This will be the last post from Athens, because today we pick the bike up from the port of Piraeus to set off on our travels in ernest! The port of Piraeus, is the largest sea port in Greece, one of the largest in the Mediterranean sea basin, and one of the top ten container ports in Europe……. So quite large really!
So what has happened the last couple of days I hear you ask????
Easter Sunday started well with an unexpected visit from the Easter bunny (darned clever rascally rabbit) and a good breaky. After a call to wish all our kids & grandkids a Happy Easter, it was good to catch up with them, we set off to explore more of Athens. Headed up to the little white ‘church on the hill’ that we can see from our hotel, or indeed anywhere in Athens. The white washed chapel of Georgios sits atop, the highest hill in Athens at some 900 feet, and is a visible landmark from all over the city of Athens This orthodox chapel, dedicated to St. George, was built in the nineteenth century and replaced an older Byzantine church dedicated to the prophet Elias. This is the same hill where we heard/ saw the canon fire that was celebrating Greek Independence Day, on our first night in Athens.
It was such a steep walk that we opted for a taxi up the steepest part – it cost us the princely sum of 3 euro! We gestimate the same ride in Melbourne would be $20. It was still quite a steep walk up the last little way, but worth every bit of it for the view. The panoramic view of Athens was quite spectacular, and one can see as far as Piraeus. This tiny greek orthodox church is not that old by European standards and at the time of visiting, there were two priests hearing confessions. One elderly lady in the church gave us some olive branches, which we left beside a picture of Our Lady, after lighting a candle for each of the boys. It was very sad however to see that this special and sacred place had also been graffitied – such little respect for this beautiful and sacred place is sad. It is visible from all over the city and offers great views over the Acropolis and the city of Athens.
We had a coffee (of course) before heading back down the mountain. No issues with going down, and just like on the island of Hydra, we did so in quick order…. well not quite like Hydra, we did not have the urgency this time.. thank goodness. Span even stopped and picked a poppy for me for Easter … bless! The wild flowers on the way down were spectacular as we followed the winding dirt pathway, rather than the road, downwards. Found a toilet in the street on the way down…. Great pic of Span!
Once down the mountain, we headed back towards the city and low and behold, and much to Span’s delight, we came across the Athens Military museum. The entry fee was three euro, however because it was a Sunday, it was free….. Yeah! What a fabulous display it was, dating from the Spartans through to 1941. The exhibits included pictures & films, weaponry (spears, clubs, axes, knives, swords, guns, rifles, machine guns, cannon, planes etc.. etc), uniforms, badges, medals, shields ….. and so the list goes on. They also had a brilliant collection of paintings, sketches & models depicting the different periods of war. One thing we did come to understand quite clearly is that Greece has had to fight a great deal during its history.
After a good hour or two at the museum, we headed back towards our hotel and stopped for a glass of wine, with Lou & Eric, before going out to tea with some of the group who will also be picking their bikes up at Piraeus from Dave and Maggie’s shipment.
Monday was a relaxed day, however by the end of the day, we had again walked .. and walked … and walked! We went to the Plaka (old town of Athens) to look for Easter gifts for the grandkids. There are several streets in the flea market that have soooooooo many shops and stalls, including a huge antique area. Had a quick coffee here, before shopping in earnest. As we were walking, one trader heard us talking and called out ‘Aussies’….. he was so happy when we stopped for a chat, and couldn’t pull out hs wallet quickly enough. From it he produced an old $1 note in a plastic pocket, and with big grin told us that it was given to him by his uncle, who lived in Fitzroy…… it was from his first pay packet in Australia. He also confirmed what we have heard so many times….that Melbourne is regarded as the third Greek city…. after Athens & Thessaloniki. I asked if his uncle had worked at the CUB brewery….. and yep… he did! He laughingly also said that in Australia, most Greeks lived on a corner …. ‘so they can turn it into a fish and chip shop’! It was interesting to hear him proudly say that Australia is regarded as a land of opportunity and that the first Greek migrants were hard working in factories etc, and that new younger generations are now more educated/ academic. He spoke of Australia with a lot of warmth and enthusiasm.
Off we set again and found a small oil painting we liked. They are so mass produced but we do not care, it will be a small and lovely reminder of our time in Athens. Found the Easter gifts for the grandkids and settled at a little restaurant for a lunch of kebabs and a glass of wine while we wrote on their post cards. A large glass of wine is the princely sum of one euro.
Next stop the post office, to package and post the gifts. What a hoot … we speak NO Greek… and they speak NO English. Span opted to ‘take a seat’ and looked rather bemused by the gesticulating etc, however we did succeed in obtaining padded post bags & posting ‘our treasures’. Span clearly became a wee bit tired, because as I turned round back to him, ‘having done all the hard yards at the post office counter’…… there he was sound asleep! The lady behind the counter broke into laughter & blew him a kiss!!!
Off back to the hotel for a light tea and some catch up ‘stuff’. Went up to the restaurant on the top floor for an evening drink and to enjoy the night vista over the Temple of Zeuth and the Acropolis. Just so spectacular and relaxing.
Tuesday, we spent catching up on washing and packing up ready to leave the next morning. One more night of luxury, before reality bites, and the fun begins in earnest!
After sorting all our gear, we headed for the bike shops as Span wanted a new pair of wet weather pants. Went to our favourite bike shop (Moto Market), where Big John again looked after us, yet again and so very well. After that, a quick coffee, then back to the hotel for final packing & hoping the washing was dry….. Thankfully it was!
There were 23 bikes to be unloaded, so Dave & Maggie (of Get Routed – bike shippers) called a meeting at their hotel, to get everyone sorted. We were all to meet there at 8.45am the next morning …. all packed & ready to go. Dave organised a bus to get us all to the port of Piraeus to unload and collect our bikes. Dave and Maggie are great! They will arrange for our carry on luggage to go back to Felixtowe in England, where we can pick it up on our return leg in 2016!
So many motor bikes, scooters, 4 wheelers, taxis and traffic in general in Athens – still can’t quite get used to the sight of so many people riding bikes, scooters, 4 wheelers with no helmets on!
Wednesday … Our last day in Athens was a very cold one indeed. Up for a very early breaky and check out. It was a five euro taxi trip to Dave and Maggie’s hotel where we were to catch the bus…. brrrrrrrrr…….. Extremely cold, windy and very grey skies, apparently most unseasonal for this time of year. Whilst it was cold and windy, it did not rain (thankfully), so unloading went smoothly & it was not long before everyone was packed and ready to go. We said our goodbyes, then Span & I, Dave, Maggie & Ray all set off to pick up our ferry tickets and hunker down with a coffee and catch up on writing, whilst we waited for the ferry to take us to Crete – 10pm departure, with overnight sailing and arrival at Crete at around 7am on Thursday morning