I would like to share a couple stories about Athens on our
trip to Greece.
One day our group was traipsing through Athens.
Let me tell you something - Athens is a vast city!
Once you climb up to the top of the Acropolis in the center
of Athens, you can see the entire city stretch for miles in
The city is so huge it looks like it must be 40 miles
wide. Now let me add that Athens was not the easiest
place to figure out. I was so lost I had an attack of
vertigo. Most of the time I had no idea where I was.
Don't forget to
this picture Athens in four directions!
Have you ever heard the saying, "It's all Greek to me"?
Apparently this saying goes back to Shakespeare. The
line was first spoken by Casca, one of the conspirators
against Caesar in the first act of Julius Caesar. Casca was referring to the comments made by Cicero after
Caesar refused the crown of emperor three times.
Despite Caesar's attempts to calm the fears, the Senators of
Rome were terrified of giving Caesar too much power.
So behind his back they began to conspire against him.
In this scene, Cicero actually did speak in Greek. He
used that language as a device to make sure that casual
passers-by could not possibly understand his remarks.
the expression 'It's all Greek to me' simply
means that what has been said is beyond the speaker's
Let me add that during my visit to Athens I did not
require any explanation of this phrase. It made
complete sense to me.
Every sign was in Greek. Every map was in
Greek. And the Greek taxi drivers with their foreign
language were determined to overcharge at every turn.
The city was vast and difficult to fathom. Plus
unlike Rome, very few people spoke English. I felt
completely and utterly lost.
This is a diagram of the Athens rail system. Does it make sense to
the members of our group, Iqbal Nagji, offered to guide a
large group of us through Athens. Things
started to go wrong immediately. The taxi drivers worked as a unit. They
each demanded 25 Euros ($50 US) for a 10-minute drive to the
Acropolis even though the sign in the cruise ship parking
lot specifically stated 8 Euros.
Iqbal realized how expensive it would be for us to use taxis. He led
our entire group of 22 over to a bus stop, personally paid
for every ticket, and got us a quick bus ride to the Metro
subway station. None of us would have had a clue where the
bus stop was or which bus to take.
Furthermore we would have never found that Metro station in
a million years. It was at least a mile from the ship and
virtually unrecognizable if you didn't already know where
you were going. But Iqbal knew exactly where it was.
trusted our lives to Iqbal, pictured on the left
Once we got off the first train, Iqbal discovered there was
a problem. Something was wrong. There were two lines,
but only one was working. Apparently half the Metro
workers were on strike that day till 9 am. This made
little sense to me. Who on earth strikes for a couple
of hours, then comes to work? And why did one half
strike and not the other?
Iqbal said that one of the two Metro lines would not be in
service till 9 am. This meant we could not reach the closest
exit to the Acropolis. Since it was only 8:15
AM, Iqbal got us back on the Metro and took us in another
direction to an exit close enough to the Acropolis for us to
As I followed Iqbal around like a puppy dog, I
wondered how did he figure out what the problem was and know
what to do? He doesn't speak Greek. And how
Iqbal could decipher that train system was more than I could
ever understand. That's why he was the leader and I
was the follower.
Now Iqbal led us through an incredible twisty, winding maze
of narrow streets and alleys. I kept expecting the Minotaur
to leap out and eat one of us for breakfast.
Suddenly out of nowhere the Acropolis appeared! Iqbal
had successfully guided us to our destination! Amazing!
For the next hour or so, our group of 20 people wandered
around this huge fortress situated atop the highest point in
all of Athens. We had a lot of freedom to move around
because Iqbal's train had allowed us to beat the tours and
However, we ran into a few people from our cruise who were
there ahead of us. They didn't want to wait and had taken a
cab at the pier instead. It was worth it to them to
spend $50 on a cab that brought them here quickly and
But on the other hand, thanks to Iqbal, every person
in our group had gotten here for the cost of 1 single Euro.
And we were only 15 minutes behind the taxi people.
For those short on cash like me, we were grateful.
did our trip end at the Acropolis. For the rest of the
day, Iqbal patiently led us through Athens. He took us to
the Temple of Zeus, he took us to see the changing of the
guard, he found a great spot for us to get lunch, he took us
to the National Museum, he found a great spot for us to shop
for souvenirs, and at the end of the day he even got us home
with just a few minutes to spare. Iqbal was the
perfect tour guide!
The National Museum was one of the highlights. But I
was squeamish to notice the care my 17-year old daughter Sam
took while inspecting each statue. Gee whiz! In
one hour, Sam probably saw more nudity at this museum than
she had in her entire 13 years of private school education!
I had to go into another room just to stop squirming.
When I got the courage to return, I noticed Iqbal was
patiently explaining some of the history about a statue of
Eros and Aphrodite to my daughter. Iqbal was constantly
sharing his knowledge like this. Not just with me, but
That is when I
realized Iqbal had given up an entire day of his own
vacation to help us negotiate the deeply confusing streets
of Athens. What a service! He is so unselfish.
We were very fortunate for his kindness!
story from this same day involved a lady who took me aside and
thanked me for organizing the trip. Our conversation occurred
as we were walking through more of the deeply confusing twisty,
winding streets of Athens behind our fearless leader Iqbal.
As I always do, I quickly explained
to her that Marla had done all the
work. The lady smiled and nodded that she understood my point. Then
she said she had something she wanted to tell me.
She said that she signed up for this trip by herself. She said
that she had wanted to visit this area of the world for a long time,
but didn't have anyone in presently her life at this time who could
accompany her. She said this trip was literally the answer to her prayer.
And although she didn't know a single soul in our group, the people
in our group had been so kind to her! Now she wanted to say how grateful
she was that a single lady from the other side of the planet could
feel so completely safe in such a confusing environment.
Thanks to us, she was fulfilling a dream.
I smiled. I had heard this
story before. I remember feeling the same way
about MG Anseman back in 2004 when he led an entire group of us
through the crazy streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras with
insane drunk people screaming all around us. Thanks
to MG, we had the absolute time of our lives and felt totally secure
in the process.
So I thanked the lady for her kind words. Then I added I
have felt the same
way she did many times. In fact, there are always people in the
group there to look out for someone who needs help. Today it was Iqbal who guided us through the strange
land, but I ruefully thought back to how lost I had been in Rome a
couple days earlier. Thank goodness we had Iqbal to guide us
Not only did Iqbal save each person a tremendous amount of money,
but he made us feel secure and at ease. We were able to enjoy
Athens so much more knowing that we had someone who not only knew
how to get us back to the ship, but could keep an eye on the clock
as well. Iqbal's knowledge allowed us to squeeze every
precious moment out of our trip in Athens and still get back to the
ship on time. Without him, most of us would have returned much
earlier due to our inexperience.
It was fun for me to hear this nice lady tell me how much she
appreciated the opportunity this cruise offered her to make a wish
come true. Not only did Marla and Iqbal contribute so much to
make this trip work, the neat thing is that everyone looked out for
For example, my friend Rhonwyn loved having different men like Greg
and Ken put their arm through hers to escort her all day long!
Rhonwyn had the biggest smile on her face as our big strong men
walked along beside her arm in arm! Not only did Rhonwyn feel
safe, she didn't worry about stumbling or getting separated from the
group. Plus she thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and the
It was so much fun watching our gentlemen be
gentlemen, I was inspired to offer Rhonwyn my arm as well.
Looked like fun! So the moment I saw her arm free, I smoothly
slid my own arm through hers from behind. Good idea - Rhonwyn was very entertaining!
She told some great stories as I walked next to her.
Nor was Rhonwyn's story an isolated incident. If it were not
for the fear of needlessly embarrassing some people, I would share
several more stories along these exact same lines. It was a
wonderful experience for me to observe how close knit this group
Here at SSQQ we have a wonderful community. Not only do we have
great fun together, we all look out for each other as well.
Never was this truth more apparent than on this particular trip to
distant foreign lands. Our group trip offered safety, comfort,
and companionship to all.