Athens – Day 1

Sunday 8th September

We arrived at Athens airport at around 3am and took an hour long bus journey into the city centre which dropped us off opposite the Parliament building just as they were changing the guard. The marble pavement was wet – I thought it had been raining, it never occurred to me that it had just been cleaned.

We went to a nearby taxi rank and a driver who already had two passengers told us to get in his cab. There wasn’t enough room in the boot for everyone’s luggage, but the driver had a bungee cord to tie it down half open.

We didn’t drive far before all the buildings were covered in graffiti – when I say covered I mean from ground level to as high as a tall person can reach and hardly a spot was unpainted. The driver stopped to drop off the Australian passengers at a ropey looking hotel in a run down area, Glyn said to me “I bet those Aussies were hoping this stop was ours!” But not too far away in a similar area, it was our stop.

We booked to stay in the hotel Sparta for four nights and it’s very cheap at €22 per night (Glyn’s Lonely Planet guide thinks €80 is cheap!). We do have our own bathroom, aircon, wifi and even a large balcony with a view of a back alley!

So with our dead of night arrival, we didn’t get up until gone 11. The street where we are staying had become quite lively. We walked to Plata Omonoias to catch the tube, getting lost on the way. The tubes are pretty easy to use as they have signage in English and they have cool marble floors. In fact, a lot of pavements, platforms and stairs are made of marble here, I’m pretty impressed as I’m sure that even here that stuff is expensive.

We went to Monastiraki where there’s a flea market. The first thing that I saw upon leaving the tube station was old Greek stuff in the foreground and the Acropolis sitting on a hill behind it. We shared some frozen greek yoghurt with honey (yum!) and then entered the crowded flea market. To start with, the items being sold were straight out of Camden Market with big goth boots and army gear. Further into the market was bric-a-brac with all sorts of crap that’s interesting to look at, but who actually buys it?

We carried on around, stopping for an icecream for me and coffee for Glyn – the icecream was so well presented, I needed to take photos and it’s rude to do that without buying….

Alongside the market were fenced off areas of Greek ruins and railway tracks running along next to them. There’s quite the mix of old ruins next to modern stuff covered in graffiti here in Athens.

We happened upon Hadrian’s Library and thought we’d best see it as it is old Greek stuff. For €12 each, we could buy us a ticket that gets us into 7 Greek old places within four days, including the Acropolis. Bargain. The library would be impressive if it wasn’t for the Acropolis overlooking it from up above, how could it compete with that?

So we thought we’d better get the Acropolis done, it was getting on for 3pm, so hopefully cooler to get climbing up that baked hill.

We took a tube to Acropoli and there was bugger all signage to the actual Acropolis, so we ended up at the museum. Nothing tells you that you can get up to the Acropolis through the Theatre of Dionysos so we took a massive detour around the hill. But it was an interesting detour. I was getting worried that I’d not seen any Greek cats as yet, but sure enough on the back streets we saw a young beggar with a black kitten that was purring. I gave the guy €1 so I could photograph the kitten and him. We wandered semi-lost through the graffitied back streets past cool looking bars and cafes and came upon a plethora of cats!!! There was one tabby kitten that let me stroke it and I was photographing the cats when an old guy came along with a massive bag of cat biscuits – oh the howling!! Happy cats!

Eventually we found the Acropolis and yeah, it’s pretty impressive. There’s not much information about it, so I’ll have to read up about what I’ve seen later. Typically, it was being repaired and was covered in scaffolding.

Whatever old historic place I go to, I generally find cats: I found a ginger kitten at El Jem, a white and tabby on the Great Wall of China and a cat eating a kebab at Petra. So the Parthenon was no let down as I found three cats sleeping in the shade near to the security hut, and one let me stroke it.

We wandered around the Acropolis for a few hours, getting annoyed by numpty tourists who stand still grinning in the way when people around them are trying to take photos. There were boyfriends taking photos of girlfriends who thought they were posing.

We walked out past the Theatre of Herodes Atticus and past the Theatre of Dionysos, because we knew we could. And met a very vocal black cat at the bottom. It was gone 5.30pm at this point and apart from yoghurt and icecream, we had not eaten all day, so we walked past the beggar with the cute kitten again and headed towards the local looking type cafes. We found a traditional family restaurant that served 5 Greek dishes out of a choice of 18, bread, a drink (a small carafe of red wine for me!) mineral water and a dessert for two. All for €28, and it was lovely, apart from the dessert which I cannot describe,only to say it was awful.

Glyn couldn’t eat all his calamari, so I took some in a napkin to give to some cats in a nearby square until I was usurped by a local lady carry a bag of biscuits that she was dishing out with a wooden spoon. So I took my calamari to the loud black cat I’d met earlier near the Theatre of Dionysos, and he was most grateful as he should be – even my cats at home don’t get squid!

We walked back to the tube station and saw the kitten beggar man, looking a less down and out than he did earlier, with a bag full of nice looking food, having a picnic with a lady friend and the kitten was on a lead. Hmmmm.

When we were waiting for the tube, Mr Kitten beggar walked passed us again getting onto the tube, with no kitten! It was probably with his lady friend. And there was me thinking he was a lonely homeless beggar with only a loyal kitten for a friend – I think not!

We took a couple of tubes to Evangelismos from where we walked a steady uphill to Lykavittos Hill. This area reminded me of the walk up to Coit Tower in San Francisco. It was very steep with parts of the pavement becoming steps. The sun was beginning to set as we became mildly lost, but a Greek passer by put us on the right track. Lykavittos Hill is the highest in Athens and just has a small cafe and church at the top. I’d read in my guide that Greeks go up there to watch the sun go down, or some such romantic twaddle.

We got to the top and there was a christening taking place, plus swathes of tourists. It is a great view of the city and we could see the sea. Soon the sun went completely down and the Acropolis was lit up.

We walked down in the dark and took the tube back to Omonoias and walked through the slightly rough part of town, looking for our hotel. We came across a half demolished building, so naturally I decided to photograph it, but some guy passing by, carrying a satellite dish over his head grabbed me, warning me, it was “not good”. After walking down the full length of the street the wrong way, we turned around and eventually found our hotel, getting back for about 10.30, totally knackered and needing showers.


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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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