Since we were really crap at posting whilst in Cambodia, I never got around to posting anything about our couple of days stop-over in Athens, when we left Kefalonia. (Or indeed anything about Cambodia so far apart from the bit we wrote here)
So in addressing our lapse, I attempt to revisit Athens in a little trip down memory lane…
When we left Kefalonia, we took the bus via ferry across to Athens, and arrived at about 10pm in the capital. This allowed us to get a good look at the area as we drove through it to our ‘2-nighter’ Hotel Pergamos, centrally located for all the attractions and easy access via the Metro for the airport.
We picked this hotel online, on a whim, as it was central to everything we wanted to see in the day and a half before we got a flight to Cambodia. It had apparently just been renovated, each room was individually decorated, and had soundproofed windows. This appealed as we all know just how noisy cities can be, and we needed a couple of nights sound sleep in a proper bed after camping for nearly 3 months!
Let’s just say that the reception staff were the nicest thing about this place – the rooms were smaller than you are led to believe (the bathroom door hits the toilet, and don’t attempt to walk around the bed at the same time if you are sharing with someone, as you will have to ‘Give Way’) and they don’t look like they have been ‘recently’ refurbished; breakfast is minimalist (bread and jam, cold ham, boiled eggs in a large basket (warm if you get up early enough), cereal, juice and coffee/tea (strong and stale)) – all served buffet style so you help yourself – oh and watched over by a very grumpy woman who doesn’t crack her face with the remotest expression of any sort, and begrudgingly topping things up as if it’s too much like hard work; the location is not suitable for a single female traveller, despite reports suggesting otherwise – dodgy-looking men sat around the streets at night, either on scooters or in doorways with no apparent purpose to their loitering apart from smoking and staring; and there are lots of hookers in this area touting their services!
Actually, that last point may appeal to some, so if that’s what you’re looking for, hey, this is your place! 😉 (Please note – ATM’s are conveniently located at hooker hang-outs in this area, so you can find your girl and get your cash sorted in one hit – the hooker even stands right near the machine to check your balance over your shoulder and see if she can charge you more depending on your affluence.
Anyway, on to the better points about Athens, as I can’t think of anything else to say about the hotel other than we were glad to leave it at the end of our short stay…and it’s within walking distance of everything*.
*provided you are not one of these travellers who doesn’t like walking more than 100 yards before they need a taxi/tuk tuk/bus because ‘it’s much too far to walk!’ – Let me just say, we believe everything within about an hour’s radius is within walking distance unless you are elderly, infirm, or lazy.
Just a short walk (5-10 mins, dependent on your speed) from Hotel Purgatory, I mean Pergamos, you find the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. (see here for visiting info)
If you love history, this place is a must-visit.
Full of statues, artefacts and exhibitions (what types of exhibitions are dependent on when you visit), this is a place that can be visited by any type of traveller, as it’s easy to get around the different areas within the building.
You have to remember to scan the barcode on each ticket at the scan-post on entry to the different areas. If you don’t know to do this, a loud beep will sound and you have to fumble about and get your ticket back out! (you only make this mistake once) 😉
When we visited the Museum, “THE ANTIKYTHERA SHIPWRECK ” exhibition was on, which was really haunting and fascinating.
Combined with all the stuff that is there permanently, there is so much to see! Take spare batteries, if you’re a photo nut like me.
There is also a courtyard café on site, which is pricey but lovely and you can sit amongst the statues in the open air (and watch the tortoise wandering about) if you don’t want to nestle in the stylish indoor booths.
We stretched to a coffee break here, but for lunch we decided to try the café directly across the road on the corner, (red and white colour scheme, can’t recall the name of it though) where they serve an awesome Chicken Club Sandwich, tasty Kebab, wonderful Frappes, and some of the best sweet pastries that we sampled in Greece – and at really cheap prices. (We went back the next day too!)
We managed to spend over half the day at the Museum (your ticket allows you to go out and back in on the same day) and could easily have spent longer but we wanted to see the Acropolis that day too…which is about 20 minutes walk from the Museum.
Alas, but we dawdled too long in the past at the Museum, and also (as we walked) in viewing the underground excavations being preserved throughout the city (the ones called Kerameikos – I think – are the most extensive, featuring graves and pathways extending under nearby buildings such as the Bank of Greece), and we missed entry for the Acropolis…actually, not quite true – they were still letting people in but we weren’t prepared to pay the full fee for only half an hour!
Still, from down in the cobbled streets below, as you walk from Monastiraki, you get a gorgeous view up to the structure without having to pay…
and if you walk up through the narrow, stepped streets you find wonderful old buildings…
which turn out to be abandoned houses with gorgous doors…
(attached to derelict ones which are now homes to stray cats)…
There is unexpected street art…
and you can watch the sunset from the rock platform just to the right as you near the Acropolis entrance, along with a few others who go up there for the same reason – because it looks out over the city and the far-distant mountains;
the ruins of the Agoras and Temples down below…
the Acropolis Parthenon above…
and a wonderful church to the left on the hillside…
The pedestrian streets leading up to the Acropolis are lined with cafes, shops, and quality Greek restaurants serving traditional fare on tables almost meeting from both sides of the street, where you can socialise like the Greeks and while away the time quite happily late into the night – there is also a good shopping street for souvenirs and novelties just off Monastiraki square; a narrow cobbled pedestrian area with numerous underground and ground level shops selling everything from bags, Ouzo, fake armour, statues and clothing.
You can also visit the National Gardens, the Municipal Art Gallery, Parliament Building, Syntagma cemetery, and The Temple of Zeus…you could also catch the attention of a lovely Aussie guy around the Acropolis running sightseeing Segway tours and spend a couple of hours with him flitting about on 2 wheels…but we didn’t have time for all that exhausting stuff!! (or the money for the Segway tour!)
It was time for us to walk back from the old part of the city and make sure everything was packed ready for our flight the next day, have a sleep, and then get up for another leisurely wander around the city before lunch and our flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia later that afternoon.
We used the Metro to get to the airport as it was cheaper than a taxi and less hassle than bulky luggage on a bus, and it got us there within about 45 mins. So simple, but after purchasing your tickets, don’t forget to validate them at the station where you embark, or you could be fined a hefty sum for not doing so – or if you try and get away with not paying at all, you could also end up paying a lot more than your ticket would have cost (we know of 5 young travellers who got caught doing this at night and each was fined about 54 Euros when their trip across town would have cost them 5 Euros each).
If you are travelling on a limited monthly budget, like we are (but not budget-basic like a typical backpacker) then you want to keep basic costs down to enable you to do some nice things…this is why we opt for bus/ferry/Metro/walking, rather than internal flights/taxi/tuk tuk.
The Metro here in Athens does a discount if you buy 2 tickets together rather than 2 singles, so this works out better for the budget.
And seeing as the Metro is too boring to take pictures of, have another historic building in Athens (it’s full of them!)
Anyway, the Metro discarded us at the airport where we then checked in for our flight and settled down with a coffee to read and wait.
Oh, and people-watch – we love to observe.
We also love to wander about aimlessly, checking out what’s around us – usually called dawdling and window shopping. Passing time in an airport isn’t a great hardship for us, but if we do get a little bit bored we have the trusty travel games to keep us out of mischief…Othello, Backgammon, Draughts, and Uno. Not to mention good old fashioned pen and paper for a game of Hangman!
Call us sad, but these simple things make us happy. Who needs alcohol and drugs when you can stimulate your mind in other ways, which don’t cost anything more than intelligence and time!
Off to Cambodia…(well, 18 flight hours and 22.5 hours later, via airports at Abu Dhabi and Bangkok where we could possibly have been spotted playing games, reading, people watching, drinking iced coffee or eating ice cream.) 🙂