Athens International Airport 07/11/2015
We are camping out in the long stay car park for the night as we have an early flight to Santorini in the morning. Contacting chums who work at the airport has resulted in us staying at the Airport for a measly €3.70 a day. This is for a car park where you can walk to the main terminal in five minutes, where can sleep in your van and take up two spaces without any problems. Wish the airport I worked for once had the same enlightened attitude. We have had six days exploring the capital in glorious weather and ticking off all those must-see things tourists do.
Getting Our Bearings and Batteries 02/11/2015
We arrived into Athens just after 10AM and in hindsight this was not the best plan. The trouble with maps is they do not show you things like crazed drivers in all shapes and sizes of vehicles with no concept of road sense. What looked like a motorway into the heart of Athens turned out to be a racetrack with the inside lane being used as a virtual car park. Forget the no parking signs and the yellow lines these boys single, double and even triple park on the highway without warning. And if that slows down the Bikers then they just take to the pavements, beware pedestrians. This place has more of whiff of Istanbul than Chew Magna when it comes to rush-hour driving. We did manage to get to the Battery Shop and have our old batteries changed and shiny new black ones inserted. We took advantage of the Greek Parking laws and carried out the exchange while blocking off the nearside two lanes of a three lane highway, and nobody got upset. The cost to replace our Leisure Batteries came to a total of £285 fitted, a saving of £150 over the cheapest UK prices. We then made our way to our base for the next five nights; Athens Camping.
This is the most expensive campsite we have stayed in outside the UK at €30 a night with no off-season discount. It is situated next to a busy thoroughfare which makes it noisy and the facilities are a bit tired although the showers were hot and powerful. The upside is there is a bus stop outside with a bus every 5 minutes to connect with the metro. Allow about 30 minutes to get to the centre of town. However during the time we were in Athens there was not a single day where they wasn’t a demonstration going on and hence the centre of town around Syntagma Square gets closed off resulting in gridlock to the rest of the city, so allow an hour.
This first day we used as a get your bearing day and after getting off at Syntagma Station and admiring hoodie wearing, baklava covered youths throwing apples at the Police we left and spent the rest of the day walking the Grand Promenade. This is a walk way put in for the Olympics and basically it is a circle around the Acropolis. It allows one to see most of the major sights including the Acropolis, Monastiraki, Agora and Plaka where we ended up sitting down, resting our trotters and having some kebabs and beer.
Ancient Wonders 03/11/2015
We were told to see the Acropolis by a friend and I’m glad we took his advice. Without his tip-off we may have missed Western Europe’s most important building. Like all ancient ruins you have to let the imagination go a bit, but here in Athens they are putting the relics back together, unlike those lazy Romans who just leave piles of rubble everywhere and put a sign up saying Forum. There is not a lot to say really apart from what you see will gradually be less of the original as that has/is being moved into the Acropolis Museum. It is impressive though and provides a good feeling to the soul.
Here are our Pictures of the Acropolis:
We followed this up with a whizz around the Agoras, both Ancient and Roman and another stroll through Plaka before kebabing-up in Monastiraki and heading back to the van, exhausted.
Again there is not much to say about the Agoras. An Agora is the centre of the old cities, Greek Athens and Roman Athens. The Roman one consists of an arch, a building you cannot go into and some columns. The ancient one does have the best preserved temple in Greece, due to the fact the Christians didn’t pull it down but used it as a church, and some columns and Roman-esque pile of rubble laying around. It is like some naughty child has thrown his Lego into the air and Mummy has put a plague saying Forum, clever little Tommy.
You decide with these Agora Shots:
Acropolis Museum 04/11/2015
This is a fantastic building architecturally and houses all the bits and pieces Lord Elgin didn’t snuffle from the Acropolis and present in a magnificent way within the British Museum. It consists of a floor of statues removed from the Parthenon and other buildings of the Acropolis and a second floor where all the remaining freezes and sculptures from the Parthenon are displayed. The top floor represents the exact size and shape of the Parthenon and gives a truly memorable exhibition of man’s abilities to carve stone and heave them up great heights. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the museum but we did manage to make a covert for your pleasure and here it is:
We spent the rest of the day looking at the original Olympic Stadium, refused to pay €5 entry, The Temple of Zeus and dodging the apple throwing youth of Syntagma, looking at some graves at Keramikos and having a meat feast at Monastiraki.
The Olympic Video is here
And the photos are here:
More Museums and a Hill 05/11/2015
Another early start to visit the National Archaeological Museum, an enormous 8,000 Sq. Metre neo-classical lump in the Exarhia district. There are apparently over 11,000 items on display which for Tracy and I is about 10,900 too many. After being columned-out over the previous two days we were now about to be completely overwhelmed with statues. There are rows upon rows, display upon display of statues and they are all the same, young male Adonis with rippling mussels and exposed winky, woman looking drab and dreary in flapper dress and beads. They are known as Kouros and Kori and were used to sit atop your grave. There is nothing wrong with the level of craftsmanship and skill used in producing these things except they are all a bit dull.
However there were a couple of bronzes from Ancient Greece that stop you in your tracks and are worth the gate money, these being the Statue of Zeus or Poseidon, nobody knows who and the Statue of Horse and Young Rider, nobody knows who. The standout statue of Aphrodite with Pan is also worth a mention and here are the pictures of these 2,000 year old masterpieces.
We whizzed around the Egyptian Section before heading for the Mycenaean collection featuring exquisite jewellery, pottery and artefacts from the ancient city of Mycenae including the gold Mask of Agamemnon. Agamemnon being the King of Mycenae and brother-in-law of Helen. Helen who had a fling with Paris and was rescued by some men in a horse in the city of Troy. Not being the luckiest of men, Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia to Artemis, the Goddess of hunting, to allow for favourable winds to sail to Troy. He then had a falling out with Achilles over some captured woman and finally on return from Troy with Helen he was murdered by his somewhat ungrateful wife, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus. Clymie and Aegi were later done-in by Agamemnon’s children, Electra and Orestes. So there people is the Iliad by Homer in abridged form. A bit of a tougher life than a sink estate in Barnsley I reckon.
The mask and all the other pieces that make up the collection were found by a German Archaeologist by the name of Heinrich Schliemann who falsified his finds to fit in with the writings of Homer. For a start the mask is not of Agamemnon and lots of his other finds are dubious. Looks like our German Brothers were making up stuff and cooking the books long before the current VW scandal.
We were not that impressed as it looks like the things you used to do with the foil out of cigarette packets. You can judge for yourself:
Our final tourist thing we chose to do was to have a stroll through the posh burbs of Kolonaki and take the funicular to the top of Lykavittos Hill for a final Panorama over Athens that includes the Acropolis. So after much planning we ascertained we needed Trolley Bus No 5. We waited and bundled ourselves on the back and hoped we had read the information correctly. We need not have worried as we only went one stop to Omonia and we had to get off. Youths were throwing apples at the Police in Syntagma Square and all roads were blocked. If I were a Greek I would go into the Apple Orchard business, quality is secondary to quantity for the apple consuming youth of Athens.
Tracy’s Colour Supplement
This week instead of tips for the ladies I have decided to write a joke about Athens. The joke assumes you know some of the areas and places of central Athens.
Omonia crock ‘o’ piss
After much walking, window shopping and expensive coffee drinking we arrived at the Funicular Station.
If you do not want to spend vast quantities of hard-earned cash on restaurant food then head for the tourist areas of Athens. It is far cheaper than where the Athenians live.
We paid our €5 each for the 60 second trip to the top through a tunnel and emerged into a restaurant. There is also the mandatory church and the view…….
Now this is where planning comes in, we went just after 2PM and the Acropolis is due South. Here are some awful Pictures from the top and if you plan on going may I suggest early morning or late afternoon.
We walked down the hill and through a rarely open Syntagma before noshing a faithful Kebab by the University.
A Night on the Town 6/11/2015
Friday Morning was spent doing administration, i.e. cleaning the van, fixing little things that go wrong and securing a set of alloy wheels for £220. How smart we now look with a set of alloys. This evening we were going to have our first night out in a capital city since Washington DC, London does not count. We booked a table at the Café Abyssinia with a terrace view looking over the Acropolis. We headed in early and took in Athens on a Friday evening and were shocked of how many people were about and how vibrant the whole place felt. Thankfully, demonstrators in Athens seem to have to go home to mummy for their tea. There was now a good feel to Syntagma with lovers and families replacing the affected.
The food, the view, the ambiance, the staff. Everything about Café Abyssinia is quality. We can thoroughly recommend this quirky restaurant.
And here is the picture of the Acropolis from our table.
And that is our take on Athens. We had a great time wandering around the streets and viewing the ancient treasures. It is like Rome but better in every single way; the people are friendly, the food is more varied and better value, you do not get ripped-off, the monuments are more cared for, the museums are far superior, the setting is stunning and the Metro does not smell of urine. In addition you can spend a few days here then hop off to an Island for next to nothing. Fabulous.
Love to All
E & T