After Three Weeks in Greece.

Grace and I have been in Greece for just over 3 weeks now. It’s cliche, but it simultaneously feels like a lot longer and a lot shorter than that.

L1005423 After Three Weeks in Greece.

We’ve had a good balance of getting around and doing things, whilst also spending days just working and lazing around the flat. The real temptation is just to go and eat out or drink coffee all the time, but that sucks up cash ridiculously fast. It’s hard to resist when the food is so great though… the tomatoes are large, cheap, and taste amazing, and you can’t really go wrong with adding feta cheese to every meal.

L1005425 After Three Weeks in Greece.

Our pals Al and Becky came out for a week, and we packed a lot into those days – including caving (despite my gluten intolerance) to eat chicken souvlaki – both stupidly cheap and stupidly delicious. (Yes Keith, I used the word delicious). There’s a ton of pictures from that which I’ll upload later… I desperately need to get my Leica’s sensor cleaned though, as there’s dust spots everywhere. Shooting wide open isn’t a problem in Scotland (to avoid seeing the dust), but can’t quite get away with doing that here.

L1005453 After Three Weeks in Greece.

Having folk here was great, and I’m looking forward to seeing a couple more of our pals who are going to come out and visit before we come home to Glasgow. The simple daily stuff like working on the balcony in the sun definitely isn’t to be sniffed at though, and I love the freedom that I have with my job to be able to do things like this.

In a moment of madness I sourced Irn-Bru and had a case of it delivered at some stupid cost. It’s now my emergency hangover Bru.

One thing that always happens when I go abroad is that I wish I was able to speak a different language. In particular, I’ve always been fascinated by Greek because of the different alphabet, and also because when I was younger I wanted to join in on conversations that my older cousins were having.

L1005464 After Three Weeks in Greece.

I’ve gone through points where I could understand quite a lot, and then let it slide to near enough nothing. It’s pretty hard to keep up the motivation to learn a language when nobody around you speaks it, and you’re not immersed in it every day. Since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten back into things though, and am determined to make a real ongoing effort to do as much as I can.

L1005436 After Three Weeks in Greece.

Outside of the really touristy areas (where everybody speaks English and will pretty much refuse to do anything but that), Greeks respond extremely well when you speak even just a few words. This, coupled with the fact that they love to talk debate at any given opportunity, means that often really simple interactions in Greek can lead to them coming back with long, complicated questions. Staring blankly back, or telling them that you are from Scotland and don’t speak too much Greek only seems to encourage their enthusiasm to converse in Greek. I quite like that. I’m fairly self-conscious about trying to put together more difficult sentences, and it can be a big knock to have somebody completely disinterested in your attempts. In that regard, the smallest gestures or successes feel massive, like the older guy who gave us some chewing gum for free when we bought some Coke, and then after asking a few questions said (in Greek) that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t very good at it – that it would come slowly… or the girl in another shop who said (again, all in Greek) that it was wonderful that I was making an effort, and then spoke a bit clearer to ask questions about where we were from and if I had family here. People are usually pleased that you can speak even just a wee bit, so I just need to get the balls to do it more.

The cock-ups can be embarrassing and amusing though. I found out that I had been saying ‘Enjoy your meal’ instead of saying ‘Good evening’ like I had thought I had… and then in e-mails I had been using ‘οραία’, which I thought meant ‘great’, but which actually means ‘opal’. There are two letter O equivalents, and I’d used the wrong one. Oh dear.

L1005433 After Three Weeks in Greece.

One of the things I’ve been doing is listening to Greek music, as it apparently helps to pick things up. In doing so, I came across a ‘comedy rap’ group that are a bit like Bloodhound Gang. This track is almost exactly like Stacey’s Mom:

Maybe I’d be better off watching Sesame Street with the subtitles on.

say hello: ~@stephenemm or ~Google+

Lake District – BBQs and Trampolines

CNV0000261 Lake District   BBQs and Trampolines

I’ve got tons of film pictures that I’m slowly working my way through from the past year, which means there’s no sort of chronological order. It can be a good thing though, as it’s nice to look back on trips from a few months ago and relive them.

These pictures are from when a group of us spent a week in the Lake District, back in June.

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In my previous post, I mentioned the trampoline that was in the garden, and that you’d eventually see more of it.

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A trampoline always means trouble, especially when it’s a size big enough for big kids.

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There wasn’t even any alcohol involved.

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If I recall correctly, Charlotte used to go to trampolining classes or something, so she was clearly the best – pulling out all sorts of moves that, had I attempted them, would have resulted in me fracturing my spine or something eqaully as awful.

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We had to hide our disappointment when some ACTUAL kids moved in to the cottage next door and we couldn’t quite get the run of things as we had before.

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Even just sitting on the trampoline on a hot day is pleasant.

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What else do you do on a sunny day in the UK?

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Barbeque, of course.

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I always over-estimate the amount that I’m actually going to eat when we have a barbeque, and end up stuffing my face with 3 burgers more than I ever would normally.

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Though really the ol’ BBQ is just an excuse to sit out in the sun with alcohol.

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We left Paul to the task of cooking.

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Summer in the UK has a really nice feel to it. The rare sun that we get, coupled with the green and water makes it one of the nicest places to be. It’s just a shame it’s not like that more often, although I guess that would result in a lot less green. It’s catch-22. Surely a few more weeks per year wouldn’t hurt though.

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June 2014 – Lake District
Lomo LC-A – expired 35mm film

say hello: ~@stephenemm or ~Google+

Μοναστηράκι and the Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο

L1005622 Μοναστηράκι and the Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο

It’s Sunday.

We haven’t exactly been following a regular schedule lately – doing stuff in the daytime during the week, and working on nights and at the weekend. It’s nice to have the time to be able to be pretty relaxed about going places or seeing things – though I’m sure other folk would be expecting us to do a lot more than we are.

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We arranged to meet up with some of my relatives in the centre of Athens to get some food and hang out – choosing the area near Monastiraki train station.

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Monastiraki is a pretty lively place. There are tiny streets branching off in every direction filled with restaurants. The flea market that spreads out at the bottom of the main road is crammed full of the most bizarre assortment of items and people you will ever lay your eyes on. Gramaphones, kitchen pieces, pistols, camera lenses, genuine nazi memorabilia, antique furniture… the list goes on and on.

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The others were running a bit late, so we climbed up ontop of one of the strange metal structures that are in the small square near the train station to get a better view, and to stay out of the way of the various people trying to sell us bracelets or lottery tickets or whatever else. Oh, not to mention the guy who was wandering around with a syringe in his hand, presumably getting ready to shoot up somewhere.

We got a nice view of the square, with some guys doing flips and other things, with the shops and Acropolis in the skyline behind.

We also had a good vantage point to see the police hassling some street traders. Police in Greece are not like the polis we have back home. They are young, well built, and operate more like the military. They aren’t folks you want to have too many interactions with. If I needed directions somewhere, the Greek police would probably be fair down the list of people I would approach.

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There’s a real anti-authoritarian attitude in Greece that I like. People don’t like being told what to do, by anybody – and this applies to the police as well. Small, petty things that would be deemed as ‘improper’ in the UK, or socially unacceptable are routinely ignored. This is Greece. Do what you want. Not to over-egg this and make it seem like there’s anarchy, because there definitely isn’t – but there’s a free spiritedness and disregard of rules that is infectious.

Of course, that sort of approach to life which can be charming in everyday situations becomes incredibly frustrating when you need people to give you straight answers, or to take some sort of action on your behalf. The Greeks do not do bureaucratic tasks well at all.

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Athens is filled with stray cats and dogs, who seem to have the same laissez-faire approach to life as the people.

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We spent the afternoon as many Greeks do – drinking beer and iced coffee, whilst chatting lazily in the city’s streets. Lager seems to taste a lot better than usual here – probably because of the heat – and if there’s one thing that the Greeks know how to do well, it’s iced coffee.

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Afterwards, we headed to the park near Syntagma square that was designed specifically for the enjoyment of the previous King, before he was ousted by a referendum in 1973, which was approved by around 80% of those who voted, with a turnout of 75%. This came after the Greeks had voted to restore the Monarchy by a staggering 97% in 1935… so he must have done something really terrible to have such a short turnaround.

The park filled with exotic animals and plants at the taxpayers’ expense probably had something to do with it.

L1005632 Μοναστηράκι and the Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο

My cousin mentioned that beyond the park there was a marble stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, so after we parted ways, me and Grace went to take a look.

L1005658 Μοναστηράκι and the Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο

It was only a few Euros to get in, so we decided to pay, even though we weren’t really interested in the museum – but seeing the stadium itself. It was well worth the money.

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The Panathenaic Stadium was built on the site of another ancient stadium, and is made entirely of white marble. The Greeks seem to have a thing for marble. Wikipedia says it’s the only major stadium to be suilt solely with this material, and one of the oldest surviving.

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It’s impressive enough simply for what it is, and the fact that it’s still in such good condition, but the real amazing thing was the scale.

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It doesn’t look like much from the street, but inside it’s spectacular.

I only wish I had a wider lens.

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Walking onto the track, I couldn’t help but imagine what the place must have been like 100 years ago, when it was packed full of people. The feeling of walking onto the track as an athlete in such an impressive structure must have been both exhilirating and terrifying. Even doing it in an empty stadium was intimidating. This ancient Greek structural style has a lot of soul.

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I could pretend like we ran some laps, as we saw other people doing, but you would know that was a complete lie, so I won’t.

Grace would have won anyway.

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say hello: ~@stephenemm or ~Google+