Saturday, January 26, 2013

Strange Things

It's a rainy, somewhat cool (we're talking 50-some degrees) afternoon in Athens.  I returned a bit over two weeks ago, so the jet lag is gone, break stories have been exchanged, the routine has set back in.  But coming back, I was struck again by the things about Greece which had become normal over the course of the fall and seemed once more strange upon return (and even more strange because they had once been normal... or something like that).

Strange thing 1: Toilet paper doesn't go in the toilet; it goes in a little bin next to the toilet.  95% of toilets in Greece have some kind of sign, usually in both Greek and English, telling you not to throw paper or anything else in the toilet.  This is actually less weird to me than some people, because the plumbing in Israel is equally incapable of handling tp.  It's not a super hard thing to get used to, but as a result, when you do get to discard things in the toilet - well, it's a pretty exciting day.  Like when we went to a party at our professor's house last week which has one of those rare toilets that accepts paper - there's a sign telling you so! - and we walked around whispering to each other that you have to go to the bathroom here, because you can flush your paper!  Amazing!
Strange thing 2: A shower head fixed to the wall is a rare thing indeed.  Most of the time, there's a shower head on a cord; if you're lucky, there will be some kind of head-height mount from which to hang the shower head.  If you're really lucky, that mount will actually hold the device in place.  For the shower I use in Athens, I'm not lucky.  I have, however, figured out how to prop the shower head on the faucet so at least my lower half can get a continuous stream of water.  Again, something you get used to, but I miss standing under the water flow.  And some days, after working out, my arms are just too dang tired to constantly hold the shower head up over my head. 
Strange thing 3: Our bathroom and shower stalls are marble.  Classy!

Hmmm, I'm detecting a theme here... ok, non-bathroom strange things:

Strange thing 4: Today is January 26, and it's strawberry season.  They're sold in the street markets for about 3 euros for a half kilo right now, but in another week or two they'll cost half that much.  For me, this may well be the strangest strange thing. 

Strange thing 5: In addition to being sold in glass bottles as in the rest of the world, wine can also be bought from most stores "unbottled", or rather, in what looks for all the world like a reused bottle from bottled water.  They're usually unmarked, and cost all of two and a half euros for a liter and a half.  In restaurants, like the one we usually frequent on Sunday nights, a half kilo of wine costs about four euros.  Ok, this one isn't strange so much as awesome. 

Strange thing 6 (to get off the food kick): Greeks don't believe in spaying or, especially, neutering animals because it's emasculating.  As a result, the streets are full of strays and dog poop.  And the dogs get to walk around all over the archaeological sites, not paying any mind to rope barriers or fences.  Why does the dog get to go inside the Parthenon whenever it wants, and I don't?!?

In other news, the cost of one euro is up to $1.35.  It was about $1.26 when I got here in September.  Not quite as bad as when it was well over $1.40 a few years ago... but c'mon U.S.!  Pull that dollar value together!  You're making cheap strawberries and cheap wine less cheap!