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Archive for April, 2018

Galileo’s Middle Finger… and some other fingers and a tooth

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 30, 2018

Friday, October 27th – 28th, 2017

Florence was all about museums. We visited 3 museums in this town, The Museo Galileo, The Galeria Academiei, and the Uffizi Gallery. Most of the things you go to Florence to see are in one of these 3 museums. There are a few more Florentine museums, but we didn’t have time to see any more.

Galileo Galilei

The first was the Museo Galileo. There, we went to see Galileo’s telescopes and instruments, all the stuff that belonged to the Medici family, and of course Galileo’s middle finger. This museum came with a free Audio Guide app which you could download using their free wi-fi. On the app there was audio information on the more popular things, written information on everything, and videos that explained the science behind many of the instruments.

I don’t know how interesting the audio guide is, objectively. I was already keen on seeing most of the stuff on display, so I was willing to wade through facts and figures and I thought the audio guide was great. I’m not sure how I would have liked it if I just didn’t care so much about Galileo, his instruments, and pioneers of science. But, overall I thought the audio guide and the hands-on section did a good job keeping my interest.

The one thing I just could not turn away from for a long time was Santucci’s armillary sphere. It’s basically like that scaled version of the solar system you did as a project for science class in elementary school. Except, this one puts the earth at the center, instead of the sun. This makes the whole thing really, really complicated. It took 10 years to make and I’m not sure how long it took before it stopped functioning.

If it were heliocentric, the math would have been so much easier and Santucci could have whipped one up in a few weeks. But, he might have been arrested like Galileo was, so maybe this was better.

Next we visited the Galeria Academiei. We went just to see the David. I mean, if the David weren’t there, we would have never stepped foot in this museum. But, since we paid for tickets, we wanted to experience everything there was to see. So, we rented an audio guide for two and it quickly made us moan out of share boredom.

The audio guide was very informative, but it was dry. It never told us why we should care about the pieces we were looking at. What was the artist trying to convey? What was he or she living through? What was I meant to feel? I know nothing about art and I really need the audio guide to help me understand what is going on.

However, I did have the free audio guide I downloaded from Rick Steves’ website. It was not very long. It only covered the David, the prisoners, and some of the instruments. It was a vastly different experience. I went from feeling burdened that I had to walk through a museum to being delighted to see pieces of history with stories to tell.

When you’re at an art museum and see that the price of the audio guide is almost as much as the entrance tickets.

Last we went to the Uffizi. Honestly, we almost didn’t go there. We knew it was the place to be when travelling in Florence. But I think of myself as an art barbarian and didn’t want to waste money on this museum if the audio guide didn’t have good reviews. I couldn’t find reviews for the audio guide, since no one really does that sort of thing. But, in my search I found another Rick Steves’ audio guide for the Uffizi.

Steves doesn’t cover many of the things in the Uffizi, but he covers enough that I feel I got my money’s worth of enjoyment out of the museum. Steves does a great job at getting me to care about the works on display. While listening to his guide I understand why a work is important and sometimes, I even like the art.

Everyone has an audio guide, whether rented or downloaded.

Overall, the audio guide makes or breaks the museum. If the audio guide is bad, the museum will be boring and I will learn nothing. I think this is why I love the museums in London so much. They seem to understand this and put extra effort into making good audio guides. (So much so, that they tend to run out and people queue to get the next returned guide.)

That face you make when you learn what’s really going on in the painting, thanks to your audio guide.


Italy

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land, water, or air.

Phone:

  • 113 – police
  • 115 – fire
  • 118 – first aid

Website:

Data:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Many of the streets and walkways are paved in cobblestones making it harder to walk on with the wrong type of shoes.
  • Apparently, you can drink from any of the water fountains you see.
  • Watch out for pick-pockets.
  • Get your tickets ahead of time when going to see popular things.
  • You never know when you might what to check out a basilica. So, make sure to dress properly, or you won’t be let in.
    • Not shorts. Make sure that at least your knees are covered.
    • No sleeveless shirts.

Museo Galileo

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • € 9.00

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 18:00

Videos:

Books:

Notes:


Galeria Academiei

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  •  € 8,00
  •  € 6,00 – Audioguide
    • The Audio guide is very informative, but extraordinarily boring
    • Use the Rick Steve’s Audio guide instead.
      • It’s doesn’t have as much information, but it’s way more interesting.

Hours:

  • 8:15 – 18:20
  • Closed Mondays

Video

Notes:

  • The audio guide for this museum is great if you really want to know as much information as you can get. Unfortunately, it’s really boring. So, if you aren’t overly excited about the art presented here, you will find everything rather dull.
  • So, if you want all the information you can get, rent the audio guide. If not, download the free Rick Steve’s audio guide.
  • You can pay more to skip the line, but it is only worth it if the line is very very long.
    • When I went, it was around noon and the wait in line was about 30 minutes. We bought sandwiches and ate them while we waited in line.
  • Don’t Miss:
    • Michelangelo’s David

Uffizi Gallery

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • € 12.50

Hours:

  • 8:15 – 18:50

Video

Notes:


Don’t Miss:

Map:

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Pisa

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 25, 2018

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

So many people wanting a hi-5

Pisa is a pleasant little town with not much to do. Everything you will go to Pisa to see is set in a little square you can circumnavigate on foot in about 20 minutes. Also in the square are all the touts trying to get you to buy their non-sense. Right outside the square are many souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants.

When we got to Pisa, I had the beginnings of a cold. A slight fever and a scratchy throat wasn’t bad enough to make me stay home, but I was glad to be in Pisa where there wasn’t a lot to do. We walked around taking photos of the leaning tower. Then we started taking photos of people doing weird poses next to the leaning tower.

We didn’t climb up the steps of the tower. This wasn’t because I was feeling under the whether. We just didn’t want to. It might sound strange to go all the way to Pisa, Italy and not climb the tower. But, we just did not want to. It seemed like a lot of work for very little pay off. Plus it cost €18. Maybe if we had a burning desire to be at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, if the cost weren’t so high, if there was an elevator, or if I weren’t sick we might have done it. Instead we sat in the shade on ground level and stared up.

We did go into the cathedral. It was very nice inside. There was a €2 audio guide box that we listened to before walking around. It told us what to look for and explained the history of the church.

For lunch we found a grocery store and ordered a sandwich. We got some drinks, fruit, and snacks. We went back to the square and ate near the tower as we people-watched. It was a very relaxing day.


Italy

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land, water, or air.

Phone:

  • 113 – police
  • 115 – fire
  • 118 – first aid

Website:

Data:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Many of the streets and walkways are paved in cobblestones making it harder to walk on with the wrong type of shoes.
  • Apparently, you can drink from any of the water fountains you see.
  • Watch out for pick-pockets.
  • Get your tickets ahead of time when going to see popular things.
  • You never know when you might what to check out a basilica. So, make sure to dress properly, or you won’t be let in.
    • Not shorts. Make sure that at least your knees are covered.
    • No sleeveless shirts.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Basic Information

Website

 

Cost:

  • €15 + (booking fee if you buy it ahead of time)
  • You can buy various combo tickets of all the building and museums around the tower.

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 19:00
  • Closed Mondays

Video

Notes:

Map:

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Vatican City

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 20, 2018

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

We made a rookie mistake our first day in Rome. We thought we would just go to the Vatican City and stand in line for tickets to the museum. We were prepared to stand in a long line having put a few movies on our phones along with some podcasts and audio books.

But when we got there, the line was so long we weren’t completely sure what the line was for. We looked for the start of the line and got lost. The line was so long it wrapped around the entire country. (I feel like that should have been the punch line of a joke.)

These are just the people who have tickets for a tour starting around 9:30

So, we went home, or rather back to the apartment we were renting, and looked for tickets online. We found some for a tour of the Vatican Crypt and Gardens. That was perfect since they included tickets for the Vatican Museum and we would get to skip the line. We reserved the tickets and then our credit cards got denied. All our cards. Not wanting to lose these tickets, as we could see there were only a few left, we threw credit card after credit card at the website. All denied.

We called one of our banks. Even though we had warned our banks and credit card companies that we would be traveling in Italy at this time, every now and then while shopping in Italy they would deny payment for something they deem suspicious. Mark called his bank and they said that they would allow the payment. He just had to try again. Still the card kept getting denied.

Mark and me in front of Athena, who has been “baptized” as the Virgin Mary.

Mark called again. They weren’t sure why it didn’t work. It must be a default mode for credit-cards used in Italy. “There are a lot of fraud cases coming from that area, you know,” the lady on the phone told him. Mark tried several more times, but the card kept getting denied. Eventually, all the tickets for the Crypt and Garden tour were sold out.

Mark went to the website again, this time with a representative from his bank on the phone to make sure the next payment would go through. A tour of the Vatican Crypt was no longer possible, but we could still see the Gardens. Finally, the card worked and we got some tickets. Three days after making reservations, we headed back to Vatican City.

Pope Benedict’s apartment

The Gardens were lovely. We walked past fountains and replicas of various Virgin Maries. We were told the history of several parts of the garden. We even stood outside the apartment of Pope Benedict, the retired pope. Mark waved at his windows, but there was no papal return wave.

Everything was going well with our tour until the end of the bathroom break one hour in. Our guide did a head count and came up 2 short. Two people were missing. She asked around to see if anyone knew who the missing couple was. No one had 2 missing friends. Nobody could remember who the missing people were. In my head, I went down the list of people I remembered meeting on the tour, the lady with the big camera, the two older ladies who didn’t want to walk too much, the lady with the baby, the couple who kept making out in front of Mary statues, the older guy by himself, the guy with the laugh, they were all here.

“Do you want to make out while we wait?”

Our guide called a security guard. He called someone on his walkie-talkie. A car came by and the man inside talked with our guide before driving off. I assumed to look for the AWAL tourists. It was exciting. Somewhere in the gardens of the Vatican were two people who were not where they were supposed to be. Why? Were they absentminded lookie-loos? Or were their motives more sinister?

I never found out. We continued the tour and they didn’t reappear. I just assumed they are now somewhere in the Vatican crypt feeling truly remorseful for not sticking with their group.


Vatican City

How to get there:

First you have to go to Italy. Once there, you can just walk right in. No passport needed.

  • visa information (for Italy)
  • Most of the information below is for Rome, which incorporates Vatican City.

Phone:

  • 113 – police
  • 115 – fire
  • 118 – first aid

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Get your tickets online and ahead of time.
    • If you don’t make sure to bring a book or put some movies on your phone, because you will be standing in line for about 3 hours.
    • There are lines for EVERYTHING!
    • If you think, “I’ll just go there really early in the morning and be the first in line,” then stop being so foolish.
      • Everyone thinks that. (It only works for the first 50 people.)
  • If you find a bathroom with a short line, use it whether you need to or not. Those are unicorns!
  • Watch out for pick-pockets.
  • Get the free Rick Steves Audio Guides.
  • Make sure to dress properly, or you won’t be let in.
    • Not shorts. Make sure that at least your knees are covered.
    • No sleeveless shirts.

Vatican Gardens &
Vatican Museums

Basic Information:

  • Entrance (if you’ve already bought your ticket)

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 16:00

 

Notes:


Don’t Miss:

Map:

 

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The Things You Find in Churches

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 15, 2018

October 18th – 24th, 2017

The Pantheon

When we walked through the museums of Athens, I felt like Mark and I were going through dead people’s things. But in Rome, we passed that and just rummaged through the dead people themselves. There were many churches that had corpses of nuns on display or skeletons clutching prayer books. We didn’t go to all of them for a lack of time. But, that didn’t mean we didn’t see some interesting things.

The Mouth of Truth

We went to see the Mouth of Truth at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin. This disc was made famous by some movie I’ve never heard of. I know of the Mouth of Truth, but not of the movie that made it famous.

To get to the point where you can stick your hand into the mouth, which may have been some sort of drain cover in the 2nd century, Mark and I had to stand in line for about half an hour. Closer to the end of the line is a donation box so confident that you will add to the collection, that it thanks you for your contribution before you even check your pockets for change.

St. Valentine’s skull

After you’ve snapped your photo you are led into the church. Right away you are presented with relics. One of them is St. Valentine’s skull.

We came to stick our hands into a pagan disc’s mouth and we were shown the skull of a saint. But wait; there’s more! For another donation, we could see the crypt of some pope name Hadrian or Adrian. His name kept changing on the information board for his crypt. Oh yes, we donated and took the creepy stairs down to the cold and dark crypt.

Hadrian

I was disappointed. I thought we were going to see Hadrian, the emperor who couldn’t stop building things. We visited his mausoleum earlier that day, only to find that he was no longer there. Well, he wasn’t here either, because this Hadrian was a pope not an emperor.

At San Pietro in Vincoli we saw a sculpture done by Michelangelo. It is of Moses with horns. The horns come about from someone’s mistranslation of a verse in the bible.

Also in the same church are some chains welded by St. Peter. I don’t completely understand how he welded the chains, since the joining happened long after Peter’s death… But, whatever.

At the Pantheon, which is now a Catholic church, we found the crypt of Raphael and the women for whom many think the Margherita pizza is named. Her crypt is behind the big purple one of her husband’s. He was some sort of king of Italy. Who remember’s now? He was some guy married to a woman for whom a famous pizza was named.


Italy

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land, water, or air.

Phone:

  • 113 – police
  • 115 – fire
  • 118 – first aid

Website:

Data:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Many of the streets and walkways are paved in cobblestones making it harder to walk on with the wrong type of shoes.
  • Apparently, you can drink from any of the water fountains you see.
  • Watch out for pick-pockets.
  • Get your tickets ahead of time when going to see popular things.
  • You never know when you might what to check out a basilica. So, make sure to dress properly, or you won’t be let in.
    • Not shorts. Make sure that at least your knees are covered.
    • No sleeveless shirts.

Transportation

  • To use the bus, tram, or metro, you will need to buy a ticket.
    • For the metro you can buy the pass at the metro station.
    • For the bus or train, you will need to buy the pass at a shop that sells bus tickets. They are usually the same place where you can buy cigarettes or lotto tickets.
    • The metro pass and the bus pass are the same thing.
      • The pass lasts for 100 minutes from the time they are activated.
      • They are activated when you scan them to get into the metro or on the bus.
      • They allow only one scan into the metro, but unlimited bus rides for the 100 minutes.
        • e.g., You can do a round-trip by bus, but not by metro (if it’s done within 100 minutes).

Colosseum

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 19:00

Videos:

Books:

Notes:


Capitoline Museums

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  •  € 15,00
  • Included in the Roma Pass
    • € 9,50
  • Video Guide – € 6.00

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 19:30

Notes:


Castel Sant’Angelo

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  •  € 14,00
  • Included in the Roma Pass
    • Concession – € 7.00

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 19:30

Notes:

  • You can use their wifi to download the audio guide, but it’s faster to just use your data.
  • The audio guide’s script is written on all the walls, with no extra information.

Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  •  € 12,00
  • Included in the Roma Pass
    • Concession – € 8.00

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:30

Notes:

  • This can only be seen with a guided tour, which must be book ahead of time.
    • You can book online, or just drop by if you’re in the area.
    • If you book online there is an extra €1.50 fee per ticket.
  • I highly recommend doing this tour.
    • The tours is of one ancient Roman house and a room in an adjacent home.
    • There is a lot of walking and standing.
  • They use lasers to recreate rooms of a house as it would have looked in Roman times.
  • The tour lasts for about 1.5 hours.
  • You cannot take photos inside.
  • You are not allowed to bring big bags on the tour, but there is a locker you can use.

Trajan’s Market

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • € 11,50
  • Included in the Roma Pass
    • Concession – € 9.50
  • Audio guide – € 6,00.

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 19:30

Notes:

  • Unless you get an audio guide, the information is mostly in Italian.

National Roman Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00
  • Closed Mondays

Notes:

  • These are 4 museums for the price of one.

Villa Torlonia

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9.00 – 19.00
  • Closed Mondays

Video

Notes:

  • This was Mussolini’s bunker.
  • Sometimes the bunker is not available for viewing.

Dont’t Miss:

Map:

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Travel Tips for Greece

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 10, 2018

2017

You have to bring:

  • Just your prescription medication and a doctor’s note.
  • Everything else can be bought here.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack. A Backpack gives you a little more mobility, but it’s not a must-have here.
  2. Clothes:
    • You can buy anything here.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
    • You are sometimes given conditioner.
    • You should bring your own toiletries if you are staying at a hostel.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or grocery store.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find this here.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • No problem; you can find it here.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone
    • Comfortable shoes preferably hiking shoes
      • Sometimes the streets are literally stones stuck together. It can be hard to walk on with the wrong type of shoes.

the road in Rhodes

General Tips:

Toilet:

  • Don’t flush the toilet paper.
    • You’re suppose to throw it in the bin.
    • A free toilet can be hard to come by. Use the WC at museums and restaurants before you leave.
      • Assuming you are a customer.
    • You will find many paid toilets, but those tend to be not so clean.

Food:

  • Grocery Stores:
    • Sklavenitis (ΣΚΛΑΒΕΝΙΤΗΣ) is cheap, but AB is so much nicer.
    • There is also Carrefour.
  • Try gyros
  • Try bakklava
  • Try all the pastries, sweet and savory…
  • Try the cheeses


Combo Tickets:

  • Combo tickets in Greece (at least Athens and Rhodes) are a good idea.
  • They save you money even if you don’t see all the things.
  • They save you time by letting you bypass all but one ticket buying line.
    • Make sure to buy your combo ticket at one of the less popular attractions that will have a shorter line.
    • Then you can walk past the long lines at the more popular attractions by just waving your ticket at the officials.

Money:

  • Get cash from ATMs.
  • Remember “Euro”.

Scams:

  • I’ve seen the:
    • Survey Scam
    • Free Bracelet Scam
    • Cheap food item scam:
      • You go to a restaurant offering cheap gyros (these are really never too expensive).
      • Once inside, there is either no menu or they try to make you order without looking at the menu.
      • You order whatever you like, thinking since the gyros are cheap, the prices of other stuff can’t be that bad.
      • Everything else on the menu is OVERPRICED, but you don’t realize it until you get the bill.
    • Here are some other scams

Greece

How to get there:

You can enter this country air, land, or sea.

Phone:

  • 112 – Emergency
  • 166 – Ambulane
  • 199 – Fire
  • 100 – Police
  • 171 – Tourist Police

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t flush toilet paper.
    • Supposedly, it’s bad for the pipes.
    • You’re supposed to throw it in the trash can in the bathroom.
  • Although Greece is relatively inexpensive, you can go through all your money traveling to all the various islands.

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Rhodes

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 5, 2018

October 7th – 16th, 2017

By the time we got to Rhodes, Mark and I were a little burned out. I know it might not seem like it, but traveling non-stop can get tiring. It’s not as stressful as having a job where you are over worked and underappreciated, but if you do anything long enough you will need some sort of break. We took a break in Rhodes.

Play with me, Mark! The water’s not cold or anything…

Mark did some hotel hunting and found a hotel that was all inclusive. We paid about €40 for the both of us. We had buffet breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and drinks whenever we wanted. (The food wasn’t so great that we overate, but just good enough that we always looked forward to meal times.) There were a few nights where people came and danced for us. It was wonderful. We hardly ever left the hotel.

I spent most of my time writing. I was so behind on this blog, only finishing an entry right before it would be released. I would write all day, stopping only to eat or get coffee… and to watch people dance.

I will always stop whatever I’m doing to look at Greek dancing. It evolves kicking, shouting, and in the end, fire. It’s lots of fun!

The beaches in Rhodes were beautiful to look at. Swimming at the beach was a bit harder. There was very little sand. All they had were rocks, like in the photo above. All the hotels were next to the beach so the guest could look at the beach while they swim in the pools. (Many of the hotels in Rhodes are all-inclusive like the one we got.)

Some believe the Colossus stood with each foot where the 2 pillars with llamas are now.

We did do some sight-seeing. How could we leave without seeing Rhodes’ Acropolis and their museums filled with pottery? Greece is very beautiful and just filled with artifacts from antiquity, which I LOVE. But what I miss the most is…

baklava!! 


Greece

How to get there:

You can enter this country air, land, or sea.

Phone:

  • 112 – Emergency
  • 166 – Ambulane
  • 199 – Fire
  • 100 – Police
  • 171 – Tourist Police

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t flush toilet paper.
    • Supposedly, it’s bad for the pipes.
    • You’re supposed to throw it in the trash can in the bathroom.
  • Although Greece is relatively inexpensive, you can go through all your money traveling to all the various islands.

Acropolis of Rhodes

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • Built in the 5th–3rd century BC.
  • Don’t Miss:
    • The Temple of Apollo
    • The Odeon
    • The Stadium
  • Near by you will find the Hellen

Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €9
  • €10 – Combo Ticket Includes admission to:
    • Grand Masters’ Palace,
    • Archaeological Museum,
    • the church of Our Lady of the Castle
    • Decorative Arts Collection

Hours:

  • 01Apr – 31Oct Mon-Sun, 0800-2000
  • 01Nov – 31Mar Tue-Sun, 0800-1500

Video

Notes:

  • Built in the late 7th century.
  • Don’t Miss:
    • Floor Mosaics
    •  Benito Mussolini‘s name on a large plaque near the entrance.
      • This was once his holiday home.

Archaeological Museum of Rhodes

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • €8
  • €10 – Combo Ticket Includes admission to:
    • Grand Masters’ Palace,
    • Archaeological Museum,
    • the church of Our Lady of the Castle
    • Decorative Arts Collection

Hours:

  • Tu – Su 08.00-19.40
  • Mondays 13.30-19.40

Video

Notes:

  • Don’t Miss:

Watch out For:

  • €2 Gyros
    • A restaurant advertises cheap gyros. When you sit down they want you to order before looking at the menu. You think, “If the gyro is only €2, everything else must be similarly priced.” You order a gyro, fries, and a soda. When you get your bill, the total is €12. “How can that be,” you think as you look at your receipt. Then you realize, the gyros was €2, but the fries were €4 and the soda was was €6! It’s even more upsetting when you think about how rude the waiter was to you while you ate your meal.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

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