Friday, May 16, 2014

A shaky start to our Athens visit

Moving from Santorini to Athens, we had (as usual) the choice of the faster, more expensive routes (fly or express boat) or the slower, more economical way.
Farewell Santorini..
..hello, Athens!

This is the tale of our 8-hour ferry ride to Athens, and how we got lost on our way to our accommodation..
The fun began with the ferry. We got to the port by buses from our accommodation, which is an interesting experience in Greece.

The level of semi-organised chaos was quite hectic and easily solvable by adding specified stop platforms for the buses (just spray paint some numbers on the ground, folks!) and the desperate travellers will stop asking the staff every two minutes ...

Anyway, given the low odds of someone in Fira town's bus management reading this, let's move along, shall we?

We got onto the ferry after waiting in the waiting room along with a couple of hundred other people. It was another Blue Star Ferries ferry, twin to the one that had brought us from Kos.
It was much the same in terms of layout and comfort, but we moved seats twice in the first 10 minutes on board, looking for the magical combination of comfort, view, and convenience (available power socket? check! toilet nearby? check!).

Having settled in, the ferry journey began. The first hour or so was quite calm, but soon the swell grew a little, and some waves splashed water up to our windows.

Naomi is a little sensitive vis-a-vis motion, so the bumpiness was growing a little uncomfortable for her.
When the cafe waiter came around with the seasickness bags as a precautionary measure, she started feeling even worse.
So for many, many hours, Naomi bravely fought her own battle against the seas, and as we pulled into Piraeus, the port of Athens, she had won. The bags remained, unused, on the table.

We had already decided that the best way to get to our AirBnB apartment was by taxi, especially given the hour of our arrival - past midnight.
So we jumped in a cab at the port, and found ourselves in a car with a chatty Greek lady at the wheel - she drove by several sights on the way to drop us off.

She was very nice, and dropped us at the address we'd been given.

It and the map leading us there were both wrong.

Double fail!!

Yes, after midnight, more like 1am, and we were on the streets of Athens, heavy bags on our backs, fronts and sides, and with no idea where the right address was.

We had asked for a map to the apartment, and one had been supplied. We were at the location of the map, but there was noone waiting for us as promised.
We rang a doorbell at the apartment building we were standing outside and where (as far as we could tell) the name was close to the AirBnB host's name.

At 1am, some poor Greek lady came out of her apartment, to be faced with two tired and lost travellers who spoke no Greek. In many countries, this would have been the cause of some yelling, expletives and possibly thrown objects.
This lady, though wary, tried to help us as best she could, pointing us in the direction of going down another street with a similar name "on the other side of the church". There was a church right there, so we wandered over to the street on its far side, and tried to find the appropriate building number again.


No go. We had either missed something in the explanation (we were quite tired), she had given mistaken information (it was after 1am and she had just been dragged from her bed) or it got lost in translation somewhere...

Either way, we were still on the dark streets of central Athens in the middle of the night.

We walked a little more, trying to follow further interpretations of the directions, and saw a cafe that was still open. After initially strolling past, we returned and asked for help. The waiter misunderstood the address we wanted to go to and almost sent us "five minutes" in one direction to the nearby Olympic stadium!
We were awake enough to catch that error, and he checked with his colleague and then pointed us "five minutes" in the exact opposite direction. This was back towards where we'd come from, so we felt we must be close to our destination.

We walked, but the building numbers didn't agree with the instructions - we wanted them to decrease as we walked, but they incremented instead.. sigh - we were still lost...

We found number 10 (where nobody was waiting for us) and searched for the name... nope (it was all Greek to us!!), and no numbers listed on the board, either.
So we pressed a (large) random selection of buzzers, waited a minute or two, then walked on..
As no cries of outrage followed us, we assume that all occupants were heavy sleepers..

Another pool of light ahead - a restaurant still open, and in fact with guest just ordering their meals. At 1am! Gotta love European late diners.
We asked the staff for help. One of them got his mobile and we dug out the contact phone number of the AirBnB host, called it and spoke briefly with her, and then figured it would be smarter to let the staff work with her to figure out where we were and needed to go.
This worked. She gave them the information and they gave us the directions to go.
"Right at the second street, first left then it's the first street you reach. Someone will meet you there".

We thanked them profusely (they had even given us water as we were dying on our feet), apologised to the (very friendly and understanding) diners whom we had interrupted mid-order (they were from Kos, we said we loved Kos, all was well), then set out to follow these directions.

The directions were...


We followed them, found the street, and as we wondered where our meeting person was, a little car pulled up with a lady inside.
She came over and was the AirBnB host's mum, who we'd expected to meet us outside the apartment about an hour ago. We felt a little sorry for her, being out looking for lost tourists in the middle of the night, all because of bad directions/map.

But in the end, the apartment was cosy and convenient, the bed comfortable, especially so since we were somewhat weary after the long journey and the stressful apartment-hunt.


We had reached Athens, the cradle of modern civilization and origin of democracy. We set the alarm for early the next morning, as we had some serious sight-seeing to do!

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