Of course there's no trains

Athens, Greece
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tip #8. If you have luggage you intend to post to Switzerland, organise it on your arrival in London, not two hours before you are flying out.

We woke early and headed into town to find a Post Office to send our pannier bags and helmets to Switzerland to await our arrival in June. The quoted 10 pounds had increased to 88 pounds and the village post office refused to take them as "they were not packed properly but feel free to take them across town and try the bigger post office".
With the car already being an hour late for return and having narrowly missed another parking ticket, I decided the panniers would be coming with us to Greece and I would tackle the problem then.

We checked in at British Airways and were informed, rather nonchalantly, that there was a public transport strike in Athens. Oh joy! Our check-in lady then offered to offload us as the flight was overbooked and that BA would compensate us 271 pounds each - and the next flight would leave at 9pm arriving at 2am. Very tough decision - 9 hours sitting around an airport for $1500. We had about a minute to choose and in the end we decided we would forgo the money and get our scheduled flight.

Our first glimpse of Greece coming in at Athens airport, was the biggest, bright blue IKEA warehouse I have ever seen.
Athens is the first airport terminal I have struck which charges money for the trolley in the arrival hall. I did not have any Euros, and the bank was outside through the customs hall, and we would have to carry our luggage:two backpacks; two daypacks; two panniers; a camera bag and a laptop bag. This was the first time so far that we had to actually use our backpacks as backpacks. The BOSS nearly fell over backwards after heaving hers onto her back. First necessity - steal a trolley. Second necessity - money.

Tip #9 With the easy access to ATM's you only need to carry a handycard and a credit card but make sure these are two separate cards. My Westpac bank has partner banks like Barclays and Scotia Bank and if you use their machines you don't get charged a fee for cash withdrawls. Except - if you only carry one linked card then the Barclays machine opts to give you a cash advance on your credit card and does not offer you the option of taking it from your savings account. Luckily enough The BOSS had brought her handycard with her so I transferred all the money onto her savings account and now the ATM had to give us our money fee free. Except - there are no Barclay or Scotia Banks in Greece (or Hong Kong). Travelers cheques are looking better and better all the time.

We 'acquired' a trolley, we acquired money and then headed off to Left Luggage to dump the panniers. We also decided to dump as much as possible out of our backpacks (although mine was already fairly light). The weather was a balmy 22oC so I figured I could do without my jacket and the BOSS dumped her spare pair of sneakers and other bits and pieces. I could have probably left another 4-5 items of clothes but by this time the poor panniers were overflowing and threatening to split their zippers. We got them shrink wrapped into a huge plastic condom and that way we could pass them off as one piece of luggage instead of two and only pay half the price for storage.

There was indeed a public transport strike in Athens and so we ended up in a taxi for the 30 minute (25 Euro) trip into the city. I had chosen a hostel off the internet which had mixed reviews. It was very central to the old part of town but was also reportedly very noisy. I decided to risk the noise (as I had come equipped with earplugs) which turned out to be a very good decision. The Student and Travellers Inn really was right in the centre of the Plaka (an area blocked off to traffic) and overlooking a square filled with restaurants and shops. We got a private room on the top floor with a balcony and a stunning view.
Our welcome was completed with the sounds of Zorba's Dance music and wonderful food smells wafting up from the square. We were in Greece!! - and it was all very surreal.
We had a choice of 20 outdoor restaurants and chose the closest as we were both starving. The BOSS had souvlaki and I had veal something (unpronounceable name) which turned out to be a fabulous pasta and salad.
I have never been a fan of olives or fetta but when presented with a fabulous looking Greek salad in an authentic Greek cafe, one really should give olives a second chance.

I still don't like olives!
After dinner we wandered the laneways around Plaka. We rounded a corner and much to our surprise and delight, towering above us was the Acropolis all lit up against the sunset. It was truly stunning.

We meandered the streets for a further 2 hours before falling into bed exhausted.

our view
our view
Tastes as good as it smells
Tastes as good as it smells
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