Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Greece - Athens (1)

We arrived in Athens late on Thursday afternoon 24 October and made the campsite just before dark. Later than what is ideal, but we made two lengthy stops on the way from Delphi, firstly at the Distomo memorial honouring and commemorating Greek partisans and civilians killed by German forces in WW2 and the second at the Byzantine Monastery of Hosios Loukas for the simplistic beauty of its stonework.

Distomo Memorial

 
Byzantine Monastery of Hosios Loukas


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ATHENS
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Entering Athens during the afternoon traffic peak when all and sundry were making their way home added a special touch to entering this lively city!! Snoopy the GPS / SatNav did a sterling job and never flinched - the joys of technology! Campsite owner Katerina gave all the bus, train and related paperwork to get us into Athens the next day.
Friday morning saw us tackle the business of commuting into Athens, always a joyous occasion finding your way into strange cities when all signs and signage are in a form of script which is undecipherable. However, the English language to the rescue!
Bus No 522 took us all the way to the terminus at Kifissia train station where a wait of only minutes resulted in the train to Athens. Kifissia station is also the terminus for that section of the Metro, which means all trains departing from it go to Athens - easy! We passed the Olympic stadium where Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics and got off the Metro train at Omonia station in central Athens. First we need to find a map of Athens to navigate by and secondly we wanted to do the hop-on-hop-off bus tour found in many cities. Map from a newspaper kiosk and directions to the bus stop of the open top bus tour, we were ready. The first sight that greeted us at the bus stop was that of a man who had just had his shower in the fountains and washed his clothes at the same time. Welcome to minimalist ....


This was going to be an exciting day, Athens is not only about archaeology and the Acropolis. We bought a full house two day ticket (20 Euros each) where you can do both Athens and Piraeus tours. The nature of the open top bus tour is that it gives you a good overall view of the city with earphone commentary in your chosen language. The bus stops frequently and you get off and back on as you please for the duration of your ticket, with buses every 30 minutes. The full circuit of the tour for Athens is 90 minutes and Piraeus 60 minutes, you can also sit on the bus all day if you want and go around hearing it all countless times.

Western fa├žade of the Acropolis seen from the Plaka area

Greek flags in anticipation of "Ochi" day

National Library of Greece

We got off the bus near the Acropolis and decided to walk the streets of the Plaka district and get a feel for the city. It is cramped with narrow streets and alleyways but has sights, little shops and tavernas all over the place, really good sightseeing.


Traffic, like in most of Europe's cities is hectic, with everyone pushing and shoving for headway. We noticed very little hooting, unlike say Italy, and a patience amongst drivers which is admirable. The picture below was taken from the bus as we move (crawl) up this street.

Traffic near Monastiraki Square

We called time at about 3pm after some 4 hours of sightseeing and took the Metro train and bus back to the campsite. The journey time is one hour so it was gone 4pm when we arrived back. A most pleasant day and it gave us the overview we sought from the vantage point of a double deck open top bus - way to go!

Next up Day 2 in Athens.

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