ATHINA The Hotel Palladium cost 4,000 DR1 (£20-00) but it was worth it to get 8 hours’ sleep and after a shower we packed up and left our packs downstairs.
The streets of Athens are wide (they have to be with drivers as bad as the Greeks seem to be!) and clean. Our first stop was at a bank where we changed £100-00 for 26,000DR. We walked up to the main square near which most of the travel company offices are located and after a bit of a look around we went to an office and bought tickets on a ferry to Paros Island2 in the Cyclades group for 4,200DR each. The ferry was due to depart from Pareus (Athens’ port) at 5pm which left us most of the day to fill in so we walked up to the Acropolis.
What a beautiful and awe-inspiring place it is. Sited on a hill overlooking the centre of Athens it stands as a testament to the building technology possessed by the ancient Greeks at a time, 2,500 years ago, when the tribes of Britain were still living in grass huts and using primitive iron implements.
The approach to the base of the hill led through a maze of narrow streets lined with souvenir stalls. Once out of the built up area we walked to the right, under the cliffs upon which the Acropolis is built, then up a series of flights of smooth marble steps to the first part of the Acropolis complex: the Amphitheatre. Dropping away steeply below us the original amphitheatre has been rebuilt and is still used for performances today. Down on the stage some ballet dancers were rehearsing in the blazing sunshine. Further round the base of the hill the partially buried remains of an even older amphitheatre were being slowly uncovered by archaeologists.
By using our YHA “student” ID cards3 we gained access to the Acropolis for ½ price and climbed the steep and slippery marble steps between the huge marble columns through which, thousands of years ago, berobed ancients passed on their way into the temple.
There are three main buildings on the windswept top of the hill, in a reasonable state of preservation, but still undergoing a complete rebuilding programme at present. There is a museum with some beautiful examples of early Greek sculpture and a lookout with beautiful views of the city and the surrounding hills.
We spent about an hour up there then followed another maze of back streets down to the main square and back to the hotel to collect our packs. The travel agent had told us that the best way to get to Pareaus was by train so we plotted a route to the station, swung up our packs and began walking. It was siesta (2:30-5:00) so there weren’t many people around but the trains were crowded with people going home. The trip took about 20 minutes and after another 20 minutes of searching at the port we found our ferry: the Golden Vergina.
We had an hour to fill in before sailing so we had a beer at a sidewalk café then boarded the boat and found a comfy place on our 3rd Class deck to sit on.
The voyage, which took 5 hours, landing us at Parikia at 10:30PM, was pretty boring although we did see our first Greek sunset while sheltering from the cool sea breeze which sprang up in the late afternoon. The sun, a brilliant crimson orb, left hazy images on our retinas as it dipped slowly behind a small island and darkness followed quickly.
As we were waiting to disembark at the stern of the ship, a lady came up to me and asked if we were looking for a room. She wanted 1,500 DR which isn’t a lot, £5 or so, so we accepted and made our way off the ship through a crowd of touts offering rooms to the other passengers and walked up to the town’s main square about 150 metres from the wharf.
The lady’s house was up a narrow, white-washed side street and the room was quite nice, with a double bed and adjoining toilet and shower. We left our packs there and went out into the warm night to find a place to have tea which wasn’t a hard task at all. We had a salad and a beer each then wandered back to our room.
1 The Drachma is the Greek currency.
2 We chose Paros quite at random. Linda closed her eyes and placed a finger on a map of Greece. Paros was the island she pointed to and it turned out to be amazing!
3 We used this ruse successfully throughout our travels: pretending that our YHA cards were student ID cards in order to gain discounts.