Athens: One of the most sought after travel destinations worldwide.
Now that I’ve been there, the only way I would make a return visit is for a brief stop-over in the airport or possibly for a connection to a bus or ferry to get to one of the 200 Greek Islands.
One disadvantage of being last minute travelers is having to take whatever is offered for flights and lodging. This type of travel would not work for some, I suppose, but for us this is the only way to go.
Our flight into Athens arrived at 3:00 in the morning. We had no euros for transportation to the hotel but were fortunate to find a money exchange that was open since no American dollars are accepted. We had previously searched online for Athens transportation options. After finding that a taxi from the airport to the downtown area could be around $50, we decided to look further. The best travel seemed to be the X95 Bus that makes trips to and from the airport to downtown Athens. It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ,taking 45 minutes to get downtown – – not a lot of difference in time than a taxi would have taken. The cost for the two of us was 12 euros, which was about $15, with a drop off point in Syntagama Square, only a short distance to the place we were staying. We probably could have walked to the hotel, but being in an unknown area and at that hour, we decided to take a taxi. We found out later during our stay that we had made a wise decision.
We decided that our first stop should be the Acropolis, along with a visit to the museum. We were able to walk to most of the points of interest from our hotel but the walk to the Acropolis was a little over a mile. To save energy for the climb and walk around the Acropolis, we decided to take a subway to get there.
We both enjoyed the walk through time, seeing the work of past architects, sculptors and artists, feeling the history and energies of the past all around. As for this part of Athens I felt it an honor to be here, but we soon found out that the rest of the city was not quite as inviting.
I found very little English spoken in this area, which was surprising as well as disappointing. In my past travels I have relied on locals to give me tips on the best points of interest and things to see, rather than relying on the highly advertised tourist areas. Since we had no inside information we decided to take one of several sightseeing bus tours, hoping not to miss anything while touring the city. While taking a break on the tour and waiting for the next bus we decided to have a cup of tea at one of the street side cafe’s. The biggest surprise came with the bill. The tea was 5.50 euros per cup or about $7. We found the same high prices at most of the restaurants as well.
Another deciding factor as to whether we stayed in Athens or moved on to our next stop was the area in general. The signs of criminal activity are all around. Graffiti is everywhere, even on government buildings. We saw the police chasing a young man, throwing him to the ground and putting him in handcuffs. On our last afternoon in Athens we were on our way back to the hotel when suddenly I felt a little something at my side. I looked down to find a young thug’s hand in my purse with my cell phone half way out. A natural instinct turned me into “Granny Clampett,” which he did not see coming. He seemed a bit shocked and backed off even though he had other young men waiting in the background. I felt very lucky that the incident went no further and certainly did not want to push my luck. I reported the incident to the hotel, only to have the hotel clerk tell me that was a common occurrence in the city.
It was time to leave Athens!