Friday, 1 November 2013

Greece - Athens (2)

Athens day 2

Central Athens where we walked and looked around; the blue line is part of the bus route we travelled.
Click on pic for larger view
We started our day earlier than the previous because we naturally wanted to maximise time out and about during daylight. The days have shortened considerably with darkness falling at 6pm. So on bus 522 we were at 10am, Kifissia station soon after, off the Metro in central Athens and on the open top tour bus at 11am.
We had decided on a rough plan of sightseeing, get off the bus at the National Garden near the Presidential residence and watch the changing of the guard at midday and also walk the National Garden. Afterwards walk past Hadrian's Arch, up along the pedestrian zone adjacent to the Acropolis, hop on the bus for the Piraeus tour, off the bus again at the Acropolis and walk across the hill down to Thession and Monastiraki Square area for a late lunch and then the large semi-open fresh meat and fish market at Varvakios for lamb to make a casserole - yes lamb! Finding lamb on the continent is not easy and any opportunity coming your way must be evaluated and used.

The National Garden will be remembered for its old trees and leafy canopy of green all over the area. The eastern edge takes you onto the road where the Presidential residence is, immediately noticeable because of the police and security presence. It also has a contingent of the Ceremonial Guard (Evzones) with a daily Change of Guard ceremony at midday.

At each end of the Presidential residence is a guard hut

Guards from both ends march towards each other

The two non ceremonial soldiers, also Evzones, are wearing the service uniform of the Hellenic Army. They seemed to be training the other Guardsmen.

The change over complete and one section marches off

On we went past the impressive Hadrian's Arch on our way to catch the Piraeus bus tour. Let me say here and now, Athens is full of monuments and it has a wonderful history, but it is not the purpose nor the intent to even try and cover it all here. We did not even scratch the surface, we spent two days having a look around at all sorts, getting a feel for the city, it did not disappoint! Athens has loads to offer and it's up to the visitor to decide what and how long.

Hadrian's Arch

The Piraeus tour on the open top bus - hanging on to your seat, handles or anything you could was necessary with the driver we had. We saw what could be seen but the pace was too fast on this section with the commentary on the earphones being drowned out by the wind - slow down bus driver!

On the dual carriage way to Piraeus at 50mph in this bus


We did get to hear about the 'girlie' shops on the Piraeus route

Sharing the starting grid with the bikers

Walking to the Thession area for lunch we had this wonderful view of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis. The light and sun was just right and the compact camera I took on the day did justice to the mood.

Parthenon on the way to the Thession area

Lunch was at a place with locals at the tables on a sunny street, the baked potatoes and grilled sardines with a cool beer very good, service good, all good. We managed to buy lamb at the fresh meat market and then made for Fifi the motorhome at the campsite, arriving by 5pm.

Athens is fun! It is inviting, laid back, full of history and never did we feel unsafe. Everyone we spoke to was willing to help with advice or directions, we had the impression they are used to tourists and happy to have them.
A bloke begging on the train moved on when he was ignored, the guys playing music and singing (buskers) on the same train were quite good. We thought central Athens to be quite clean and devoid of piles of rubbish as seen elsewhere in Greece. The pace is fast, we certainly did not get the impression that Athens is in the doldrums because of the state of the Greek economy - on the contrary!

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