Written by Jose Kevo on 15 Aug, 2001
CERTAINLY - To Each Their Own, but writing this journal has been difficult for many reasons. Readers deserve and expect the truth about places, but never have I had to describe such a potentially negative travel experience. And now two-half years later, I…Read More
CERTAINLY - To Each Their Own, but writing this journal has been difficult for many reasons. Readers deserve and expect the truth about places, but never have I had to describe such a potentially negative travel experience. And now two-half years later, I still have many mixed emotions in questioning what went wrong with my trip to Greece? Was it me OR this ancient-fabled land? Something tells me it was a lot of both!
With all of my travels, never ever have I had an experience where so many uncontrolable circumstances went wrong within a trip. Sunny, arid Greece had rain 7 of the 8 days I was there with temps rarely breaking out of the 50's. (How thankful I was to have packed a sweat-top hoodie at the last minute!) Some of my clothes never did dry out. Winds made use of an umbrella impossible. And I can still see water stains/smudges on all my travel guides and information after even my leather backpack was eventually saturated.
To make matters worse, I came down with a type of cold/flu sickness on the flight over. While I was thankful Greek pharmacies dispensed over-the-counter antibiotics, it certainly limited my availabilities of a full appetite as well as trying more wines and the famous Greek Retsina. But wouldn't you know on departure day it was sunny without a cloud in the sky giving me a full take-off view at the thick blanket of smog I'd been hackin' on all week! Our connecting flight back to London was also delayed and rerouted after the first official night/day of bombings in "too close" Kosovo.
After touring much of Europe, Athens was a "must see" for me but something I was not expecting or prepared for when it came to basic factions of every day life. My rude awakening began when stuck in traffic waiting for my ride into town from the airport. I was in an exhausted, fevered state of comatose staring off when I remember registering that I was looking at dumpsters spilling over with garbage, mounds of trashbags on the grounds, nasty graffiti taggin' everywhere...and finally consciously thinking, "Oh my Gosh! I came all this way and it looks just like the South Bronx!?!" (No disrespect to any SoBro friends/readers.) This was simply a foretaste of what was to come...things described in this journal and countless other encounters I've chosen to forget based on squeezing out as much good from this trip as possible.
When I look thru my limited photos shot during the briefest of dry times, warm memories of experiences continue to come flooding back. I repeatedly find myself asking about this trip, "Was it really that bad?" Yes, in a lot of cases it was. The Athenians and Greeks were almost too different in their ancient customs, cultures and ways...not to mention their all-but prehistoric means of transportation, facilities, utilities, and lack of modernization we so fully take for granted.
Never did I expect my own personal comfort/safety zone levels to be challenged in Greece - and that says a lot coming from someone who live's in NYC's Spanish Harlem ghetto and feels right at home in the most remote impoverished countryside areas of the Dominican Republic. I'd definitely became spoiled traveling across Europe which takes me away from my daily environs and has seemed to enhance a certain degree of luxury and eliteness thru all my experiences...even as a budget traveler. But did this trip squander valued vacation time and money?
As written earlier, the enitre effort was worth the opportunity to fully see and explore the Acropolis...not to mention the well-wasted hours spent lost in time looking around atop Filopappos Hill. Unfortunately, it's not enough to build an entire vacation around as I'm accustomed to doing, as a city dweller, by spending extended stays fully indulging in European cities.
Guidebooks WERE on point saying two days in Athens was more than enough. But never have I felt so at-odds and paralyzed by a travel destination; cut-off from all the beauty and sites across the country who's tempting photos in shops daily reminded/haunted me of just how trapped I really was. Greece DOES have a lot of offer...but not Athens unless you ceatively go looking for it and are also willing to take the good with the bad. So did I?
When returning home I'd written in my personal journal: "Who'd have thought that I'd be so happy to be sitting back in my apartment in NYC after 10-days away in Europe. Well believe it or not, I AM! I still am left with so many mixed feelings about this long awaited vacation wondering how this now leaves me feeling about Greece or this whole trip in general. I'm still not sure just what I would/should learn from all of this besides that I truly feel I made the best of every situation...inspite of." And for that I'm thankful.
Possibly I'll return someday to do the Greek Islands, enjoy the Agean Sea with the bluest waters in the world...and, schedule "A Day" to return to the Acropolis and hopefully catch an awesome Greek sunset from Filopappus Hill before the floodlights come on. But otherwise...once WAS truly more than enough!
Written by Jose Kevo on 16 Aug, 2001
ALMOST TOO DIFFERENT
In case you haven't detected from reading my other journal entries, Athens was not a city to leisurely enjoy. You'll have to "work" to enjoy your vacation using the same determination and ethics that have driven and kept the Greeks from all…Read More
ALMOST TOO DIFFERENT
In case you haven't detected from reading my other journal entries, Athens was not a city to leisurely enjoy. You'll have to "work" to enjoy your vacation using the same determination and ethics that have driven and kept the Greeks from all but the beginning of time. While it's not my preferred style of travel, I had to adapt to make the best of things...and so will you. Since there aren't many main attractions here, be prepared to exercise your senses of discovery/adventure to the fullest; especially if you're here for an extended stay. Hopefully, you'll have a more favorable report than I.
Everywhere you walk/look in Athens & Piraeus, there are travel excursion companies selling motorcoach/ferry/airline tours to sites all over Greece, the islands and Europe. A lot were more than "day tours" and all were priced fairly steep. If you've got the time and the cash and don't mind being shuttled around like a herd of cattle, just know these options are readily available.
A GREAT DAY TRIP
Aside from my venturing to Aegina Island reviewed in this journal, the only other day trip I independently took was to Korinthos which included the modern city as well as the Ancient & Acro areas. Read my seperate "KORINTHOS" journal for more details.
Greece is 7-hours ahead of the State's EST - all but a full sleep cycle. Recovering from the jet lag, etc. of this trip was worse than anything I've ever experienced once returning from Europe.
I'd never had reason to know this but was thankful when arriving and coming down with something major, I was able to enter a pharmacy, describe my symptoms to the pharmacist, and to be given reasonably priced antibiotics without needing a prescription. I've since been told these services are widely available across Europe should you ever need them.
Once stepping away from the Plaka/Monastiraki areas, you're basically on your own when it comes to means of communication, as English, and few other European languages, aren't spoken anywhere. Even agents at train stations, the airport weren't of much help so mentally prepare for this barrier. Also consider you're not only dealing with a new language but also a different alphabet. Point & Smile!
Many sidewalks in Athens are lined with orange trees loaded with fruit still on the branch and lying around below. You'll be tempted to try one - but don't bother! They were the sourest, most bitter things I'd ever tried that left a foul taste in my mouth that lingered far too long.
GETTING TO/FROM GREECE & ATHENS
Unlike most Europe-bound flights which depart the States on an evening and arrive next morning, flights headed for Greece tend to depart mid-morning and arrive the next day in Athens around 4:00 a.m.!!! I couldn't believe how busy the airport…Read More
GETTING TO/FROM GREECE & ATHENS
Unlike most Europe-bound flights which depart the States on an evening and arrive next morning, flights headed for Greece tend to depart mid-morning and arrive the next day in Athens around 4:00 a.m.!!! I couldn't believe how busy the airport was in the middle of the night, but it's so travelers heading for the islands will have time to catch their ferries - most of which depart by 7:00 a.m. and is discussed later in this section.
If you're going into Athens, I didn't think this was a good way to start a trip! Once clearing customs, I came up to one of the shabby cafes and waited at least until the sun came up since I couldn't imagine trapsing around a strange place in the dark middle of the night.
The airport is somewhat of a distance south of the city. Leaving slightly before 6:30 a.m., it still wasn't early enough to beat the massive traffic congestions headed into town. I don't recall exactly how much I paid, but the fare was definitley higher being stuck in traffic. And drivers mostly speak ONLY Greek so have your map ready and be prepared to point.
Another major downfall from such an early arrival is checking into your hotel. I arrived around 7:30 a.m., but they were adamant about my not checking into the available room until noon UNLESS I wanted to pay for another full night. However, they were willing to lock-up my luggage while I went out...with no sleep...sick and in the rain...to begin discovering Athens.
Returning to the airport in the morning was much quicker and obviously cheaper since all the traffic was heading into the city.
* With sales most airlines promote in Jan/Feb for travel completed by March 31st, I paid $462.30 roundtrip NYC to Athens on British Airways...though I can live WITHOUT the Heathrow transfers!
FERRIES TO GREEK ISLANDS
If you're planning on spending most of your time in the Greek Islands, I would highly suggest booking your travel, accomodations, etc. with a travel agent BEFORE leaving...and still be prepared for major changes. From what I determined, Greeks definitely independently operate on their own agendas when it comes to schedules, reservations and even prices. I think this also plays into why information in travel guides is so vague or basically non-existant.
The port of Piraues is worse than a 3-ring circus with the non-stop chaotic hustle and bustle compounded by the crowded travel agencies and independent ticket sellers offering their own versions of promises for travel accomodations/prices. EYEWITNESS Greek Mainland Travel Guide has a color-coded map of the area you'll definitely want to check out since hydrofoils/steamer ferries for different islands all depart from different areas. And when retrieving baggage/clearing customs at the airport after your 4:00 a.m. arrival, you'll want to consider hurrying lest your cab get stuck in traffic.
From what I could best determine, every major destination departed Piraeus between 6:00 - 7:00 a.m. For islands such as Thira/Santorini & Crete which have 10+ hour one-way travel times, you'd be wise to book one of their sleeper cabins simply to recover from the flight. Return ferries also leave of a late afternoon allowing you to sleep your way back to Athens with a 5:00 a.m. arrival.
Mykonos would seem to be the most popular island to visit, but unless you're planning on spending a night, IS NOT doable as a day-trip from Athens. The one-way ride is approx. 6-hours giving only 45 minutes on the island before the return ferry departs.
* Read additional ferry information in my Piraeus Port and Aegina Island journal entries.
Written by Re Carroll on 22 Jun, 2003
The metro is a great boon for travel in Athens. It has been expanded to three
lines and covers most of the major points of interest in the city as well as the suburbs. Fares are less than 1 euro per trip. The metro runs 7…Read More
The metro is a great boon for travel in Athens. It has been expanded to three
lines and covers most of the major points of interest in the city as well as the suburbs. Fares are less than 1 euro per trip. The metro runs 7 days a week from 5am to midnight although buses and trolleys operate 24 hours a day. A 24 hour pass, good for buses, trolleys and the metro, costs 2.90 euro and is a great deal, particularly if you are going to or from the airport. Passes must be purchased from the attendant at the station and individual tickets are purchased from a machine. Make sure to validate any ticket/pass or you could be subject to a large fine. Full metro route maps are displayed in each car and each stop is announced over the loudspeaker.
The green line (#1) is the original one and has been around in various forms for 130 years. It is the fastest and most economical way of getting to the port of Pireaus and island bound ferries. I rode the full route from Pireaus to Kiffisia, an upper middle class suburb full of big stately homes and tree lined streets. Along the route we passed the Olympic Stadium at the Irini stop. The stadium is still under construction so there was no point trying to visit. Other popular stops on this line are: Monastiraki, home to the Athens flea market and Omonia where lots of budget hotels are located.
I didn’t have much use for the blue line (#3)although plans are to extend it all the way to the new Athens airport which will be a major benefit for travelers. Currently it ends at Ehniki Amyna where airport bound travelers can then transfer to a bus for the remainder of the trip.
The red line (#2) includes Larissa where Athens two train stations are located across the street from each other. Other useful stops on the red line: Syntagma, Athens main square with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the elegant Hotel Grand Bretagne and the National Gardens nearby; and Acropoli, the closest station to the Acropolis.
Line 2 is also the one where some of the stations have been transformed into pseudo museums. I was very impressed with the Syntagma station and I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not riding the metro (there is no charge to view the displays). The top floor is almost cavernous with a modern clock positioned above the escalator leading down to the metro. That’s about all there is of modern decor because the rest of the area is taken up with archaeological finds discovered during the excavations for the metro expansion. This was one of the largest excavations in Athens and took place between 1992 to early 1996.
Most of one wall at Syntagma is behind plexiglass and shows the various levels that were uncovered. Early Christian graves, a cistern from the Ottoman period, and a 4th-century grave with its occupant still in place. Display cases are filled with clay lamps, jars, grave stones, wine jugs, part of a floor mosaic from 4th or 5th century, an Ionic capital from 3rd or 4th century and more. All displays are well labeled and there are large poster boards describing the excavation process. The wall at the far end of the station is covered with a mural of "The Messogiaki Gate of Athens". The original painting was done by E. Dodwell (1767-1832) and replicates the original gate arch to the National Gardens. The painting seemed almost lifelike, as if I could step back in time just by walking through it.
The Acropoli station had a smaller display of artifacts. The most interesting was a group of headless torsos. They set just the right mood for the nearby trip to ancient Greece via the Acropolis just a few blocks away.
Easter I loved being in Greece in the spring – everything was green and fresh,
wildflowers were scattered everywhere and people were friendly and much more relaxed than during the hectic summer months. On top of that spring meant Orthodox Easter, the biggest holiday in…Read More
Easter I loved being in Greece in the spring – everything was green and fresh,
wildflowers were scattered everywhere and people were friendly and much more relaxed than during the hectic summer months. On top of that spring meant Orthodox Easter, the biggest holiday in Greece, and I was able to experience some of the traditional celebrations while in Athens.
For 2003, Orthodox Easter was 27 April. I arrived in Athens on 25 April, Good Friday. Tourist sights were open and Plaka was going strong but most other businesses made sure they closed at 5 or 6.
Vendors set up outside churches to sell beeswax tapers and colored plastic shields that were supposed to help keep the candles lit. Inside, the church service on Friday night was long. I came in part way through the service and, pardon the pun, it was all Greek to me but the pageantry and drama was quite interesting to observe. The real devout were in the pews and
stayed throughout the full multi hour service. Others came in long enough to kiss the icons and leave. Good thing because standing room only at the back of the church was incredibly crowded. At regular intervals, the priests circled the
interior of the church carrying crosses and swinging an incense filled censer.
Eventually, the main service was over and the congregation filed out behind the
priests. By now darkness had fallen and everyone milled about waiting for the
procession to begin. Candles were lit and there was a sense of excitement and
anticipation. Finally the procession started. Young girls with floral wreaths, alter boys carrying tall bronze crosses, black robed priests surrounding the bishop
who was richly dressed in burgundy velvet and finally men from the parish carrying a flower decked bier symbolizing Christ’s funeral bier. The rest of the parishioners fell in behind and followed the bier through
the darkened streets. Church bells tolled intermittently until the procession came back to the church. This same scene was happening throughout the city and the streets were filled with thousands of people, some of whom threw flowers onto the streets along the route. There were at least three churches within a few blocks of my hotel and whether by accident or design, they staggered the start date of their procession so that it was a continual stream of people as well as an echo-like effect as the bells were rung seconds
Saturday was business as usual except for the butchers who were run off their feet with people continually stopping by to pick up their lamb for Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, workers at the major tourist sights (Acropolis, Agora) decided to stage a one day strike so none of the attractions were open. It must have been a last minute thing because tour buses kept pulling up to the Acropolis expecting to drop off their passengers. I knew I’d be returning to
Athens in a few weeks so could visit the Acropolis then but I felt sorry for people
with limited sightseeing time.
Church services started late Saturday evening.
One church held its service outdoor in the square directly in front of my hotel with the parishioners forming a circle around the priests. It ended at midnight when church bells started ringing joyously throughout the city to commemorate Christ’s resurrection. The bells rang continuously for at least five minutes and I’m sure nobody was sleeping by the time they finished. Fire crackers exploded throughout the streets and colorful fire works lit up the night sky. Finally
everyone headed home to continue their celebrations or to grab some sleep before the big feast later in the day.
Sunday was the day to celebrate with wine, dancing and big meals of roast lamb. In Plaka many of the restaurants offered a set price, multi course meal featuring roast lamb. I wandered the narrow lanes of Anafiotika, the original part of Athens that lies just below the Acropolis. In one backyard, women were tending a charcoal pit while men got the lamb ready for the spit. In another area, a lamb was already roasting in a big metal box at the side of the road while men in the neighborhood gathered around to check its progress.
Written by Scubabartek on 24 Oct, 2000
Ancient Agora (Arkhaia Agora)was the meeting place of the ancient Athenians. It's hard to tell now, considering almost nothing is left from the original structures. Hephaisteion (Temple of Hephaistos) is the exception. It's quite a monument and probably the best preserved of all Greek…Read More
Ancient Agora (Arkhaia Agora)was the meeting place of the ancient Athenians. It's hard to tell now, considering almost nothing is left from the original structures. Hephaisteion (Temple of Hephaistos) is the exception. It's quite a monument and probably the best preserved of all Greek temples in Athens. Stoa of Attalos, which was completely reconstructed, houses the museum of Ancient Agora and is a resting place for most of the artifacts found here. Probably the most famous one being the headless Winged Nike.
Roman Agora (Romaiki Agora) is located near the other one. It is much smaller, and a much younger site than Ancient Agora. Couple interesting things to see here are a Turkish mosque: Fethiye Djami, and Tower of the Winds.
I marked this site as Recommended, not Highly Recommended because unless you have a real interest in archeology or history, you might simply get bored here. There isn't as much to see here, besides the Hephaisteion, because most of the monuments are almost completely destroyed. But if you are a history/archeology buff, have an extra day, or happen to get bored in Plaka, than by all means stop here and do a little exploring.
Written by ttrllvr on 27 Jun, 2006
When I started out on this whole journey, I honestly did not think I would end up in Athens. It just seemed (and still seems) extremely surreal to me. It's very insane to me that I accomplished going to a place that was always a…Read More
When I started out on this whole journey, I honestly did not think I would end up in Athens. It just seemed (and still seems) extremely surreal to me. It's very insane to me that I accomplished going to a place that was always a "oh one day" place. You know the kind, "oh, one day I'll visit this list of places" and you never actually do. Or you're too old to enjoy living in crappy hostels and rooming with people you've never met.
As a history major (and a person who was obsessed with the Greek gods when I was younger—no I don't know why), I figured I'd just end up in England and travel all over to these places. That was how it was going to go, too, until one of the professors shoved this catalog under my nose one day. She told me that I should check out this program that schooled/housed people in Athens for a semester or a year and you got to visit all the ancient sites. I applied, got in, and in a matter of a few months was on a 20-hour trip to Athens, Greece with my roommate and best friend.
The Athens International Airport is a bit insane. It's kind of like one of those rinky dink airports that you see in small towns. It's very lax in construction and the Customs area is a tad unorganized. Good news for EU people, you apparently just get to glide straight through the line. Bad news for us non-EU'ers: you will have to wait at least an hour and a half to get through customs. (Oddly, the reverse is true on the return trip. I literally just walked up to the customs booth, handed him my passport, said hello, and he stamped me through and pointed me in the right direction. No questioning or anything.). There are MANY taxis waiting outside of the airport, and most of the drivers speak English. Also, never, EVER get into a taxi unless it is a yellow, conventional looking taxi. Those guys will take your money and drop you off in the middle of nowhere. You will need at least €12 to get out of the airport area and into downtown Athens, probably another €12 to €20 if you are going anywhere else. There is also a metro (subway) system and a bus system, which are cheaper, but I do not suggest using either, unless you a.) know where you are going or b.) have amazing subway skills. On the metro, you will be pushed towards the center of the metro and you need to be able to push your way out when you get to your stop. The stops are read in Greek and English, so you're good there. The bus is a tad scarier, and if you have a ton of luggage, I don't suggest getting on there. Both take about 45 to 60 minutes to get to downtown. The buses run until midnight and start again at 4 or 5 in the morning. The metro runs until like midnight, but doesn't start up again until 7 or 8am. That should be all the info you need for the airport!
Written by the menace on 23 Sep, 2005
This is one of the worst restaurants ever!! It is a restaurant in Metaxourgeio, Athens with ancient Greek food. The idea is great, but the location, the decoration, the food, the decoration, and the service are terrible. The decoration is kitsch and the restaurant is…Read More
This is one of the worst restaurants ever!! It is a restaurant in Metaxourgeio, Athens with ancient Greek food. The idea is great, but the location, the decoration, the food, the decoration, and the service are terrible. The decoration is kitsch and the restaurant is dirty!!
The service was awful. We had to wait 45 minutes to order, and when the waiter arrived, he didn't speak English!! We complained, and then the PR lady arrived with a phony smile looking like a prostitute giving us a boring speech about the ancient Greek food in order to calm us down. When we finally ordered, we ended up eating the food of another table, as there was a mix-up!!
I learned that in Ancient Greece there was mustard, but this!!!?? All the plates were very salty and full of mustard, the food was cold, the meat was stiff, and the wine tasted like vinegar. I wonder if this is really what those poor Ancient Greeks ate.
When we reserved the table, they said that it would cost 25€ per person, but it cost 45€ per person!! Anyway, the sweets were nice, but the whole experience was very disappointing, as it was a complete waste of time and money.
Written by leopardgrrrl88 on 28 Jul, 2005
In 2004, I spent the Fourth of July in Greece. Our group had been in Europe for about three weeks, and we were disappointed to be spending Independence Day in a country that didn't celebrate it. Of course, the most disappointing part of…Read More
In 2004, I spent the Fourth of July in Greece. Our group had been in Europe for about three weeks, and we were disappointed to be spending Independence Day in a country that didn't celebrate it. Of course, the most disappointing part of this was that there would be no fireworks.
Despite this, we went about our day in Athens. Throughout the day, we learned that Greece was in the soccer championships, which would be played that night. They had never made it anywhere near this far, so it was an exciting event for everyone. Our group was given special permission to stay out late and watch the game on the hotel's big-screen TVs. We watched the game, which was thrilling. I had never watched a European sports team other than in the Olympics, so this was a first-time experience. Amazingly, the Greeks won the championship. Everyone was thrilled! The Greeks had their first victory in soccer! Celebrations abounded.
Just as we were about to go back inside, we saw an explosion of light. Fireworks! They were celebrating the victory with fireworks! Not only did we get to witness history, but we felt much more connected to home, sweet home in the United States by seeing fireworks on Independence Day.
Written by lashr1999 on 11 Nov, 2005
When writing about what happened next, all I could think about was the quote, ”For half the population, all you have to do is bat your eyelashes or cry.” You will see why in a moment. After saying goodbye to Luke from our tour, we…Read More
When writing about what happened next, all I could think about was the quote, ”For half the population, all you have to do is bat your eyelashes or cry.” You will see why in a moment. After saying goodbye to Luke from our tour, we headed to the stadium built for the 2004 by train.
When we got there, there were only a few people there. Allie and Kelly commented on how the complex was not as impressive as the one in Sydney, nor was it well maintained. It looked like it was unfinished or left abandoned in its own. It did not look as good as the complex I saw in Barcelona either. We snapped a few shots but found out that the Olympic complex was closed. An older couple asked us if we had found a way in, and we had said no. We walked a bit and saw a truck with a couple of maintenance workers come by. Kelly and Allie asked them if there was a way to get inside. They said sure and pulled us on the back of the truck and gave us some bags of chips from the boxes they were hauling. We had no idea where we were headed, but we ended up on the other side of the gate. I guess the boss saw we were on the back of the truck and he screamed at the workers for letting us on. We got off and kept walking and took some pictures of the Olympic stadium.
On our way out we saw the older couple who we earlier told there was no way to get into the main complex. They were headed out, disappointed that they had come all that way and could not get a chance to see the main complex. Say what you will, but being cute does help, especially for Kate and Allie.
On the train we discussed how we would get back to the airport. We decided to take the train. The train to the airport requires a separate ticket. Kelly and Allie had made up their minds not to buy the ticket. They said if they got caught they would cry and pretend that they did not know what is going on. That would probably work for them. I, on the other hand, purchased a ticket. I don’t think that defense would work as well for a guy, and I didn’t want to see the inside of a Greek prison for a train ticket. I said goodbye to Kate and Allie, as their flight was about 2 hours later then mine and they wanted to got to the Acropolis again.