|Subject: Trip Report Athens (long)|
My sister in law Jean and I started our trip to Greece and Turkey in Athens
on May 11th. We had read that Athens is a one day city, the main attractions
to be seen as quickly as possible before heading for the islands. All
I can tell you is that we had three days there, the third being the day
of the general strike and could happily have stayed longer.
The Adams Hotel is perfectly located on the edge of the Plaka within walking distance of the Acropolis, Syntagma, Monastiraki etc. At $60 US per night the price was right too but the condition of the lobby, cafe and rooms can only be described as shabby but clean.
We couldn't imagine staying anywhere other than Plaka, we loved wandering the narrow winding streets, looking in the shops and galleries and visiting the Byzantine churches with their frescoes, icons and incense. In the absence of any local knowledge we choose restaurants solely on the charm of the waiters stationed out front to draw us to their tables. Sorry all you gourmet Ziners out there but this system worked for us. Every evening a diminutive nine year old with the voice of Kiri Te Kanawa reduced us to tears with her rendition of Italian operatic arias. Of course the wine may have had something to so with it too.
The Acropolis of course is a must, in spite of the scaffolding. I especially liked the Erechthelon with it's six Caryatid maidens holding up the portico. This warranted a whole roll of film. The museum on the site is refreshingly unsophisticated. Amongst the sculptures and sections of frieze on display are the original Caryatids, the ones I had photographed being copies. With preparations for the Olympiad of 2004 well on the way sidewalks everywhere are under construction or repair.
Saturday evening walking back from Syntagma Square we were drawn by a carillon to a small Russian Orthodox church where a sung high Mass was about to begin. We stood in the aisle at the back with a congregation of six women. Enchanted by the singing, the opulent surroundings and the quiet piety of the women we stood amongst them for 90 minutes. The priest constantly circled the church showering us with clouds of incense. We wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Sunday morning at 10.45 we were back at Syntagma at the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the parliament building (formerly the palace). The elite Evzone soldiers mount guard here daily. They are chosen for their height and a talent for looking manly while wearing tights and short pleated skirts. On Sundays the whole guard turn out for a special changing of the guard ceremony. Accompanied by a band they high stepped their way along the streets, hob nailed sarouchi shoes tapping along the pavement, pom poms swinging. A short ceremony followed, the new guard going through the ritual change over before taking up their positions either side of the tomb. The old guard joined the rest and marched quickly away. Like the guards at Buckingham Palace they stand to attention hardly seeming to breath despite the best efforts of female tourists to distract them. Daily on the half hour they change ends and on the hour are relieved by a new guard.
The only problem we had in Athens was getting good basic tourist information. The tourist information office closed for the weekend at 4.00pm on Friday and didn't reopen until Monday. The owners of our hotel were woefully ignorant about their city. Sending us to the tourist office after it had closed for the weekend, up the Acropolis for a non existent sound and light show and having no knowledge of the changing of the guard on Sunday mornings. Mind you we had to ask everyone we met before we found someone who could tell us the correct time for that.
Having been assured by numerous people that the general strike scheduled for Thursday/Friday would not affect our travel plans in any significant way we hailed a taxi and headed for the bus station enroute to Delphi.
Sue Wright Toronto ON