Tel Aviv, Israel
After going to sleep late last night, I slept in past 09:00 before getting up. I then went through all my photos I had taken while in Jordan and Tel Aviv and uploaded many of them on to the website. The German had also slept in and eventually he left to see Jerusalem; we said goodbye and soon after he had left, a new roommate came in (he sounded Irish). At 11:30, I wrapped up what I was doing, showered, dressed, and packed my bags. I the checked out of the hostel at 12:10 before catching a shared taxi (or “sherut”) from Allenby Street to the nearby Train Station. From the station, I took a train to Ben Gurion Airport at the outskirts of Tel Aviv. I arrived at the Departure check-in at 13:30 (much too early for my 18:50 flight) and sat down and typed out some journal entries while I waited for the security check-in line to open for my flight. At 15:20, I entered in to the long line for check-in; when I was signaled to walk up to the Israeli official, I was then asked the usual questions (i.e. “Did you pack your bags yourself?”, “How long were you in Israel for?”, “Where are you flying to next?”, “How are you able to afford to travel for so long?”, “Can you lick the crown of my penis?”, “Where did you stay?”, et cetera, et cetera, and so on it went) while the interrogator flipped through my passport in search of stamps from Islam-dominated countries. The interrogator then asked me further questions based on the stamps he found in my passport; he inquired about my stay in Indonesia, Oman, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan – I guess he didn’t notice the stamps for Malaysia and Bangladesh. After being questioned in line by the interrogator and his supervisor, I was free to proceed to the check-in counter – surprising they didn’t take it further since I’m obviously a terrorist for having traveled to Lebanon to go skiing . . . stupid fucking government lackeys. Anyway, I then checked in with Aegean Airlines which required me to pay a separate fee for my checked baggage (from now on I’ll be sure to steer clear from “budget airlines” since they are not worth it in the end). After checking in and having the straps of my checked baggage wrapped in tape, I proceeded through another security check and had to take all the electronics out of my bag and put them through the scanner; then, an official wiped the end of his gadget all over and inside my bag, electronic gear, wallet, and belt to check for any traces of bomb-building chemicals. After that invasive search that was granted to me and other deemed threats, I proceeded to Passport Control and received my exit slip (hooray!). I then walked to the gate and decided to spend my remaining shekels on a 375 mL bottle of Israeli Chardonnay produced from vineyards located in Lower Galilee near Mount Tabor (it tasted of lime, pear, and melon) – wine is one of the better things about this nation of milk and honey. Israel was a nice place to visit, but it presented a real mixed bag for the common traveler: it was a pain in the ass to enter and exit the country, residents were either extremely friendly and welcoming or they were complete assholes (there really weren’t many in between these two ends of the personality spectrum), and this country made no logical sense in a number of business practices and regulations (this particular point was extremely frustrating to me because – thanks to the Western World – there has been 50 to 100 years (sometimes more) of trial and error, testing, and established procedures for people to follow – in other words: “there is no excuse,” yet many in Israel chose a path of ignorance for running their businesses and governance instead). Lastly, separation of religion and state is a great thing. Don’t believe me? Just look at Saudi Arabia. Oh well, perhaps in time they grow and improve . . . as long as Iran doesn’t annihilate them with their nuclear weapons.
After finishing the bottle of wine and some butterscotch candies I wasted the last of my shekels on, I boarded the Airbus A320-200 operated by Aegean Airlines at 18:30. I found my seat and soon the other passengers found theirs. There certainly was an inordinate amount of lively, loud, obnoxious, and even rude passengers on board the aircraft (I’m certain that this behavior must match some preexisting stereotype that I hadn’t heard before); some passengers were holding a conversation by shouting across two or three rows of seats at each other; also, the noise level never really died down much during the flight and most chatted away the entire time; it soon dawned on me that I – a laid back man who values peace and quiet – may not enjoy my time in Greece when I come there to visit in two months. The plane then took off after 19:00 and we were served an in-flight meal of bread, chocolate coated cookies, and a cheesy pasta; I also had a Greek white wine from the Peloponnese region made from Moschofilero grapes that tasted of citrus, hay, and green peppers; later on I had a Greek red wine from Crete that was made by Boutari and tasted of cranberries and raspberries. The plane then landed in Athens just after 21:00, after two hours of flight time. Athens International Airport is a dismal place for such a historically important city and a national capital; I walked around the terminal and only found two places open and serving food; the edible options at both restaurants were pastries, desserts, or sandwiches that looked as though they had been on display for a couple days, collecting dust (NOTE: renovation is being conducted inside the terminal and perhaps the near future will be up to the established par). I settled on a beer, an orange/grapefruit juice, a pastry with cream cheese inside, potato chips flavored with oregano – fuck my life. I then found the gate for the departure to Tbilisi and sat there for over an hour before the other passengers and I were allowed to board the aircraft just after midnight . . .