If you've never been to a country on the brink of a total economic implosion, head to Greece! I did (and it had nothing to do with the economy. Okay, MAYBE I was hoping things would be cheaper but they so weren't) and had the bestest time ever.
The night I arrived in Athens, my host George C. and I walked around Parliament, where, despite the New York Times' ongoing photos of riot police, there were only a few peaceful protesters and these statuesque guards, who you can only pose with while making "respectful gestures," as I was told after I tried to do a Lynndie England thumbs-up pose.
I should have taken photos of this MASSIVE Greek meal we devoured after attending the Athens International Film Festival but instead this Erotica-inspired street art caught my eye.
The next night, I met up with the international mayor of Facebook and my good friend Lina's BFF, Tolis, who took me out to a straight club on one of Athens' beaches and we danced to Lykke Li's I Follow Rivers, the Magician remix, which I literally heard every day after that during my two weeks in Greece.
Tolis' amazing apartment. Seriously one of the most incredible apartments I've ever been to ever.
And Tolis' amazing dog, Cyndi Lauper, or Cyndi Lauper Skoulariotis if you're nasty.
The following day, Tolis, Cyndi and I hung out at F Beach, a beach club in Athens with canopy beds and gorgeous views of both the Mediterranean and the Greek men that live nearby.
George C. and I took his Smart car on a ferry ride to Mykonos, where tourists are obliged to snap a pic of these famous windmills there.
Who doesn't love an infinity pool? Even better was that the small villa we stayed out had almost no other guests since Greeks don't really travel in September even though the weather was perfect so we had all of this to ourselves. The owner even brought us poolside cheesecake one morning.
The view from our balcony. You could hear the music from Paradise Club down below, which was mostly Pitbull, Afrojack, J. Lo and Ne-Yo on repeat but I didn't really mind it due to the view.
At night, we stumbled upon Mykonos' gay piano bar, where Phyllis (right) from Sunnyside, Queens has been singing cabaret numbers for nearly 19 years.
We also found a small bar that played the most major Greek music ever. This pic is from when we stumbled in and this lady was dancing tradition Greek dances so onlookers kept putting shots near her feet, which she was obligated to drink. No dishes were smashed though, which I was totally hoping for.
Sunset from one of the many Mykonos beaches we visited. After a while, I was like, ummm, how many sunset photos am I gonna take?
In town, there's this pedicure shop called Fish Me where you pay to put your feet in a fish tank and have these fish eat up all the dead skin around your toenails. I didn't try it.
Jackie O. is the name of one of the two gay nightclubs in Mykonos. This was one of the bartenders there, giving you hot Greekness, which was actually quite abundant everywhere I traveled (aka everyone has a beard!) but I didn't have the nerve to snap a photo of most of the dudes I saw. Ask me for my Greek Grindr photo collection if you're interested.
Jackie O.'s resident drag performer has been working there for about 30 years, or so I'm told. He performed Don't Cry for Me Argentina this particular night and shot water out of tubes tucked behind his wig at the climax.
Next door at Babylon, the other gay Mykonos club, this perform gave a real Gloria Viagra vibe though it is not Gloria. I was also told that she may hail from Berlin, which makes the likeness even stranger. But she put on a damn good show, as in she poured water over her head and stripped down to her bra and undies.
Night view of our lovely infinity pool.
At another beach Taverna where I stuffed myself with eggplant and kebabs, we watched an Italian wedding arrive and unfold as we ate our meal and watched yet another gorgeous sunset.
I had no idea that Mykonos is famous for its two resident pelicans. I also had no idea that pelicans are fucking HUGE and scary birds that could easily hurt me with one peck of their beaks.
My hostess of ceremonies, George C., who fell asleep pretty quickly on the ferry ride back to Athens. He actually fell asleep quite easily everywhere we went.
Back in Athens, Tolis (right) arranged for me and his friend Harriet (left) to model swimwear for his bathing suit company, Tolis Bitchwear. He also arranged for Star News to come and film the event, which is how I ended up on the Athens evening news.
Just hangin' around Voula train station in my Tolis Bitchwear.
The shoot involved me and Harriet pretending to be lost and asking strangers for directions back to Athens, which isn't such a stretch considering I had no idea where I was and could hardly communicate in Greek.
Another day that week, George took me to the 2004 Olympic stadium, built by Santiago Calatrava. Apparently 2004 was Greece's shining moment as they had just joined the Euro, hosted the Olympics and were sitting on top of the world.
Despite the beautiful architecture, the Olympic village is pretty empty and falling into disuse. Almost all of the friends I made in Athens had either lost their jobs, not been paid for their work over the past few months and/or had their work hours and pay severely reduced.
On a brighter note, ATHENS, BEAUTIFUL ATHENS. The city is so charming from up high and always has the Acropolis as its focal point, which is even more beautiful at night time.
George K. (not to be confused with George C.) invited us up to his parents' suburban house in Ilioupoli, where we feasted on meat and carbs and more meat.
The kitty party happening outside the front door to George's house.
Creepy euro mannequins, giving you a euro bob with those euro Anna Wintour wigs.
George K. loves a good dessert, especially halvah, which was introduced to Greece when the Turks occupied their country for 400 years.
We started off my weekend in Athens with a traditional Bouzouki Greek music concert, starring Angela Dimitriou, who was a total no show!
Luckily, we had some B-List bouzouki stars to entertain us with a slew of Greek medleys.
No Bouzouki concert would be complete without some man-on-man traditional Greek dancing.
George K. (left) and his good friend Alice, who adores Pete Burns and performed a Pete Burns number the following night at the incredible Koukles Club.
Instead of throwing dishes at performers, it is more common to buy a plate of carnations and throw those at the singers instead. BORING! They also served healthy snacks at the concert like sliced carrots (boring! but yummy.)
Friday night at Koukles Club, Athens' cozy tranny bar where seven performers put on a two-hour song and dance revue, including a Melina Mecouri number seen here.
Alice spins me right round baby right round like a record baby!
George, George and their burly, chiseled Greek-godlike friend named Stathis.
Me and Sandra, another friend of the Georges' who spoke zero English but that didn't really stop her from talking to me the entire evening.
Saturday sightseeing all over Athens.
The famous Parthenon temple at the Acropolis, which really only looks good from this angle since the other side has been under heavy construction / rebuilding for years, which will probably continue till long after I die.
Looking like a tourist.
My tour guide and translator.
Temple of Athena.
If there's one thing I figured out about Greeks over the past 3000 years, its that they love a good arena. This is a performance space next to the Acropolis where you can see a concert when the weather permits.
And here is where all of theatre was born. It wasn't as breathtaking as some of the other sites but since I studied Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus once upon a time, it was touching to see the ancient theatre where it all began (and by all, I mean theatre, which gave way to film and TV).
Saturday night at Bear Code, home to Athens' only bear bar. Sadly, I didn't snap any photos of the bears in action but I'm sure you can imagine what they look like. This is the Georges yet again with their friend Odysseus.
On my last day in Athens, George C. took me to another downtown cafe in Athens, where we lounged about, checked out iPhone and talked what a wonderful trip I had.
It took 700 years to build this temple to Zeus and only one storm (allegedly) to topple that remaining ruin.
The Olympic area where the Olympics all started back in 1896.
My farewell dessert, which was like a triple-chocolate baklava or something like that and was to die for.
Thank you Greece for all the great beards and beaches and souvlakis. I really hope your economy gets better soon because you are great and you deserve great things. xoxo, Sparber