Oct.13.2010, Piraeus to Athens

luggage storage area Hotel Attalos basement

0500 overcast, muggy, 30 C, started to spit later.  On the Festos Palace ferry, woke up and saw some lights on the coast going by.  0530 felt/heard the ferry docking.  I was mostly awake since then but stayed in my upper bunk until 0630.  Then up and first one into the washroom.  0700 we all went to floor 6 for a la carte restaurant breakfast but it was empty and they weren’t serving.  Maybe they meant it was open from 0600 to 0700 for breakfast when I enquired last night, but that would have been too early for us anyways.  0730 left the ferry.  We were looking for the port shuttle bus which was supposed to be 3E each but no sign of it or of anything that looked like a bus pick up spot, so took a taxi for 10E for all of us, about 2 km to the metro station.

TAXIS!  When we looked confused looking for the port shuttle at Piraeus, about 4 taxi drivers approached us and asked where we were headed.  We said metro station.  They offered to drive us into Athens.  I said no thanks.  Then when we started to walk away they said that the metro line was under repair, referring vaguely to 3 or 4 breaks in the line.  Once again they suggested we should use a taxi to get into Athens.  I said we would still take the metro and take our chances.  Then they offered to take us to the metro station for 10E.  That’s a lot for 2 km. but less than the port shuttle, and we didn’t know where we were going – no map for this area.  It was only once we were inside the station that I was convinced that we were at the right place and not just dropped off randomly in Piraeus.  Even so, the taxi dropped us off across the street instead of in front of the station.  Not too courteous.  We later found out that one portion of the metro line was under repair, beyond Monastiraki station which was our destination.

At the metro station we bought our tickets, they are cheaper here into Athens than the metro from the airport.  We had a couple of minutes of confusion as there were 2 sets of tracks and the trains had different numbers on the front of them.  Had to ask twice, then found out that both trains go to the Monastiraki station.

Once the metro train started moving, they only called out the name of the first stop and none of the subsequent stops.  Also, the overhead notice board only identified the first stop and no others.  So we watched closely.  Of course, the train filled up and became very crowded leading to some anxiety as to whether or not we could get off at our stop at Monastiraki.  As it turned out, that was as far as the train went due to the repair work beyond that point.  However, I had told the taxi drivers that we were going to Monastiraki, so they likely knew that the metro line was open as far as we needed to go.

0830 We found our way out of Monastiraki station up into the square with the old basilica church.  Then we spotted an open front cafe that was open for breakfast.  Omelettes all around and 2 cups of “filter coffee” for each of us.  It turns out it was 3.80E for each cup of coffee!  Ouch!  But it was good.  Stayed there until 1000.  Went up Athenas street about 4 blocks to the Attalos Hotel.  They told us we could check in at noon.  It turned out that the safe luggage storage area was a hot dark corner in the basement.  Left the luggage and walked up Ermou St. to Syntagma square.  Watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 1100.  Up Amalia Ave for a couple of blocks then turned into Plaka.  Ended up by Hadrian’s Library then went through Monastiraki and back to our hotel for check in.  Hotel questions in Greece:

“Tap water safe to drink?”   “Of course”
“Toilet paper in the toilet?”  “No, wastebasket”
“Buffet breakfast included?” “No, 8E” (turned out it was 8E for a couple, a great deal!”
“Weather forecast?”   “Only the gods know”

1200 Checked into rooms 304 and 305.  Rooms are small but clean including bathroom.  The balcony overlooks Athena St.  Richard had bought a shirt on Adrianou Ave. earlier, that turned out to be far too small.  So he and I left the girls at the hotel and we went back to return it, following a different route.  It started to spit rain while we were out.  I had a street vendor lamb gyro wrap for lunch – delicious, with lots of tsatziki.

1400 raining steadily, muggy, 30C.  Down to floor 1 1/2. Free internet.  Chrystal and Lindsay are travelling to Crete today to stay at “the Galaxy” probably in Iraklion.  Then brought my journal up to date while listening to the rain.  1420.

1430 rain stopped.  1500 Out on the street figuring out what to do if it rains tomorrow = museums.  Debbie keeps saying she wants to go to the Acropolis today .  We keep reminding her that it’s closed today for a strike.  Forecast tomorrow is for hard rain.  Planning hop on / hop off (hoho) bus at about noon so we can go to the Acropolis Friday morning possibly, if rain interferes on Thursday.

Went back to Monastiraki square and then into the flea market.  Stopped for gyro pitas for the other 3 (I had one earlier).  Then through the flea market and found the only Irish pub in Athens.  Back up along the tram line which is clearly cutting through old ruins.  Saw the Stoa of Attalos and decided to go in .  Talked a lot about getting the 12E pass but as the Acropolis might remain closed, picked up the 4E single entry.  Saw all of the Agora area to Hephaistion which looks like a temple but was dedicated to metal workers, potters and craft artisans.  Stayed to closing at 1800.  Richard got whistled at by a grounds watcher, for standing on an ancient rock.  28 C, still humid.

Wandered into Plaka until Debbie mentioned she wanted to go to the Irish pub to see if they had a cider.  Well, that was pretty much back tracking over the entire afternoon walk.   But guess what, they did have a cider for her – a Magners from Tipperary and I had a Kilkenny.  Richard had a Heineken.  Kathy had H2O.

After dinner, walked back along Ermou St. which in this part looks seedy after sundown.  Back to the hotel, regrouped and went up to the rooftop bar.  A great view of the Acropolis lit up at night.  Sat on the rooftop patio, journaled, read Athens tourist guides, conversation, wrote down our impressions.  Jim had a Mythos, took pictures.  Warm and comfortable.  2045 all caught up in the journal.

Impressions, all of us:  hectic with cab transfers, metro, all the luggage, good breakfast, 8E coffee, muggy, graffiti, floodlights, high points, many rocks, dirty, not as clean as Istanbul, rude taxi driver, rooftop garden awesome view, pitas in the Plaka, Irish pub, street signs (available here, unavailable in Istanbul), ruins everywhere, free ruins, like Rome that way, people here for many thousands of years, the luggage storage area, rooms are good, views, small lobby, goose stepping pom poms, dirty pigeons whacked Debbie in the face, bead alley, tight parking, nice ferry cruise, got on boat early which was appreciated, it’s a blur.

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