth water : ) i love your attitude on training. i just got back from a weeklong vacay and was feeling fairly guilty for not getting much training in, so it's nice to hear your healthy and positive approach.



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