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Published: August 5th 2015
Monday 3 August
Another sleep in with master waking us up at 7:45. The hotel had emptied out considerably so there was no issue with getting a table for breakfast this morning. After that Heather went for a short walk to suss out the laundromat. It was a full-service one so she then went back to drop off our washing. I headed off to the National Archaeological Museum, one of the world’s most important museums, handily located a 10 minute walk away. I really just wanted to look at the sculptures and I wasn’t disappointed. They have an extraordinarily large collection and I really enjoyed it. They also have some other exhibitions, including relics from as far back as 6000 BC.
While I was doing that Zachary had decided he would like to just have a quiet morning and watch a couple of movies. When I got back we headed for the rather nice looking bakery / café just by the Metro station to get lunch. We took it back to the hotel and had it in the bar with a couple of drinks. The lunch was delicious!
After lunch I picked
up the laundry and we headed for the National Gardens. They weren’t up to much to be fair but there was a fairly good playground for Zachary. Thankfully there were plenty of trees providing shade because it was very hot today with no real breeze. As usual, he made some friends to play with.
From there we wandered past the parliament buildings towards the Metro. On the way three Evzones (Parliamentary guards) were walking up the street towards us, accompanied by an armed soldier. We moved aside of course to let them pass. These guys are highly trained and super-disciplined. Don’t let the funny uniform and marching style fool you! In 2001 a Molotov cocktail was thrown at one of the guardhouses. The Evzone on guard next to it remained standing in his place until an officer told him to move – despite the fact his uniform was scorched and smoking!
We caught the Metro to the Athens Metro Mall. There was no sign at the station saying which exit to go out so, of course, we chose the wrong one and had to walk a bit and then wait a good 3 minutes
in the scorching sun to cross the road. By the time we got into the mall we were as good as roasted and had some frozen yoghurts to cool down. We then found an area similar to the one in Turkey where Zachary could play. He also got to go on trampolines, go “horse-riding” and do a fishing game in which he won a prize – he sensibly chose a small bubble sword. We got dinner at a place called “Mongo” which I had seen on the web site. It was a bit like Gengys in that you filled a bowl with veges, chose a meat, and then noodles or rice and sauce. We weren’t really hungry so just split one between us and it was fine.
Back to the hotel then and Zachary showered and he fell asleep while Heather was reading him his new book about Greek gods and goddesses. We are able to have breakfast at 6:30am tomorrow and then will be picked up for our long day out cruising to the islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. Heather tested the €2.90 Greek wine she had bought at the supermarket and it is rubbish.
We are starting to look a bit the worse for wear. Heather is pleased she has lost 6 kg but that’s about the only good news on that front. Zachary got a bit sunburned on his arms today. The tops of my feet are a bit burned, I have a painful blister on my big right toe, and you don’t want to see the bottom of my feet. Heather and I also both have heat rashes in uncomfortable places, but a pharmacy here in Athens has sold us some stuff which seems to be working. Oh well, some good NZ weather and hard work (for Heather) will soon put all that to rights no doubt. Tuesday 4 August
Speaking of feet, Heather’s left foot is bandaged up. More on that later.
Up bright and early at 6 so we could get ready and have an early breakfast. We were picked up just before 7 and after a bit of a tiki tour round the city picking up others we got to the ship just before 8. Zachary was briefed that, if anyone was to ask him his age, that he was
2 for today. Some interesting welcome aboard music and then we were off to visit the Saronic Islands in the Saronic Gulf, part of the Aegean Sea. The ship had several decks and we started outside but very soon decided to set up camp inside on the main deck to (a) have a place out of the sun when we wanted it and (b) to get away from stinky smokers.
The ship was quite nice – clean and well-equipped. They didn’t allow you to eat and drink your own stuff and food prices were steep and drink prices were Baldwin Street! The first part of the cruise was the longest in terms of sailing – about 3 and a quarter hours to get to the island of Hydra. The time was passed (apart from looking at sights) by a live band who played some traditional Greek songs (this was very enjoyable) and they had some games we could play. We played Jenga and taught Zachary how to play Dominoes. After that he used the dominoes to do some building. He spent quite some time on this and was very precise and focused. He also correctly answered an
At Hydra we walked past all the shops / cafés etc trying to make money of tourists as well as the many people offering donkey rides. We wanted to find somewhere to swim first. We walked for a bit and found an area where people were in the water. It was straight down from the side into deep water but Zachary was keen to give it a go. I decided to pass and figured it would be easier anyway if one of us was out of the water. So Heather dived in and then I tossed Zachary in (with his ring). He was quite happy about this so all good. However, in the process of getting Zachary, Heather stood on a sea-urchin. Sea-urchins greatly resent being stood on and made its displeasure with Heather known. So after just a few minutes Heather had to get out and so Zachary did too. He didn’t mind too much although as he was standing on the ladder a couple of quite large waves caused by a passing boat washed over him. He wasn’t too thrilled about that which is fair enough. What we had to do, of course,
was get Heather some attention as she had at least half a dozen sea-urchin spikes embedded in her foot. You have to get them out quickly because a) they bloody well hurt, and b) they continue to burrow in. We established where a pharmacy was and they gave her some Betadine and a hypodermic needle so she could dig them out. She got a couple but then we had to go back to the boat as it was due to leave, so Zachary and I led the way with her hopping / walking behind.
While we were waiting for lunch to be served she sat outside and kept working on them. Lunch was a bit disorganised but we got a decent feed and then arrived at our next island, Poros. This was to be a shorter stop and there was time to climb the rather long set of steps to go to the clock tower. We went part of the way up but there wasn’t much enthusiasm for the project. Zachary was very tired (he had refused to go to sleep on the first leg of the trip) but we did find a shop with a “Pirates
of Greece” t-shirt for him. We headed back to the boat where it was cooler and Zachary lay on one of the couches for a good sleep. The next leg was to the island of Aegina (we were working our way back towards Athens). We had decided to spend an extra €30 each (no charge for the 2 year old) to be transported from there to Angistri, a smaller island with incredibly clear water. We got a water-taxi both ways so we had about 90 minutes on the island. We were led to a small beach where we had the use of sunloungers and umbrellas as well as a complimentary drink. We all zoomed into the water. It was incredibly clean and clear, and the temperature was brilliant for swimming. We stayed in for around 45 minutes and had a great time. Zachary is very happy to swim in the sea and there weren’t really any waves (a few small ones when a ferry docked) so he had a great time.
Then it was back to the ship and we ordered some food. Then there was more entertainment in the form of music and dancing. Zachary joined
in with this enthusiastically and had a couple of the staff members dancing with him. Heather joined him for the “Macarena” (which he started to get the hang off) and they danced their way back to shore. Back on the bus at 7:45 and we were dropped off back at the hotel about 8:30. Time for a quick shower and we had a bit of trouble getting Zachary to sleep. An enjoyable day for all of us, although Heather’s injury took a bit of the gloss off. I published the photo blog on Auschwitz (below this one if you have missed it) and we were all asleep fairly early. Wednesday 5 August
We were up by 8:30 and had breakfast. Heather had been having a bit of trouble with her foot overnight so after Zachary and I had had our showers (we all needed to wash our hair after yesterday), Zachary chose a movie to watch while I played doctor with the offending foot. I have taken a few prickles out of feet in my life (part of the school-teacher’s job!) and we think we have all the offending bits of sea-urchin out but
it is very hard to tell. Heather re-covered the foot so we could go out for the day. It was already after 11 and by the time we got to Syntagma Square it was close to midday. We seem to have arrived back from the cruise yesterday without Zachary’s hat or sunglasses so we had to replace the glasses (we have another hat) which we did. We bought tickets for the “hop-on hop-off” bus and grabbed some lunch.
We went on the top deck of the bus which had no shade. However, with the breeze it wasn’t too hot when we were moving. After a couple of stops though we headed back downstairs where there were free seats as we were concerned about sunburn. It was probably hotter inside as the air-con was not brilliant. But we stayed on for the whole loop which was about 90 minutes. We have done a few of these types of tours now and this was certainly the least good of them. €18 was a bit pricey, especially as it really didn’t get out of the city centre. While there was some interesting information, overall it was disappointing. We exited back
at Syntagma Square and got some thickshakes from McD’s. Say what you like about McD’s but they do fantastic thickshakes! We decided between the three of us that we were all over the heat and blazing sun and headed back to our air-conditioned room for a rest (and weather forecast for Budapest is more of the same!) I had grabbed some Russian brewed wheat beer from the supermarket which was okay – they have a good range of (cheap) beers here from other countries we don’t get at home so it’s good to try them out.
We headed back via a very busy Metro to the National Gardens. The Metro system in Athens is regular in that it runs every 10 minutes. That’s not really enough for a city of 4 million plus tourists and they are always crowded. Some of the trains are very modern with great air-con and electronic displays. Some not so much. Generally speaking though they are reasonably clean, as are the stations, and most stations have security personnel somewhere around.
When we got to the Gardens we quickly found a shady spot and spent an enjoyable 20 minutes or
so blowing and chasing bubbles! From there we walked around to find somewhere to eat. Athens is not very pedestrian-friendly. Pedestrian lights don’t stay green for long and you often have to wait quite a while (usually in the sun) for them to change – so a lot of jaywalking goes on! We passed the Panathenaic Stadium – site of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and I had a quick look from outside and then we found the “Smile Family Restaurant” which I had seen advertised and it was very good. Cheap Greek food which tasted good. I had moussaka for the first time on the trip and it was delicious. Poor Zachary though had bugger all of his dinner as he was absolutely pooped. I ended up taking him back to the hotel and getting him to bed while Heather headed into Plaka to buy some more gifts. When we got to the platform of the Metro a security guard went to give Zachary a high-five but Zachary was a bit wary – I think because of the uniform. But I explained it to him and then he was good. The guard said that he heard my voice
and thought that I came from New Zealand. Well done that man – the first person to get it right this holiday! On the way up to the street when we got off a missionary asked me if I was Dutch (3rd
person today) and we got chatting. I declined his offer to put me in touch with someone in NZ to discuss Christ and the Bible.
We have the morning in Athens tomorrow before catching a 3:10pm flight to Budapest, Hungary
. We go back one hour in time so arrive at 4pm and will be picked up and taken to our hotel. Then just 2 more weeks before we are on a plane home!!
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