|By Ed Barnes, Staff Writer|
Olympic Journal, Part 2|
Today was the mix of work and pleasure that I was expecting in my trip to Athens. Most of Thursday was spent getting acquainted with what NBC expected from its employees in their coverage of the games. I don't think details of any kind of seminar are all that interesting so I'll just skip to our dinner.
Tonight Matt, Dot and I were joined by Kelly, another fellow employee from San Diego. We found a Greek Restaurant right next to the location of the seminar. Matt has been trying to speak as much Greek as possible and we relied on him to mix and match with the limited English of our waiter.
The restaurant had its own bakery inside and had some excellent bread. I ordered the equivalent to a Greek calzone that was excellent because of its crust.
While the food was great, the best part of the night was meeting up with George, a tour guide of sorts. George agreed to take us back to our hotel by way of the Acropolis which is nowhere near our hotel. While this seemed to directly contradict the rule that media shuttles were only to take media members to and from venues and hotels, we didn't mind.
Kelly, Ed, Dot Richardson, and Matt Vasgersian in Athens
Along the way to the Acropolis we stopped at the Plaka which is the oldest neighborhood in Athens. The streets are filled with restaurants, tourist shops and cafes. One of the busiest spots in the Plaka is Syntagama Square.
The difference in the design of a city in Europe could be seen around this area as the idea of a city square isn't popular in the United States where it is a requirement in Europe. Walking through the square there were several other groups of people just like us, new to Athens and walking around with wide eyes to try and take in the new scenery.
George guided us across the street, which is a lot harder than it sounds as traffic lights are purely optional to many Greek drivers, and we headed to the Parliament building. Like the dumb American I am, I had to take a picture making fun of the guard who stands completely still during his entire shift. In fact, the other security guard told me not to make any funny faces because he can't laugh.
Our tour of the city continued by heading toward the Acropolis. George informed us that we couldn't go all the way up to the ruins because they were closed. Instead he took us to what he called "The Rock." He said that was the place where he would go with his friends to sit and talk and look out over the city. When we climbed up onto the rock there were several groups of people in their late teens and early 20's with a few of them playing guitars and singing.
I was about to take a few pictures of my surroundings until Matt told me that the people on the rock might mind. George quickly said that I shouldn't worry about taking pictures and if I did just to smell the air. The air was not only filled with laughter but also marijuana smoke. When I asked George if the government cared he told me that the government was much more worried about making sure the Olympics went well than a few kids smoking near the Acropolis.
The ride back to the hotel was as much of a tour as the rest of the evening as George couldn't find his way back to the hotel. He told us that he was from Crete and only here so he could make enough money to buy a new motorcycle. He stopped and asked for a table at a sidewalk café for directions only to find they were incorrect. He said that he'd ask for directions again from "someone who wasn't drunk."
During this drive I asked George about the Greek soccer team that recently won the European Championships in Portugal. The team was a huge underdog and the victory has been called the biggest upset in soccer history by several journalists. I asked George who the best player was and he told me it was a team effort. He also said, "normally the best player is the player who scores all the goals but what if a midfielder passes every goal to him? Isn't he better? Like Stockton was better than Malone." Almost everyone in the van couldn't help but laugh as we never expected our Greek driver to know the NBA.
Finally we arrived back at our hotel and we thanks George over and over again for taking us on our tours and asked him to keep his eye out for us so he could play tour guide again.
|Article last modified August 17|