I never read the guidebooks before we travel. To me it’s like opening presents early. Plus I feel I don’t really need to know too much beforehand—the beloved drools over the planning, the books, the maps. All I need do is show up and make sure I don’t have a derisive amount of stuff packed.

So, I was taken by surprise by Athens. The traffic in particular. Had I known that the city is three times the size of New York City, I might’ve had a clue.

Go ahead: try to cross any street. Crosswalks are few and far between. And when you do find one, the red traffic halt light obliges you only time enough to get to the median strip. Wait again, suckers!

The bus stop is mobbed at 11 a.m. The clean, sparking and delightful subway system is rush-hour full to the rafters at 2 pm. People confidently flag taxis with passengers already inside. Double-passengered motorcycles, motorbikes, scooters, hum like giant flies.

After cool and foggy SF, the dry heat momentarily robs me of breath. I sweat rivers. My hair has styled itself, too, a delightful combination of bed head and sculpted hair. Of course, my curling iron does not work—even with our fancy new converter. I do my trick of heating scrunched hair with the hot hair dryer. Which means, no, there will be no pictures of this girl anywhere on this trip. Okay, perhaps under a baseball hat.

Some impressions: The street signage are almost universally bilingual. Sometimes, to hometown chagrin, the billboards are uniquely in English. The street trees are unharvested, rough-skinned Seville orange trees, as well as Mulberries with leaves that are significantly larger than those we have in the US. The food is good and fresh and could feed a family of sixteen.

I have the usual feeling of not being able to internalize that I’m actually walking around at the Acropolis, or that I’m actually looking at the Parthenon. Must be the heat. Can you say, 105 degrees?

Here are photos:

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