We are heading out in the morning for the first leg of our journey. Going to Greece has been a dream for more years than I care to admit. I have no connection to this country but it has drawn me to it for some reason. Perhaps that reason will become clear in the coming days.
We will fly out of our home town Airport of Comox at 6 am, Vancouver to Toronto to Athens. When we arrive in Athens it will be the middle of the night for us and 9 in the morning Athen’s time. Our plan is to get checked into our hotel, settle and freshen up. Then head out for as much of the day as we can manage before sleeping, with the hope of resetting our internal clock. I am one who can’t sleep on a plane but needs sleep, so will be a challenging day.
After a very long travel day we did finally arrive in Athens and we were grateful for have arranging ahead to have a taxi pick up at the airport. I have a lot to say about flying and how the airlines squash as many humans as possible into a plane, but that will wait. I’ll focus on the trip..
Day 1 in Athens.
Our driver was the epitome of what people coming off a long travel would appreciate. He had bottles of cold water waiting for us, chatted in clear english about the area as we passed through. The drive was about 40 minutes to our hotel. The streets of downtown Athens are a site to behold, so narrow and crammed with cars, buses, motorcycles, and scooters. They all manage to drive together. The cars are allowed in the faster outside lane on alternating days dependent on if their licence plate ends in a odd or even number, and only full licenced vehicles are even allowed to drive on these streets. There was alot of honking but no crashes and I realized that the honking was not in anger like at home but is a form of communication. I have no desire to drive on these streets myself, we’ll leave the driving to the professionals. Fortunately we can walk to anywhere we want to go.
Our hotel is part of the original central core of Athens, the buildings are from the 1800’s. We have yet to try this elevator but will do it before we leave.
From our balcony from any direction we have very old buildings, some are under renovation and some look to be left to crumble.
We got out and explored in the afternoon, I expected the greek ruins to be a destination to get to but as we walked to an area of restaurants they are just there. They are a part of the city which makes sense but surprized me just the same.
This was our view sitting at the outside restaurant that we chose in the afternoon. Tzatziki with bread drizzeled with olive oil, yum.
In the evening we headed out to find some dinner and got drenched in a heavy down pour accompanied by a lightening storm. This is uncommon for April in Greece, they have had alot of rain and blame it on global warming. We ducked into a greek traverna and enjoyed a shared platter of kebobs and house red wine, I am in love with greek wine! Under $5 for a 1/2 litre of wine and so delicious. My mother would approve of the little glasses that don’t tip over.
My first impression of the greek way of life is the different pace.
The restaurants do nothing in a hurry and you are made welcome to stay as long as you like. In the afternoon at the first restaurant, we indicated that we were ready for our bill, we waited, and waited. The owner who finally came to take our money arrived with a drink of Krasomelo (wine with honey and amerreto) and a dessert square for us “on the house”. My first lesson in just slowing down and enjoy. The greek men appear to be the face of the restaurants but I expect there is a greek woman in the kitchen making the magic happen.
Day 2 in Athens
This morning we went to the National Archaeological Museum, a 20 minute walk from our hotel. We spent 5 hours here. The displays are so well done, many rooms that move you through the ages, all the displays have write ups in greek and english. I was drawn to the sculptures, reliefs and pottery. Peter loved it all especially the artifacts of tools and weapons.
There is a dark under current of unrest in Athens, when we arrived at the museum in the morning we saw a bus load of riot police setting up on the street in front of the museum. The police were in full riot gear including those riot shields you see on TV. We carried on into the museum. When we came out in the afternoon they were there still. As we passed by on the side walk we saw police setting up to block the side street by the museum, there was a group coming towards them. I don’t know what the outcome was as Peter hustled us out of there, no photo’s to share as I didn’t want to lose my phone to the police.
The other thing that shows the unrest of the people is the unfortunate graffiti and tagging that is on almost every building in the Athens city centre. I read that this has been going on since the eighties, much of the graffiti is political some not. The only buildings that appear to escape the spray can are the churches.
There is a visible homeless population which I did not photograph out of respect for human dignity. I also experienced the street hustlers which there are a lot of. My first experience went like this. I had been warned before we came here that if someone in the street gives you an item – if you take it, it is yours and you must pay. As we walked in a busy restaurant area a woman came towards me and wanted to hand me a rose, Peter saying quietly to me, don’t take it. I said no but she pressed it into my hand, if I hadn’t held it, it would have fallen to the ground and being a good Canadian I didn’t want her rose to be ruined so grabbed it to hand back to her, she wouldn’t take it and shoved a rose behind my ear as well. By this time there was a swarm of people moving in on me, Peter gave the woman a handful of change and got me the heck out of there. I was totally out of my element but learned a streetwise lesson, and two lovely roses!
Day 3 in Athens
We had saved our tour of the Acropolis till today in hopes of better weather. We were not disappointed as we had a warm, sunny day. The walk up to the ruins took us through beautiful ancient streets. The orange trees give off a heavenly scent in the morning.
The Acropolis, it was a hike up the hill but so worth it!
- The Acropolis was awe inspiring, photos only give you so much. The immense size and artistry will not be forgotten.
As we made our way back down the hill there were vendors and music starting up in the wide marble walkways, we enjoyed as we made our way to the brand new Acropolis Museum. The new buildings in this area of Athens including the Museum built right over the village ruins. The museum is in the process of restoring part of these ruins and have put in glass sidewalks that go right over the restoration areas so that you can see the work being done, very cool.
On the way home the pretty narrow streets had filled with tourists and vendors and yes.. more street hustlers. We had learned that most of them are Romanian and Sumalian refugees, desperate to get money. I must have “Mark” written all over me as this time I have at least 5 different people coming at me at different points in our walk. But, I was ready this time, no eye contact and walked right through them, which goes against my nature but in Athens you have to be tough!
I have to share photos of one of the many bakery’s that we came across. With Easter coming up, they had the most amazing chocolate Easter eggs for sale. We rewarded ourselves for our walking day with a treat.
This is our last day in Athens, tomorrow we embark on our cruise of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.