The Unexpected


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Europe » Greece » Ionian Islands » Zakynthos
October 21st 2019
Published: November 1st 2019
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Marv enjoying dinnerMarv enjoying dinnerMarv enjoying dinner

Marv sitting in the enclosed sidewalk restaurant beside our hotel in Athens.
The day Marv and I arrived in Athens, we did little more than cope with jet lag, mainly by making our way to the Wyndham Grand hotel by way of The Canadian Institute to pick up my museum pass. Getting to the hotel went seamlessly but once there we had a long wait for our room. I was so tired I could little more than vegetate in the hotel lobby, even though the weather outside was warm and brilliant shining. Marv was able to dredge up enough energy to go buy a bottle of water and reconnoiter the neighborhood. While waiting, a lady dressed in mismatched flowery dress and shirt stepped out of the elevator and headed directly for us. She plopped onto the hotel where I sat semi-conscious and proceeded to spend the next hour telling me all about her missionary family, especially her missionary doctor husband (upstairs recovering from some ailment), whom she wanted to nap. She burned off her pent-up energy by chatting non-stop... to us. Not once did she ask us anything about us but related to us like we were good fellow Christians. However, she opened a window into understanding the mind-set of extreme Christians in
Alexander the Great RestaurantAlexander the Great RestaurantAlexander the Great Restaurant

Glass-enclosed restaurant just outside our hotel.
the US. I listened without judgement, deciding that, since I was stuck in the audience mode anyway and with nowhere to go, I might as well just listen with curiosity. She shared her trust in her lord for all sorts of things, from curing ailments to helping people find their calling. She was very careful to speak auspiciously, which I found intriguing. Her faith was authentic and, literally, unceasing. Fortunately, she did not bring up politics and didn't try to convert us. At the end of her chat, she announced that she needed to go back and off she went, wishing us a great visit.

Frankly, it was a lost hour anyway and I wasn't able to sleep on that uncomfortable couch. Better than TV.

After reaching our room, having a long nap and a warm shower, we headed out for an appropriately late Greek dinner at an enclosed sidewalk restaurant called the Alexander the Great restaurant. And no, I have no idea why the owner chose that name as literally nothing inside the restaurant was about Alexander. Afterward, we zipped across the square to buy gelatos (my weakness) and then walked over to Omonia Plataia (Square), which
The kitchen entranceThe kitchen entranceThe kitchen entrance

The kitchen entrance is across a little street from the restaurant.
is undergoing some serious renovation, and then back to our room. Not a long walk, but we still managed to get to sleep easily and slept for many necessary hours.

The next morning, we were to return to the airport for a flight to Zakynthos at 9:50 am. We planned very carefully so that we knew when to get up, have breakfast, get back on the subway and make our flight with more than an hour to spare.

However, two things happened on the subway, both of which impacted our trip a lot.

Hurrying from our hotel, we headed into the nearby Metaxourghio station. We were not able to get onto the first train because of the rush hour crowding. The next train came four minutes later. We shoved on and changed to the blue line going to the airport at Syntagma station. My previous visit having occurred some six years ago, I needed extra time to navigate to the correct platform and confirm it was going in the right direction, and to do so via the elevators stuck in random places that didn't necessarily seem to lead to the right platform but, by luck, did. Now time seemed to be tighter. I took out my phone to check the time and told Marv that we might be tight getting there an hour before the flight. Just as I said that, the train pulled into the station. I stuck my phone quickly in the unzippered pouch of my special travel purse so we could jostle to get onto the train. Again, we found ourselves standing in tight quarters, but as we were in the middle of the city, the crowed thinned out a lot within three stations and we found ourselves with more room. We even discovered a stand for suitcases. I figured I'd better check the time once more, so I reached into the pocket I had stuck the phone into. No phone. I checked all the other pockets in the bag. No phone. I checked again, feeling my heart rate increasing drastically. Marv encouraged me to check again. And again. No phone. Within a few minutes, it was obvious that my phone was gone. Probably stolen. While there's a remote chance that it fell out, that pocked is deep enough that it wouldn't just fall. It was lifted.

Because my bag really is a great bag for preventing theft, nothing else of value was taken, neither money, bank cards or passports. But most of our travel plans and much incidental information--like my Greek dictionaries--were on that phone. And my good camera. And map apps. Plus, that was how we were going to communicate with our hosts.

Just as I was coming to terms with this development, we heard an announcement--only in Greek, so I initially doubted what I was hearing--that everyone had to get off the train at the next station. Apparently, not every train on the blue line goes to the airport. So, okay, we got off. Checking the time on Marv's phone, I figured we had a few minutes spare to wait for the next train. Then I looked up at the marquis to see how long it would be for that train.

Twenty minutes.

I lost it. We were not going to make that flight. We would arrive only half an hour before the flight at best. That didn't count walking from the train platform into the airport, finding the arrivals area and then finding our check-in counter. Marv tried to assure me that we could make it. I was having none of it.

While I was pacing back and forth waiting and lamenting my lost phone and trying to figure out how to contact our hosts if we didn't make the flight, a young man approached us on the platform to confirm when the train to the airport would arrive. He wasn't Greek and his first language wasn't English, but he spoke pretty well. When we told him 20 minutes, he asked where we were from. Canada, we said. He brightened up. Who doesn't love Canadians? Turns out, he's Kurdish. We stared, thinking of Trump's withdrawal of American troops from Syria only a day or two before and the resulting loss of lives. We expressed our shock and empathy for his people. He was heading to Kurdistan with two other young men, one of whom showed us horrible photos that hadn't made it to the media but he'd received from friends in Syria. I will not describe these photos, of families, children, wives, non-combatants, horribly massacred or wounded by the Turkish forces.

Yeah, my phone loss seemed like a minor problem all of a sudden.

The train eventually came. We eventually got to the airport, found the arrivals area and our check in counter. And... yeah, we were ten minutes too late for the flight.

Fortunately, a different airline offered a flight to Zakynthos at 5 pm and they had space. We couldn't get back the money for the missing flight, only the taxes on it, which is something. Having to pay for another set of tickets to the island was an unexpected expense but, hey, we aren't Kurds living in Syria.

We found a quiet part of the departures lounge in which we could rest, figure out how to let our hosts know about the change of plans and then read. Six hours or so cooling our heels in the Athens airport. When it was time to board, we discovered that we had to take a shuttle to a remote location of the airport and there was only one shuttle. No second shuttle for late arrivals, so there really was no way we could have made the first flight.

After an uneventful flight along the northern shore of the Peloponnesus, we arrived in Zakynthos just before sunset, as Greece was still on "summer time." Stephanie and Spyros picked us up about 25 minutes later and took us to a small restaurant very near their house and we all had something grilled. I was so tired by everything that happened earlier that I can't remember what we ate except that it was fresh and delicious and we had a great time sitting on a patio in much warmer-than-expected weather. We got to their house on the hill in the pitch dark and I couldn't tell much about it except that it had a very long flight of stairs up and, as Stephanie had warned on FaceBook, an abundance of green stink bugs, but wonderful tile floors. We are staying in a bedroom with two bunk beds and, I discovered a day later, a wonderful view of the valley below.

Notes to self: allow an hour extra to take the train back to the airport. Always put your phone (and other important objects) in zippered pockets next to your body. Make sure your travel companion has the same trip information that you do. It's a good idea to get a replacement plan for your phone. Also make sure you've downloaded your phone photos to your computer or to the cloud or some other external storage location before going on a trip. Always lock your phone.

Interesting aside: for several weeks before the trip, I was thinking about getting a new phone because mine was developing some little issues and I was pretty certain that I was due for a new phone anyway. But I hesitated: what if something happened to my phone during the trip? I'd rather replace an older phone than a new one. Several times I said as much to family and friends. And... was it prescience? Something did happen to my phone. Fortunately, I got in touch with Rogers via Marv's phone and they cancelled the phone so no one could make calls and they black listed it so, in theory, it can't be sold. Yeah, I'm sure that stops people. But, hey, I will soon get a new phone (and will have the same number). And I don't live in Syria.

No photos because all the photos we took on our first day in Greece were on my now missing phone. When I finally download everything from the iCloud, I'll upload any surviving first photos to this entry.

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