The “puddle jumper” prop plane that I boarded at Istanbul, Turkey to Athens, Greece was gratefully, short and uneventful. Upon exiting the plane, I was shocked to find our 20-30 passengers in line for Customs and Immigration and no one else. OK, sometimes that happens. Umm, yeah right. Maybe it happens in Timbuktu, Mali or some other backwater place. Athens? Wow! Upon exiting the Customs and Immigration area, it didn’t change. No one was around. Sheesh, had the economy gone that far south? Was this the result of austerity? No tourists? It was Sunday, but that didn’t explain the paucity of people in the airport. When I boarded the metro train to my hotel, it was the same thing – very few people. This didn’t change for at least 3-4 stops, then people – Greek people started boarding the train I was on. Granted, by the time I reached Syntagma Square (the main tourist area), the train was packed, but not with tourists. I felt like an alien on Mars. LOL.
So, that was my first impression of Athens. The tourists have left. Lucky me. I will get back to this subject in a bit, but let me backtrack a bit and introduce you to a wonderful person I met on the plane. Adrian Albu, is a Romanian gentleman, who sort of “adopted” me. Translation? He was instrumental in saving me 30-40 Euros by showing me the “ropes” of the transportation system in Athens, i.e., how to use the metro train system, which is an excellent deal at 8 Euros, compared to the outrageous taxi fare I would have paid without his help. He also helped me find my hotel too. Actually, he personally took me to my hotel, after we made a stop at his hotel to drop off his bags. Having traveled 2/3 of the way around the world, I know from experience that I saved at least an hour or two by allowing myself to be led my him. Why did I do that? Perhaps his business card which said, Deputy Secretary General, Union Of Road Transport Associations In the BSEC/URTA; and a Senior Road Transport Expert in the International Road Transport Union. Umm . . . Easy call, huh?
After checking in at the Lotus Hotel, I took a shower and took a nap. By the way, if you ever travel to Athens, consider this hotel as your accommodations. In my opinion, it is an outstanding value at 40 Euro per night. The first five nights I have free (of course, I had to spend about 40 gazillion frequent flyer miles to do that. Grin). Anywho, do your due dilligence at TripAdvisor or another site that you trust and you will understand why I am recommending this hotel. I am still sick with the flu (or some sort crud that has stuck with me for over a week now). Regardless, I woke an hour later and was energetic and wanted to explore a bit, before meeting up with Adrian for a late pre-planned dinner. Although I didn’t see too much in the way of ancient ruins my 1st day – for which Greece is famous – I did see some interesting stuff.
I visited Syntagma Square, where there have been many protests in recent years by the Greek people toward their government, mostly regarding the economy. In the cradle of Democracy, I think this is overall, a very good thing and is indicative of a free and democratic society. However, free speech does not extend to violence toward anyone, nor damaging monuments and historical sites, e.g., there was significant graffitti. I indicated earlier that there weren’t a lot of tourists in Athens. You could tell that the restaurants and shops are having a difficult time. It was quite obvious that the protests are keeping people away. This is the start of the high season and perhaps, the below average weather is partially responsible. My friend Adrian, who has visited Greece many times before, said no, it has to do with the economic problems in Greece. No one wants to visit Greece and have a strike paralyze the transportation system (which has happened frequently in the past few years due to this economic crisis). I have no answers, but in my opinion, what the government is doing right now is not working.
I included a few photos of my 2nd and 3rd day visit to the Acropolis, Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library. However, I will likely do a more extensive post about those ancient historical sites in a future post. Take care, Steve . . .