Thu 07.04.2011 – today is the birthday of our oldest grandchild, William Darcy SCHNEIDER. Will, happy 7th birthday. We sent his mum, our daughter Stacey, an SMS wishing Will a happy birthday. We then bought a hop on hop off bus ticket and set about checking out Athens. Both of us studied Ancient History at Higher School Certificate level and were keen to see for ourselves that the fuss was all about. Firstly we stopped and had breakfast of toast & honey then coffee with a view of the Acropolis. We were not disappointed. We started with the Ancient Agora (market place), the Odeon Herodes Atticus (a theatre)
then walked to the top of the Acropolis. It’s a bloody steep climb! The top provides a spectacular view of the city of Athens,
which we kindly shared with about 2,000 other folk who were there at the same time.
Generous of us we thought.
Kerrie noticed that half of the people there appeared to be Greek kids on a school excursion.
Being a "chalkie" of renown, Kerrie’s keen eye detected the diligent teachers in their correct places, one each at the front and rear of the line of students who were matched in a line two at a time. She also spied two little “Aristoles” at the end of the line not paying attention to the guide and then being chastised by their teacher – some things never change! She even found herself doing a head count when the students trooped by on their way to receive the next piece of vital information from their patient tour guide. Greg’s comment was, “Well it doesn’t matter if they don’t pay attention now because they will probably be back here in 10 years anyway as tour guides as most people in Greece seem to have something to do with the tourist industry.” Kerrie’s response was typically teacher, “No, if you don’t pay attention now, then the good jobs will go to those who do!”
After hoofing it for about 4 hours we decided to take a well earned spell (we are old after all) by using our previously purchased hop on hop off bus ticket – only thing was we didn’t do much hopping off! The bus route followed a designated route throughout the city passing by 14 major tourist sites.
The bus also had headphones with English translation so we at least knew what was what when we drove past sites. We did the circuit almost twice, getting off for a late lunch and then a stroll through the city market place. OH & S doesn't appear to exist in Athens, the market place had rows and rows of unrefrigerated meat on display, all handled with ungloved mits.
Oh well - viva la difference!
We noticed that Athens has a plethora of motorbikes & scooters of all kinds, makes & models, similar to Rome. Aside from a mega variety of scooters; the bikes of choice seem to be the Honda 1000cc Varedero, the Honda 650cc Transalp, the Suzuki VStrom both 650cc & 1000cc and the Yamaha TDM 1000cc. The traffic is chaotic, but controlled in its own weird kind of way. Parking for bikes/scooters is never a problem; any place on the footpath will do as long as pedestrians can get by.
It seems to work exceptionally well and we could learn a thing or two. There seems to be a ratio of two bikes/scooters for three cars which makes for interesting traffic flow as the two wheeled version tends to go wherever it likes! We also noticed that begging is common on the streets of Athens. Female Gypsys were easy to pick by their coloured floral clothing; they usually tried to sell you something like a floral arrangement of wild flowers or they played music for a donation. Greg is a soft touch and will give whatever coins he has. Kerrie has put him on a "beggars allowance" that he has to ration out. The photo following is of a man holding a baby with wife snuggled up beside. Sad state of affairs.
It was then back to the hotel to do some much needed laundry. Greg thinks it OK wear clothes for two days, after all in the Army, in the scrub two weeks without a change is the norm so what’s all the fuss about for 2 days? This doesn’t stack up too well with Kerrie and as Greg knows where his bread is buttered the laundry was always going to do according to her schedule!
Staying in the centre of Athens was against all we had previously planned for because Greg was adamant that he did not want to ride the hellish Athens traffic, especially since we would be arriving during late afternoon peak hour. But (yes but), Kerrie prevailed and persuaded Greg that we could negotiate our way safely and without drama through peak hour traffic and into our digs for the next two nights because we had, after all, ridden through both Rome & Paris in 2007 without mishap so what's the problem here? This rationale of staying close was based on her philosophy that once settled in we could then sight see by foot – much better than catching the Metro in each day from the burbs where we had planned to stay. Anyway, we checked in to the Lotus Hotel in downtown Athens, secured the 'Pommie Ducati’, then set off to explore the city on foot.