Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Greece likes to ease you in to things.  On our arrival at the Athens airport, we had the fun experience of finding another way to get to our hotel with the metro on strike.  That involved a bus and then a taxi (which overcharged us - pah!), but wasn't horrible.  Today, it was the full whammy - complete abandonment.  More on that after the pictures.

We took a bus to the Sanctuary of Asclepius to see the sites, in particular, the Theater of Epidaurus:
This amphitheater is heralded as one of the best preserved from that era.  It's even back in use today.  Some work has been done on it, but not the extensive work that we've seen on other ancient structures. Paul also liked the sophisticated drainage system.  I decided it was important for me to stick my foot in one of the two drainage tunnels so that you can see how deep it was:
There's also a stadium that a sign says is used by local schools, which I think is awesome:
So, the abandonment.  The Saturday bus schedule is limited, so there's really only one bus for the return trip - at 6:15.  After exploring the ruins for many hours, we made our way to the bus stop by about 6:00.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We met an art historian from San Francisco and chatted about the unreliability of the transportation system in Greece and elsewhere.  6:30 came and went.  Then 7:00.  The already empty parking lot emptied further as we tourists, now seven in total, began to grow anxious about the lack of a bus.  There was one tour bus waiting for its group, so members of our group noticed the bus driver talking on a cell phone and inquired as to whether we could use it to call the transportation folks to see if the city bus was coming.  The nice bus driver called for us (which is probably for the best, since none of us spoke Greek) and informed us that the transportation folks claimed our bus, which was clearly scheduled for 6:15, supposedly came and left at 6:00 (it did not - some of the others were waiting long before that).

At that point it became clear that our only real option was to see if we could get that tour bus to take us back - or at least to somewhere not quite so remote!  After some stumbling through language barriers, waiting for the "boss," (i.e. the person in charge of the tour group), and a smidge of anxiety, we found ourselves on a plush bus full of Austrian academics (both profs and students in archaeology  headed toward Tolo - a city about 10 km from Nafplio.  Two Germans in our group had talked to the bus driver about dropping us off at a crossroads on the way to Tolo where it would be about a 3-4 km walk to Nafplio (totally doable) or just taking us to Tolo where we could catch a bus to Nafplio (there were two more that evening, so it seemed probable).  However, when the turn came for the bus to head toward Tolo, it continued on to Nafplio and dropped us off right in town.  Then, no one, not the tour leader nor the bus driver, would accept any compensation for the inconvenience/additional passengers.  What a wonderful turn of events.  

As five of us were walking back to our hotels together and chatting, Paul suggested that we all get dinner together.  Everyone else agreed, so we had an entertaining dinner with a couple from Moscow (the wife was actually from Spain) and the art historian.  


  1. Sounds like things were bad, but now they are good - forever! Good for you guys!

    P.S. We owe a rooster to Asclepius, I should have asked you to pay the debt!

    1. Jason, one day we'll come up with something that you won't have an obscure factoid to spout about.

    2. Fun fact #1: The word 'Factoid' first appeared in a wax-cylinder recording by Aleister Crowley in an absinthe-fueled rant about Theosophy; it was proposed as a taxonomic category for a class of animistic spirits found in the folklore of certain Steppe peoples of Central Asia.

      The current perversion of the term is due to Crowley's contemporary and occasional adversary Oscar Wilde, who wryly sought to compromise his rival's occult excesses.

      P.S. Fun fact #2: if I can't summon a factoid for a situation, I fabricate one.