Athens to Boston in one not very short day
Our day began with a good breakfast at the Pláka Hotel. Dorothea remembers the scrambled eggs with special approval. The usual goodies were on offer: yogurt and honey, feta, olives, tomato, cucumber, grapes, sausage, and of course beans for the Brits and Aussies. The coffee machine, like the one in the hotel where we stayed in Ljubljana a few years ago, dispensed both coffee and hot chocolate, which I mixed to mocha in my cup.

The night before, we’d heard from the hotel staff that the workers at the Ministry of Culture had called a strike for this day and the next, meaning that all the museums would be closed, but they didn’t foresee any effect on operations at the airport. We crossed our fingers, remembering that the air traffic controllers’ action that delayed our flight from Athens to Chaniá had been a spontaneous spur-of-the moment event. “We’ll see,” Dorothea wrote in what proved to be her last entry on the trip.
Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, Athens
Well, we saw, and it was good. The taxi arrived on time, our trip through the city was unimpeded, and we found the airport humming its way peacefully through a day of business as usual (or perhaps I should say “as formerly usual”)—nobody was on strike.

Having allowed time for problems that didn’t occur, we had plenty of time to kill before our Swiss Air flight left for Zurich at 2:10pm. I wandered into a music shop in the airport and bought something or other, I think a couple of CDs of Cretan music (which we hadn’t had a chance to hear any of in Crete).

The young man and woman behind the cash register told me that my purchase, whatever it was, entitled me to a free DVD. So I asked for any Greek movie with English subtitles. I don’t think they understood me—they may have thought I was asking for an American movie. They handed me a disk with a picture on the box of a slouching figure, seen from the back, wearing a long coat and trailing some sort of weapon. Aha, I thought, maybe a gloomy film about Greece’s military defeat in 1941, or its post-World War II civil war.
My prize DVD
Thinking no more about it, I stuck the DVD in the bag and the bag into my backpack, and I didn’t look at it until I got home—where I noticed a little sticker in the corner above the picture, bearing the film’s title in English: Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hooray! I’d always dreamt of owning a copy of that cinematic masterwork with dialog in Greek. Three years later, it hasn’t been unwrapped (because of course I expect it to be worth a fortune some day), and in the picture you can see the sticker that tipped me off. The English title is also printed (in very small letters) under the Greek one, which translates as The Schizophrenic MURDERER with the Saw. I know—I should have spotted the weapon as a chainsaw, but I didn’t pay much attention, weapons not being among my foremost enthusiasms.
Swiss Airbus A-321
In due course, we were whisked with Switzerland’s legendary efficiency from the turmoil of Greece to the secure orderliness of the Zurich airport, where we were to connect with the same flight we had taken three years ago on our way home from Slovenia. It was scheduled to leave at 5:30, an hour and a half after we arrived, and our confidence that the Swiss would transfer our luggage to the correct aircraft, on schedule, proved once again to be fully justified.

So far as I can remember, we flew to Zurich on a medium-sized plane like this one.
Zurich International Airport
At Zurich, we were slightly delayed by my being chosen at random to have the contents of my carry-on bag and backpack checked. I don’t remember much about the area to which I was directed—along with Dorothea, who didn’t have to go, but had nothing better to do at the moment—but it was a fairly humdrum space, and I’m sure you’d rather look at this elegant picture.

The delay had nothing to do with my stuff, but the guy ahead of me, also an American, was traveling with a box of rocks, and we had to wait for the security folks to communicate with their managers and work out how to deal with this odd burden. The traveler explained that he had been visiting (presumably in some connection with a construction, architectural, or interior decorating business) various potential suppliers of marble in Greece and Asia Minor, and his box was full of samples that he’d gathered on his mission.

While this complex security issue was being handled, we made conversation with the Swiss woman stationed at the “wait here for your turn” desk. I believe one of the subjects was chocolate, and I have a vague recollection of her admitting that she wasn’t all that crazy about it. However, I hesitate to attribute such an unpatriotic attitude to an innocent citizen of Switzerland on the basis of my ancient and often unreliable memory.

When my turn came, none of my possessions aroused any suspicion, and we were in plenty of time for Flight 52, which as I’ve mentioned was the same one that had taken us home three years earlier, after a connecting flight we’d boarded in Ljubljana rather than Athens.
Swiss Airbus A330
The plane we boarded for this transatlantic flight was a larger version of the one that had brought us from Greece, and this time also we had a smooth and easy ride. (The one in the picture was photographed—not by either of us—taking off from Zurich.)

One of the nice things about Swiss airlines is that they come right out and tell you ahead of time that they’re going to serve a meal on the flight, so there’s no temptation to stuff oneself before getting on the plane, and then be presented with dinner—a trap we’d fallen into with Air Canada on our way over. We knew we were going to get dinner on Flight 52, and arranged to be reasonably hungry when it arrived. (We also saved a good deal of cash, for the Zurich Airport does not include cheap food among its many impressive amenities.) Of course airline food is, as they say, what it is, and to testify that Swiss serves a pretty decent meal is high praise. We even got a glass of wine that we didn’t have to pay for.

On our 5:30pm flight home, we gained back the six hours we’d lost on the flight out, so when we stepped into the terminal at Logan it was only 7:50 in the evening and still October 12—but the flight had taken more than eight hours. As far as our body clocks were concerned, it was 2:50 in the morning, a difficult condition to ignore. As soon as we’d collected our bags, we trudged outside and fell into the nearest taxi.

In a mercifully short time, we were home in bed, and, oh my, how we slept.