We have been having busy, running, fun from 8 in the morning until midnight every night in and out of city. Our apartment is about 25 minutes from the city and parking is impossible. So we park the car on the outskirts and take the bus or walk into the city. The bus is always an adventure every time you get on it here. When you get on the bus in the morning heading into the city, you are in the midst of the heaviest bus traffic. There is a constant stream of buses passing through each bus stop and with 6 or 7 of us, we have to wait until we can find a bus that can fit all of us at once. When it pulls up you look inside and it really doesn’t seem possible that you can fit. The capacity of each bus is probably 200 with sitting and standing. The actual amount of people on each bus easily exceeds 350! You are pressed against each person on all sides, each fighting to find something to grab a hold of to steady yourself as the bus wildly flings itself through the city streets. Now the bus is an unfortunate place for short people. You get a face full of armpit no matter what you do. It seems that everyone in this country smells the same. It must be the food and spices and all the onions we eat, but it seems that there is no American brand deodorant up to the task to remain faithful all day.
Yesterday we went to the Greek Starbucks called Migel, which is right next to the American Starbucks. Since I am un-fan of Starbucks I was tickled to see that it was completely desolate and the Greek Starbucks Migel was full beyond capacity. There are hundreds of Migel chains in Greece and the owner is one of the few Greeks prospering and thriving during these times. It is a new chain that really has taken off in the last few years. He has a total system to his franchise and artsy look that is consistent. Also his prices are great. He only charges 2 Euro for almost any coffee, from cappuccino, to espresso, to Frappe to Fredo, while Starbucks charges 4 to 5 Euro. That is 6.50 to 7 dollars! The employees are expertly trained and have to go to Migel school for a few weeks before they can work there. They always have 3 to 4 coffee hosts walking around outside among the seats and tables welcoming customers and asking if there is anything they can do to make the coffee experience any better. John was trying to take pictures of the scene yesterday and one of the hosts stopped him and said it was against company policy to allow anyone to take pictures and ordered him to put his phone away. A few minutes later, another host asked me if I was enjoying my coffee and if there was anything he could do for me. I said, “yes, you can let us take pictures” He said no, it was company policy. I said, “well, I think you are making a mistake, because, as Americans we wanted to take a picture of the empty Starbucks next to the thriving Migel’s and post it on Facebook for all of our friends to see” I told him his policy was eliminating free advertisement. He quickly changed his mind and said we could take pictures. In fact he said he would take our picture for us, and so we got a few of the other hosts in our picture with us. Good times!
The girls are totally enthralled with city life here. They love the masses of people walking around shopping, talking on their cell phones, laughing in groups of friends. They love the thousands of boutiques everywhere you look with motivated sales people wanting to help you with anything you desire. They love seeing the latest fashions we don’t have in Arizona and the creative displays and decor. Anytime we ask the girls what they want to do today, they all say in unity, “SHOPPING!”. We have literally walked over 15 miles in shopping in just 2 days.
Not everyone in Greece has the entrepreneurial spirit though. We were in a clothing store called “Anel” last night around 8 O’clock and the girls had a few things in their hands and the clerk, said she was closing now and asked us to put our things down and leave. We questioned her thinking we misunderstood, but NO! she was emphatic and told us to leave at once. Also, there is a mall here that rents stores that are very expensive. Stores have been closing down and the mall is left with unrented stores. The owners of the mall in their business brilliance have decided to charge a few Euros for parking to offset the loss of rent. This has of course resulted in less people going to the mall and therefore more stores shutting down and therefore more rent loss. We are trying to figure out how the Greek business mind works.