Liam and I took the Subaru for a spin today — long story short, the battery was dead, got a jump start, had to drive around to charge the thing — at any rate, we found ourselves headed West on…whatever the street was (I still navigate by landmarks here), and I thought it would be fun to just see where the road takes us. I’d dig out the GPS if I needed help getting home, but really, how hard could it be? I’d just follow this nice, wide, busy road due-ish West, and then I’d pull a U-turn and head back the way I came.
Except when it came time to turn around, I was met with No U-turn signs at every intersection. Now, I should have just done what the Greeks do: throw on my flashers and do exactly what the sign expressly says not to do. But I figured, hey, I’ll just make a few left turns around the block, no sweat.
Wait, this is Athens. Three left turns are a statistical impossibility here.
I was just about to pull over and get out the trusty GPS, when up ahead I noticed (too late, of course) that I was driving right into the middle of a Laiki. You’ll remember that Laikis are the Greek farmer’s market, where they block off the streets and set up vendors. However, it looked like traffic was passing through going both ways, so if I just kept going I could get past it.
Next thing I knew, I found myself right in the middle of a logjam — cars behind me blocking me in, cars driving toward me trying to get around, and people…like, a hundred PEOPLE crowding around on all sides with their hobo carts and strollers and produce bags…just a crush of humanity blocking me on all sides. There seemed to be No Way Through. No one was letting me in, and I’m trying to inch forward and NOT hit the little old lady or the family with the baby. People started pummeling my car and I’m trying NOT TO PANIC. Liam, bless his heart, tried to offer suggestions. “Mom, just go through like that motorcycle!” If only, kid. If only.
Finally I rolled down the window and tried to ask someone, “What the hell is this? Am I going the wrong way? How do I get out of here?” And no one speaks English. Strangely (or maybe not), none of the other drivers seemed particularly stressed about this situation.
Then I remembered.
With heart pounding and curse words flying, I inched my way along, slapping my passenger mirror sideways as I slid through an opening JUST barely wide enough to get through. Made it! Right into a double parked car! Yes!! Because Greece!!
Someone finally let me around — perhaps they could sense my panic — and I was able to pull over and dig out the GPS. Back on the busy road, where two faded lanes become three and then two again, seemed like a piece of cake now.
I’m not gonna lie. When I got home I cried. I knew in a few hours this would make a funny story, but in that moment I felt completely overwhelmed and defeated by this place. Driving is insane, grocery shopping takes me all day, and you can’t even flush the toilet paper! Augh!
I get to smell the orange blossoms in full bloom on our street every time I leave the house. I get to bask in history at every turn – Liam and I passed the ruins of the city walls on our little drive-about before things got ugly. Airfare to countries all around Europe is as affordable as flying from KC to NY, and the flights take about as long. Our children are learning about different cultures and languages.
So, yes, the driving is insane. And I’m sure I’ll figure out a better routine for grocery shopping. And the toilet paper…ok, I’m never going to enjoy doing that. But it’s all worth it to get to see and do and experience living abroad.