Acropolis Now

When Thanksgiving rolls around each year, Jeremy and I reflect deeply on what the world has offered us. And while we haven’t had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner since moving to Europe three years ago, turkey, sweet potatoes and green bean casseroles dance in our minds as we explore the continent.

In 2009, we had pasta in Rome on Thanksgiving Day; 2010 was Türkei for Thanksgiving, complete with dürüm döner; and last year, while in Amsterdam for what we coined bikesgiving, we had Thai food. This year, while in Greece, we dined on Greek salad, feta cheese, tzatzki, souvlaki, grilled octopus, moussaka (think Greek lasagna), homemade yogurt and halva (χαλβάς in Greek - the tastiest dessert to have ever touched wandering lips).

After a train, two planes, a long bus ride and an hour and half ferry, Jeremy and I, along with our travel partners Bianca and Eric, landed on Hydra (pronounced EE-drah). The small island is home to a few thousand residents, two dozen hard-working donkeys and numerous stray cats and dogs. The long, narrow streets wind up the hill from the harbor, and cars, which are not welcome on the island, couldn’t fit anyway. One’s own feet, or a donkey taxi, are the main modes of transportation.

The island offers breathtaking views, mom and pop-style restaurants and hotels, and a chance to slow down, breathe some fresh air and soak it all in. The two-day side trip fully prepared us for the hustle and bustle that is Athens.

Greece, particularly Athens, hasn’t been on the right side of the media lately, but, according to one tour guide, a waiter, and the guy who drove us to the airport, Greece isn’t perishing. The protests are peaceful, the riots nonexistent and the economic crisis is slowing moving … what direction is yet to be determined.

Regardless, winter was a great time to visit as the prices were cheap; the locals were willing to chat, the sun was shining and history stared us right in the face without the normal overcrowded background of other tourists.

Everything that we know – the influences of American and European culture - started centuries ago with toga-clad Greeks as they meddled in mathematics, dabbled in democracy and flirted with philosophy, creating an unprecedented civilization. Getting a glimpse of the Athens civilization that is thousands of years old made me realize how slow the transformation into the technological age was.

Probably the most well-known and ancient site in the Western world is the Parthenon on the Acropolis. It was a masterpiece in its day dedicated to the goddess Athena. Construction started in 447 B.C. and took nine years to complete.

The Parthenon was architecturally sound for centuries as the temple traversed into a Catholic church, then a mosque when Greece was occupied by the Romans and the Turks, respectively.

In 1687, the damage was done when a cannonball hit the Parthenon which was being used to house Ottoman ammunition, reducing it into the structure that stands today - largely in ruins, no roof, dilapidated, but still impressive.

With four days in Athens we perused museums, posed as Zeus, trampled through Greek work-a-day life and ate our way from neighborhood to neighborhood. While we didn’t experience the beach life the coastal country has to offer, city life sure was sweet, sun and all, especially as the snow starts to fall here in Germany.

All of which made for a happy Thanksgiving indeed.


The 25,000-visitor pyramid

Recently we reached a milestone that one friend was more than happy to bring to our attention on F-book.

“Hello Molly and Jeremy. I just wanted to point out that I, Todd "Tadliwinx Tivisonno" Trivisonno, was the 25,000th visitor to the buddymollys blog. Thereby entitling me to all the glory and accolades forthcoming.”

However, this insight only brought to the surface more questions about our visitors. In the right-hand column is a “Visitors” widget that logs locations from which people view our blog.

So in the last 24 hours, there are hits from Bradford, Great Britain; Hillsborough, New Jersey; Dresden, Germany; and San Martino Di Lupari, Italy.

Some of them we get. It’s no surprise most of the hits in the U.S. are from California, Illinois and Florida.

Others still have us scratching our heads. Sure, an inadvertent typo could send someone looking for Buddy Holly’s hits here. (There's even a Facebook  account for Buddy and Molly, "two dogs that think they're celebrities.") 

But how do places like The Phillipines, South Africa and Taiwan have so many hits? Who are you Tezontepec De Aldama, Mexico? Or Odessa, Ukraine?


The rise and fall of a used car lot

After sharing a car for the first two years here in Bavaria, Molly and I decided to add another vehicle to the fleet last year: a Citroen Berlingo we called Steffie. (We named her after the previous owner, who cried as she signed over the title like she was giving up her firstborn.)

Alarms should have gone off when we first entertained the idea of buying a French car.

We live in the land that produces BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, is known for precision and efficiency, and created the Autobahn. It’s like moving to Italy and only drinking beer. You could do it, but why would you want to?

Looking back, even saying the words “French” and “engineering” together sounds awkward. Yet we felt like we had the inside track– like we could beat the odds.

So, against our better judgment, we rolled the dice on a French car. And for a while, Steffie delivered.

A perfect commuting and roadtrip car, she got 33-35 miles to the gallon and rocked a 12-CD changer. Tons of space and headroom, we packed in 5 people and drove 1,700 kilometers for the Women’s World Cup last year without incident – sort of.

However, after a year of driving and several costly trips to the repair shop (in one instance, the clutch went out while we were trying get on base and the gate guards had to help us push her in), we decided it was time for something newer.

Buying a car was easy – in fact, we found two cars that fit the bill within a week of each other. Selling the old ones was a different story.

I thought putting them up for a fair price would move them quickly. I grossly misjudged the used car market.

People emailed and texted me with low-ball offers without even having seen the cars in person.

I listed our 1999 Honda for $1500.

"Would you take $1,000?” asked a guy on the phone. One woman even wrote: “I have a baby and can’t afford much, would you take $800?”

I don’t want to sound heartless, but hell no.

One guy told me to take it off the market – he wanted it and that was that. He test-drove it, loved it and we had an agreement that he’d buy it in two weeks. When I called him the next week, he said “Oh yeah, I forgot to call you – I found something else. I’m usually pretty good about calling people back.”


Three separate people test drove the Honda and loved it. Each tried to cut me down $200 because their budget was magically $1,300.

I was trying to cut to the chase and people still wanted to play the game.

I should have remembered the age-old used-car maxim: Never list your real asking price; regardless of how low or fair it is, people will always want to bring you down to feel like they’re getting a deal.

With Steffie, it was a different game, and the buyer got more than a deal. We had no choice but to put thousands of dollars into her so she could simply drive off the lot. We sold her for that same amount.

Next time though (hopefully it won’t be anytime soon), we’ll be smarter. We gained wisdom that has cost rappers and R&B stars millions of dollars to learn: Mo’ cars, mo’ problems.

And despite all the work and hoops we had to jump through to free ourselves from having 4 cars, every once in a while we’ll see either the Honda or Steffie around town and smile, happy that our old friends are still truckin’.

Now, as we accelerate into the curves with our 2010 mini clubman, we look back and laugh at the days when we couldn't pass a tractor without endangering our lives.


A wee tribute

This year Halloween arrived late and we didn’t get to suit up until a friend hosted a combination Halloween-Day of the Dead party last night.

After tossing around several ideas earlier this month, we decided on something retro but forward leaning: carnival folk. I refashioned a costume I created more than a decade ago (this time it was somewhat more mobile) and Molly added a touch of testosterone to her life. 

I grew up in Gibsonton, Fla., affectionately called Gibtown by locals and whose history is enmeshed with circus lore. 

In the 1940s and '50s, the mayor cast a long shadow, towering over 8-feet, and was married to the Half Woman; the town sheriff was a midget. And although times have changed, the tradition has continued, somewhat. 

I went to high school with the son of Grady Stiles Jr., who was popular in the '50s as the Lobster Boy. Carnivals still spend the off season holed up there, where zoning laws allow for Ferris wheels and exotic animals. 

But tough times have befallen Gibtown in recent years. Old school carnies are fading away and local establishments, like the Giant's Camp, where you could still get a hearty "trucker's special" breakfast at all hours of the night, have gone under. 

Halloween was a celebration and a tribute for us this year -- I hope we made Gibtown proud.