Footsore in Athens

Our single full day in Athens has been absolutely wonderful but we are setting off tonight on the night train to Thessaloniki so I simply can’t begin to do justice to such a packed itinerary and get the necessary amount of rest to keep up with a 22 year old. I think it’s probably best if I switch to more of a diary format with shorter posts rather than use my more regular discursive style. After all, I’m well aware of the mounting number of gaps in this website that remain to be filled. So…..

After a long day during which we got from Morden to Gatwick and onto a surprisingly full flight to Athens, we made it to The Dioscouros Hostel by 2100, which left us just enough time to find a convenience store where we could stock up on travel food. This accommodation turned out to be so comfortable and inexpensive we booked an extra night even though we will be leaving just before midnight. What’s an extra 20 Euro (for us both) when you can get a whole additional day’s worth of beds, bathrooms, wifi and cooking facilities? Well, I guess you can ask me again later on in the trip when the funds start to run low. Having somewhere to make our own meal probably saved most of that anyway. Of course I’d better be careful, I’m not sure how used my niece is to eating free, stale pasta in the cheapest tomato sauce for dinner but at least I’ve managed to boil some eggs for the onward journey.

We joined a delightful walking tour, enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather, nearly got arrested trying to take a picture of Boris* outside the Greek Parliament, dodged the tourist vendors and pickpockets, met a number of the local cats and tried our best to absorb some of the colourful but complicated history of this matchless city. Our guide, Sam, kept us entertained with such a wonderful series of anecdotes we were completely unaware of the time but we overran by more than an hour and our opportunity to get to the Parthenon before the Winter closing time was rapidly diminishing. After a very hasty series of goodbyes (one of our companions is running next Sunday’s annual marathon and will need contact details in order to congratulate him) we set of as fast as I could manage up the steep hill of the Acropolis to the ticket office.

We did make it, and with time to spare but the monumental symbolism of these great ruined temples left me without the words to adequately describe the experience. I can’t really say that the conditions were perfect though, because there is a lot of restoration underway (no bad thing) and even in November it can never actually be called “quiet” up there. Nonetheless, the views of the city and out over the Aegean were absolutely spectacular and Izzy pronounced herself inspired to move Athens up to near the top of her list of places she must return to. Talking of returning, it’s now forty five years since I was last inside the Parthenon and nowadays visitors have to content themselves to walking around the outside. The Museum has been moved too: just another reason to come back, I suppose.

(* the Boris mask and wig will be accompanying us, resplendent with a set of European flags which I had mistakenly bought thinking they would be small enough to festoon the back of my rucksack. Let’s see how many countries we can snap him in – he’s such a consummate diplomat, after all!)

Categories: Europe

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