Thursday, 25 April 2013

Athens is no Greek Island


  • Early breakfast
  • 6 hour ferry ride
  • Piraeus to Athens


Bye bye Naxos


Wake from the back of the ferry



First thoughts about Athens.

To be fair, we have come from a laconic, almost empty small island but.......

Athens is Big, smoky, dirty, fast, chaotic.

Taxi ride begins with the driver hurling our bags into the boot like some 1980s East German women's hammer-throw champ. Ree, already uptight about the kids suitcase wheels audibly inhales but manages to maintain veneer of calm. We exit the port at Senna pace, then speed up. Speed limits are a mere suggestion, if that. Metronomic lane changes with concurrent similar efforts by helmetless motorbike riders. Not much different from the Moscow motorcycle video I love to watch. Although at least he wears a helmet.


The taxi driver would cross himself at least twice per km. quite disconcerting. Ree tells me he did it every time he passed a church, I believe he thought we might not make it! I had similar thoughts.

If a car (or a bus come to think of it) in line or in front of us, would indicate to turn into our lane, our super dooper religious driver would accelerate from our Mach 2 baseline to make sure they didn't get in, leaving them with the option of coming back into their lane or else 'Matrix like' merge into and morph with, our cab.

Light to yellow and then to red - speed up baby!

There are quite a few marked pedestrian crossings in Athens. Once or twice there were even pedestrians on them (obviously insane locals or lost tourists). To our cab driver and all the surrounding traffic, these crossings are not even "suggestions". Do not slow down. Not much point in marking the zebra lines as they serve no purpose. Negative purpose really. I spose it concentrates the crazys for easy extinction or maybe at least it keeps the Greek public service line painting dudes in business?



The day

Kids revolted and wouldn't leave the hotel " we're all travelled out' they proclaimed. They drew some pictures while Ree headed out to get a coffee.

After some intense negotiation we headed off to the Acropolis which in my head was a few pillars on a hill (philistine that I am).

Suddenly Drew was pretty excited - turns out its his first ever time on a subway. We get his ticket and make our way onto the peak hour subway. Kudos to Athens. Subway is clean, well signed and clear intercom messages. After our entire NYC time, I still had no idea what the subway F train intercom was saying. "Something about a guy called Lenny?" Drew loved it. Loved the speed and the maps and racing escalator people up the stairs.


Drew gets his first subway ticket


Because they were a bit nervous the kids stayed pretty close to us. Actually that was other people's kids. Ours, as per normal strode off without a backward glance. The struggle as a parent between extending the leash of independence vs careful cajoling to safety is in our case easy. The kids have cut the leash like Alexander cut the Gordion Knot. Good luck.


Drew doing some subway tap dancing



Drew, watch out for gypsies!



With his "drink of champions"



Dr who is everywhere!

I got a tad freaked out by this statue in the subway. Looks just like the Dr Who assassin statues called "The Weeping Angels". They have a superb defense mechanism in that they are quantum locked when you look at them ie they turn to stone (cmon, if you believe in half the greek god myths, this one is an easy swallow). As soon as you look away / blink, they can move. When you touch them or they you, you get moved to a previous time and the angels feed off your potential energy lost in the time move. Or else thry just snap you. No point in running, they will get you eventually. They are in the Greek subway and nobody else notices. Eeek. I guess this one has no head but would that stop one?

Weeping Angel in Athens







We got to the Acropolis front gate at 6:25. We know this because the gates close at 6:30 for last however they decided that 6:25 was about 6:30 and wouldn't let anyone else in. There was a kind of a mini riot as about 20 people pleaded their case showing watches and phone clocks. Finally, after 5 minutes, the gate dude pointed to his watch to show everyone it was 6:30 NOW and the gates were closed!




By then........yups, Drew was missing. After long "this is a big city lecture" a few hrs previous, he was gone. So we waited. Then waited. Then started calling and searching. Ree and Zoe went one way, me another.


How hard could he be to find?

See him? We couldn't either!



If you look closely you can see him meandering up a path input general direction.....this is a good 5 mins after we haven't been able to find him.



Eventually I see him strolling like some Brooklyn rapper up the path back in the direction of then Acropolis entrance. "I told you I was going down there" he said. Kid is killing our nerves. Not exactly sure what the old school 'nervous' breakdown' was, but some days.......gotta be close to one.


We walked up the hill near the front of the acropolis - its walking in history. Sat on the slippery marble of Mars Hill (not Aries hill?) and looked down on Athens. Was quite beautiful. Really. Lovely sunset over the city with ruins and mythology at our feet. The Temple of Herphestus was in the background, Hadrian's library and other things with pillars!


Walked down and around the base of the Acropolis, past a man playing the electric clarinet? He was really good.




Also along the path were the walls of another ancient library (bibliotech). Great rules but hard to follow exactly (see pics bellow). I guess in the days per printing press, knowledge was located in the book it was written in. Very precious and not really the thing you loan out as in modern day library systems.


Not sure how the oath bit relates



Further along the ruins, the Greeks have "popped in" a bit of a railway line! Classic. Surrounded by ancient walls almost 10 times the age of Modern Australia and with the Acropolis as a backdrop, is a graffitied suburban train and tracks for it to locomote along.


Ancient meets modern



The Acropolis was an area including a temple for Athena (not surprisingly) the protecting God of Athens. It's massive and sits like a castle on the top of the mountain. Haven't seen Casterley Rock, but imagine it is similar. Pictures can't really capture its majesty or scope so I will put in lots under the (clearly false) assumption, that lots of bad pictures are the same as one good one.




There are a few cranes doing a bit of reconstruction. The Acropolis was hit by Luftwaffe attack during WW2. Off to the museum tomorrow so will learn more there.



Second thoughts about Athens

I guess like all big cities, Athens has its good and bad. The weather was fantastic this afternoon and there was no wind! Our hotel is in lovely surrounds with a tree lined narrow lane in the front and cheap, good coffee around the block. $1.50 for a coffee. Why is it so much in Perth? Really. Why. There was a real buzz in the area where we had our dinner and the subway ride seemed safe, clean and fast.



  1. Acropolis Museum in the am
  2. Easyjet (bad review but oh so cheap) to Rome


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