Greece

Meteora

Greece was an unexpectedly crazy trip. At first, there wasn’t even a plan to go to Greece. Then we thought about visiting Thessaloniki, but in the end, we decided on visiting Meteora, a group of monasteries on mountains. They are seriously beautiful, and perhaps are the second best tourist site in Greece, after Athens. 

Then we changed our plans again. We would visit Meteora, but we would also stay for a day in Athens. And as quick as that, we were driving from Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia. Driving from Macedonia to Greece went surprisingly smoothly, considering the tensions between the two nations, and soon enough, we were at Meteora.

Meteora looked like either a worldly version of the Pillars of Creation, with many large buttes creating a stark, contrasting landscape, or just a few stone fingers. On the top of many of these mountains were monasteries. They looked like small castles from our vantage point, and the view was truly breathtaking (the elevation we were at was also breathtaking). 

We didn’t visit the 24 monasteries of Meteora, but we did get a good look at a few of them. We took many pictures, and it was a great experience. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the trip. 

We continued on the road, and stopped in a mall near Athens. We ate some food (tasty), and my dad got my sister’s diaper while I played with her. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We returned to the car. I sat on the seat. There was a little extra space, but I didn’t realize anything was out of the ordinary. Until I looked to the side. Our windows were broken, and the backpack carrying our valuables was gone. We lost our iPad, phones, laptops, camera and our passport. My dad had discussed the robbery with my mom minutes before, yet I was completely oblivious to the situation. We returned to the mall, myself a little numb. We had lost a lot. Luckily, my mom didn’t lose her wallet, and so some things were saved. We called the police to file a complaint, but because we couldn’t ride in the car, we were given a ride to the police station in the police car (my dad had to drive the car there). My parents explained what happened while I watched a Fifa World Cup match: South Korea vs Germany. I was rooting for Germany, so of course South Korea won 0-2. While I was distracted, my parents were doing important work. They needed verification but luckily, due to an old Yugoslav rule, in Macedonia to rent a house you need a picture of the passports. This meant that we had a digital copy of the passport, and the Airbnb owner sent the photos to us. With verification, the first step of a long and tedious process was complete. The second step was getting a session with the U.S. Embassy in Athens. To get a session, the police need to file a complaint, which they did. Throughout the process, the police were extremely helpful, from setting up a hotspot so we could receive the passports, to putting the documents we specified in the complaint, to showing us around the station and giving us some pizza to hold off our hunger. 

The police officer explained about the Syrian immigrant situation in Greece: Syrian immigrants come to Greece because then they’re in the European Union, which means they can ultimately get to Germany. It was most likely that a Syrian refugee stole our stuff. He also lamented about gun use. They can only use their gun if someone else shoots first, which is a problem in many situations. After what seemed like an eternal wait, my parents were able to contact the insurance company, who towed away the car. Since we couldn’t sit in the car, we sat in the uncomfortable truck. It was impossible to sleep, which kept my worries awake. We were then transported to a cab, which would bring us to our Airbnb. My senses, already unfeeling, shut down, and I slept for most of the journey to Athens, along with my sister. I didn’t dream. I was too tired to think. When my eyes eventually fluttered open, we were in the middle of an alley. We walked for a bit, searching for our Airbnb. Our taxi driver took us to the wrong place. While I was halfheartedly gazing at the screen above, my parents had informed our host about the robbery, and so the landlord’s friend was waiting for us. My parents gave him our address, and he showed us the way to the Airbnb. He even brought our luggage for us. After an exhausting walk, we found ourselves in front of the Airbnb. I slept. I could think about the mortal plane later.

The Airbnb we stayed in was near the Acropolis, though I’ve only seen it twice. The first time was the next day, when we went to the U.S. Embassy in Athens to get a temporary passport. After my dad withdrew money from an ATM, we got in a cab. The taxi we were in got a flat tire in the middle of the journey, and so we got out right in front of the Acropolis. We took a few pictures, but it wasn’t what was on our mind: we needed to be on time, so we called another taxi, and got to the embassy on time. To enter, we needed a form of verification, which came in the form of my dad’s driver license. After passing security, things went a little more smoothly. My dad got verification for the rest of us (social security numbers). We got our pictures taken, and the temporary passport was approved. We still had things to do. We went to the rental car company to see if they could fix the car in time, but they said it would take a week. In the end, we decided to end our Balkans trip, and that it would be better to make other plans. During that time, we walked around the neighborhood near the Airbnb. Nothing special. 

We had to get our luggage from Ohrid, so we booked a flight to Macedonia, but due to the name controversy, as well as other issues, the only flights available were through Istanbul. That was the second time I saw the Acropolis: when we left Athens. After that, security was rather tight in Istanbul, especially due to the temporary passports, and we almost missed the plane, but in the end, it was a disappointing end to a highly anticipated nation. We will visit Greece again, but we will be more careful this time. 

Tips: 

  • Make sure to be alert and stay safe – we weren’t the only people who got robbed. The embassy was crowded with robbery victims
  • Carry passport copies: If you get robbed, you will have a backup
  • Visit Meteora, since it is actually a breathtaking place, unique to the world. 
Our car

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