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Myths, truths, and traditions could only mean Greece.

REMEMBER THAT ONE TIME when you were dozing off in class and your teacher was talking about some mythical gods on a mountaintop in some foreign far off land? You started to daydream about that one cute girl in class as being that goddess of love--what's her name? Venus? But you totally neglected the fact that her boyfriend Zeus wasn't really keen on your staring at her breasts, which kind of got you in trouble and a black eye. Oh, the pain of a broken heart and a swollen socket. You remember it, right? You see, if you had paid more attention to your teacher you would have learned a little something and, if anything at all, would have avoided any harmful physical confrontations. Those gods are from a place called Greece. It's in Europe, east of that other country that's shaped like a boot. And guess what? There's a lot more to the place than supreme folkloric beings.

FOR ONE THING, there are those who make up the place, the Greeks. Just over 10.5 million of them are spread throughout 60,000 square miles of their land. They are of a totally different species when compared to your average human. With their lives devoted to self-gratification and other hedonistic tendencies, Greeks have been having a good time practically all the time since the pagan days of worshiping Dionysus, the god of wine, some two centuries ago. You can ask anyone who's been to any of the magical islands of the country during the summer; the Greeks aren't afraid of bringing you in on their good time, too. It's part of their traditional hospitality to sit you down, feed you until you explode, then serve you shot after shot of raki (good old local moonshine), the all classic ouzo, or any other type of alcoholic substance until the wee hours of morn'. Are you feeling the buzz yet? They're also not afraid to tell you that everything you can possibly imagine--from the meaning of a word to modern medicine--has been made, thought up by, or discovered by the ancient Greeks. The Greeks have done everything first and better than anyone else since time immemorial and, for the most part, it's true.

Although there are remnants of the ancients all over the country, most famously the Acropolis in the capitol city of Athens built in 480 BC, ruins don't entirely make up the cityscapes. A beautifully chaotic concrete jungle adorned with modern architecture dressed in polished marble fills the commercial and residential areas of most major cities. And the sun shines brightly and warmly for most of the year. Are you starting to see what I'm getting at? For the skateboard enthusiasts such as yourselves, you can expect to set your wheels down on some of the smoothest ground in the world, at some of the sickest spots in good weather. And yes, people do skate in Greece.

Nowadays there are skaters practically in all corners of the country, from the smallest rural towns to even some of the islands. Even in areas suffering from the lack of decent spots, you'll hear the sound of ollies cracking up and down the sidewalks. Flourishing in plazas and squares since the '80s, skateboarding as a whole has been propagating in all aspects as of the last couple of years. This is most evident in Athens. Due to the 2004 Olympics, Athens has renovated many older squares and has added many new structures. Not to mention that many new installations have been designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. If you're a skateboarder, you surely have an appreciation for modern Spanish architecture, correct? Does Barcelona ring any bells? And who would imagine--most of these spots are skateboard-friendly and bust-free.

NOT A BUST, but hard to get to--especially if you're from out of town. The metro lines are always a good way to get around the center of Athens where you'll find the "Love Park" of the city, named Pedion Areos. This is where the goddess Athena herself watches over the skaters. This has been the local hot spot for over a decade, where most of the Athenian scene meet up, warm up, and leave to hit up other spots. Then you can take one of the lines south to Pireaus, were you can catch a ferry boat to any of the islands or skate one of Greece's general trademark spots, churches. As perplexing as it may sound, churches are not only sanctuaries for the soul, but for the skaters, too. Usually surrounded by squares with ledges, hubbas, and rails, they're a sure spot for a good session. Just as long as you're respectful to the priests, you'll get to skate there. But being respectful at other people's spots is a general rule, isn't it? Researching your video library would give you visuals on some of the popular spots (hint hint: Cliche's Bon Appetit, Emerica's Tzatziki Jam, Element's Rise Up). If you really want to get to the good stuff, though, you'll need some wheels; and I don't mean the urethane kind.

Driving in any major city of Greece can be a daunting task. For one, Greeks are very skillful and assertive drivers, which means they're going 100 mph down narrow side streets and will not brake for anyone. Pedestrians beware! There's also the problem with traffic. You need to know which times to drive where and what roads to avoid during certain hours. And most importantly, forget about directions. The road layouts are as anarchic as the drivers themselves. Your best bet is to hitch a ride with a local. After all, they're always down for a good session. Just remember to wear your seatbelt and refrain from wetting your pants.

WHEN IN DOUBT, SOUVLAKI

SO YOU'RE OUT skating that super slick marble hubba and starving, but you're not up to blight the session by having a late sit down lunch. You need to feed the beast that's gnawing at your stomach, but you don't want to poison yourself with the McPlastic stuff. In that situation, you're not going to find a better quick hunger killer than traditional souvlaki. Basically it's the popular Greek version of fast food, sans the highly unhealthy benefits. It consists of small pieces of your choice of meat (beef, pork, or chicken) broiled on a skewer, then wrapped up in pita bread with your choice of tomatoes, onions, fries, and the famous tzatziki. Tzatziki is the "special sauce" of the Greeks. It's made from sour cream, garlic, onions, and, surprisingly, cucumber. Probably one of the only recipes that uses cumbers as an ingredient. It tastes great, disinfects, and will surely repel any unwanted persons within a breath's reach of you. You can easily find a souvlaki place on every other corner in Greece. So when you want to be quick on your feet and are in doubt of what to eat, never fear--souvlaki is always here.

THE SUMMERS ARE KNOWN to be sweltering in Greece, so when the mercury rises to 40-degrees C (104-degrees F) and the shade provides your body little to no consolation, it's best to backflip into the refreshing crystal blue waters until the early evening when the temperature cools down. This is almost customary among the locals. A good dip and light lunch will be all you need to ensure yourselves a pleasant session come sunset time. And don't be afraid to inquire on things that may flat-out seem alien to you--such as why are guys in dresses standing motionless for hours in front of the parliament building? Unlike most Europeans, most Greeks are fluent in at least two languages--most commonly Greek (for the obvious reasons dub), and secondly English. So there's no need to pretend you're a chicken laying eggs to order yourselves an omelette.

All this sounds pretty cool, huh? Evening games of skate on marble flatground, breathtaking beaches, good food, good company; maybe you should look into this Greece place you heard people talk about. It's sure as hell better than getting beat up just daydreaming about it. Slap yourselves awake and get your acts together. Do your homework and call your travel agents. It's time for you to temporarily spoil yourselves in the land of the gods. Summer is already here.
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Author:Argi, Damian
Publication:Thrasher
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:1381
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