First days in Europe: Athens

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November 3rd 2006
Published: November 26th 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY


Dionysis theater and temple of Zeus also in here
Ahh Europe. A big part of my trip was now over. I had been in Asia for 4 months and a half but it was time to move on!

The BA flight to Athens was transitting through Heatrow (so no liquid/food was allowed on board). Everything was going fine until they announced that the flight would be an hour late. This was stressing me out as I had a connection in Heatrow and I didn't exactly have a lot of time. 1 hour 40 minutes but departure was from another terminal and they recommended 70 minutes to transfer whereas with an hour late I'd have 40. Anyway I tried not to try too much about it for the next 9 hours. I found BA flight service quite good. We had a choice of 16 different TV/movie channels and several music ones. I spent a good part of the time watching movie and Friends rerun. There was also a thing where you can see the plane location on earth, the speed, the wind speed the time and the estimated time on arrival which amused me to no end. We got 2 full meals, in addition to the breakfast and lunch I
The ParthenonThe ParthenonThe Parthenon

That's quite impressive!
had before leaving Mumbai so I was quite full once we landed in London.

We arrived about 45 minutes late in London. BA had put me on a list, along with a few other passengers, of people who had tight connection so right outside the plane we were met by 2 attendants who drove us to the Flight Connecting Center in the other terminal in a little van and after we passed through security showed us exactly where to go so that we wouldn't lose time on the way to the gate. Most excellent service. I was also happy that the officials at the FCC didn't look inside my passport because having a Pakistan visa is of little help when you want to pass through airport security fast.

My first impression of London was that it was packed full of tourists: "Middle aged, slightly overweight caucasians, bunch of goddamn tour groups". It took me a few minutes to realize that they were actually locals and that I wasn't in Asia anymore. Crazy.

I arrived in the gate a good 15 minutes before boarding was supposed to be close only to find that it wasn't even started. It
Little statue in the museumLittle statue in the museumLittle statue in the museum

Thought it looked cool
looked like there had been problems all over the airport all day (which explained why we left late from Mumbai as the plane had left London in the morning) so in the end I had to wait about 45 minutes before boarding. I chatted with a guy who was heading to Johanesburg for a while. He must've thought it was pretty wierd that I just started talking to him like that out of the blue just because I was sitting next to him.

The flight to Athens went well except they fed me a 5th meal for the day (but hey, it had been a long day with jet lag and all) and it looked way too good to pass. I couldn't finish it though. I arrived in the middle of the night in Athens so after getting my luggage I tried to find a comfy spot to sleep but alas all the seats without armrests were taken so I had to sleep on the ones with armrests in a sort of convulated position that couldn't exactly be called comfortable. Nevertheless at around 3AM someone that had a bench without armrests left and I managed to get the spot
Byzantine churchByzantine churchByzantine church

Right next to the agora
so the rest of the night was passed in comfort. Sort of. Very comfortable first night in Europe.

I had absolutely no information on Greece as my LP Eastern Europe didn't cover the country. All I knew from (URL pretty self-explanatory) was that there were a few free internet terminal at the Athens airport. So at around 6AM when traffic started getting a bit denser in the airport I woke up and searched in one of those terminal. I managed to find an hostel and wrote the way to get there. Then I had a large coffee and took the bus I had to take. It took about 30 minutes to reach the center. My first impression of Athens was that it looked like Chitral, well at least the semi-barren hills full of shrubs around the city. I don't think greeks would enjoy having their capital compared to a small remote town in North-West Pakistan 😉. But of course aside from the hills it's totally different.

After I was dropped in Syntagma square, I took the metro which was quite easy to figure out and left 2 stations farther and walked to the hostel. I got a bed for 10 euros and had a little nap. My plan for Europe was to go fairly fast. As I mentioned before I had to be in Egypt by early January which left me 2 months to do Eastern Europe and Turkey, Syria and Jordan. I also didn't have the budget to stay in Europe for a very long time. I had initially planned to visit Athens today (the 2nd) and leave early on the 3rd but I was in no state to do sightseeing today. Well I could've but didn't feel like it.

I had an amazing lunch: gyros. For those who don't know about it, it's very much like lebanese shawarma or turkish kebab: pita with beef meat, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese and fries. I hadn't something like that since Manila where I had found an egyptian restaurant. I had been thinking about eating one ever since. It felt good.

I had a little walk around the neighbourhood. I had been told by friends that Athens had nice ruins but aside from that was dirty and that the drivers were crazy but I found it was perfectly clean and the driver were extremely respectuous (okay the motorcyclist drive on the sidewalk but who doesnt?). I guess it comes from the fact that I've been in Asia for the past few months but I thought it was crazy clean and I was always astonished by the cars stopping at the red light. But there are little things that tell you that you're in a western country: people talk to me in greek on the streets thinking I'm a local, there are passed out drunk girl on the pavement at 5PM, porno magazines openly displayed on street stalls for everyone to see and girls wearing revealing or very tight fitting clothes.

I went back early in the guesthouse to read in the common room. There was a girl talking with another guy on the nearby table for a while but at some point he left. After a few minutes she interrupted my reading to ask if I was a french canadian! I had no idea how she figured it out, I hadn't really spoken to anyone in the guesthouse and I had never seen her but she had guessed right. I really don't know what marks me as a french-canadian but there's something... Anyway, she
Theater of Herodes AtticusTheater of Herodes AtticusTheater of Herodes Atticus

Partially reconstructed.
was a fellow quebecer called Amelie, we chatted together for a while. But she was heading toward Santorini so she had to leave after like an hour of meeting. She needed a little bit of sun and beaches. She did tell me that there was another quebecer called Marc-Andre in the hostel.

I went back to my book but I soon saw a guy with a "Molson Dry" t-shirt walked in which turned out to be Marc-Andre. We talked for an hour or so. He was starting a trip accross western europe and it was the first time he ahd travelled. I went to the supermarket where I bought some bread, cheese and local nutella kind of thing for what would be my next several meals. I had to self-cater because else my budget would simply be blown away.

When I came back Marc-Andre was chatting with 2 french women: Diane and Marie. They were in Athens for the marathon that weekend! Diane was doing the whole thing but Marie was going only for 10km. They were slightly older (30s) than us, but they were young in their heart! They were great fun to be around so we spent the evening chatting with them until we went to sleep.

The 3rd November was the day I was going to do the sightseeing: the reason why I had decided to come in Athens. I took a metro to the Acropolis and got a ticket from the south side. I had been told that they wouldn't give me student ticket but I managed to get it without problem (6 euros instead of 12!!).

The first sight was the theatre of Dionysus which was quite interesting. It is the first stone theatre ever built - it is cut directly from the stone. It is the birthplace of greek tragedy. There is not much left today but it was still amazing to walk into the steps and imagine how it must've been a thousand years ago. Walking a few hundreds meter I reached the Theatre of Herodes Atticus built in 161AD. It was bigger, with a 3-4 stories tall high in front and partially reconstructed. Apparently it was a place where music performances were given.

Next I started walking up the Acropolis (the term acropolis is for the rock, the Parthenon is the actual big temple at the top,
Athens 2Athens 2Athens 2

From the Acropolis
I always confused those 2 terms) through the Propylaea (the gateway to the Parthenon). The Parthenon was quite impressive even though it was full of scaffolding. I had a good time on the rock just walking around taking pictures of the temples and of the city. You get quite an amazing view of the town from there.

After this I walked down and then up to some little hill to get nice views of the Acropole and the surrounding city. After this I walked down to the agora. I went to the mostly restored roman one which had an interesting museum and also the mostly destroyed older one. There was also a quite interesting temple to Hephaestus near the agora. It is much more well-preserved than the Parthenon and still quite big. It also had the added advantage of not being overrun by tourists. After walking around it I decided to sit in the grass and read my book next to it. Lovely place.

After I walked all the way to Hadrian's arch and the Temple of Zeus. As you can see with the pictures the Temple of Zeus is mostly destroyed but I felt it was maybe
The Parthenon 2The Parthenon 2The Parthenon 2

They're doing restoration work in the off season.
even bigger than the Parthenon. Unfortunately there's only a few columns left standing. Still I found it quite nice to stroll around.

After I was done with the sightseeing I walked all the way back to the hostel. I stopped on the way at a sandwhich shop to have a delicious sandwhich with feta cheese and olives. Good stuff. I had decided, because of my friend Kim who went to Grece that summer, to go to Meteora, the place with the famous pillared monastery as my next destination. So I walked to the train stations to buy the tickets for the next day. After about an hour of waiting I managed to get one in the early morning the next day.

I came back to the hostel and had dinner with the french girls. They made me taste greek yogurt with honey which was just delicious. We were eventually joined by Marc-Andre who had been away on some island with argentinian girls (poor guy). He decided to come with me to meteora so he went to buy his ticket. We spent the evening talking with the girls.

I quite enjoyed my first few days in Europe: good

Opposite the Parthenon. Notice the female statues as columns.
food, nice sightseeing and nice people. I hope it'll stay that way.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25



All the best statues are in England, unfortunately.
Temple of Hephaestus 2Temple of Hephaestus 2
Temple of Hephaestus 2

Close up of the carving.
The agoraThe agora
The agora

Or what remains of it
Temple of Olympian ZeusTemple of Olympian Zeus
Temple of Olympian Zeus

This felt bigger than the Parthenon actually. Almost completely demolished but so massive.
Temple of Olympian Zeus 2Temple of Olympian Zeus 2
Temple of Olympian Zeus 2

With Acropolis in the background.

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