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Michael’s Travel Diary

Monday, 10 Apr 2006

Location: Athens, Greece

MapEntry 22 - Athens (8th - 10th April).

Howdy ya'll, coming to you live and well from Athens. It has occured to me that I never put any photos of the sunrise at Mt. Sinai up, nor the pictures of the 'burning bush' that I am sure you're all dying to see! Will get to it ASAP. But for now, onto Athens.

So, after everything that I had read, I was really sceptical about weather or not I'd like Athens. Well, blow me down, I love this shit! This place is great, and after a couple of days, I don't feel the need to leave (even though I am leaving). Maybe the monumental re-structuring of everything in the city before the 2004 Olympics has changed the city enough to make it more friendly to the traveller. It hasn't helped the rubbish situation though, with garbage just piled up on street corners, however, I did find out later that they are in the middle of a garbo strike. It is pretty ugly and nasty from time to time, and in certain areas though.

As mentioned in my previous email, I was sent into the right direction of the train station for the city from the airport. From the airport I had arranged accommodation at a place called Athens Backpackers. It is more expensive than alot of the going around, but it's a great place too. Why did I choose it? It got rated the 5th most popular hostel in the world last year, so I figured it was worth a look in.

The place is huge, with a fully stocked kitchen, 5 floors of bedrooms, a roof top bar, a fully serviced bar down stairs that is mega cheap (they make no money, it keeps the travellers happy and keeps the beds full). So yeah, the place is uber-clean too.

Anyway, I hadn't settled in long, found a grocery store to cook my own food (first time for the trip so far) and cooked up a couple egg sandwiches (bird flu - blah). Then this Russian born Canadian sticks his head in the kitchen or dining room and just says BASKETBALL? I look at him confused and hes says that he's headed to the local park to shoot some hoops and asked if I wanted to go. Why not?

Anyway, we wander down to this park, and all I can hear is basketballs bouncing. The place was packed. All these Greek guys playing ball. Next thing I know I am in a pick up game with 7 Greek guys. 4 on 4 with a half court. Now, I ain't no superstar on the basketball court, but can handle my own... I'm still trying to figure out how in the world Greece just won the European Championships. After a game to 21 by 1s, in which my team lost 21-19, we played a second game of 3-3, as two of the guys stopped playing. So the second game, after being down 20-19, I tied it at 20. The game then goes to first to 25... After going down 21-20, we scored the next 5 buckets to win 25-21. It is safe to say I never expected to be playing ball in Athens with a bunch of non-English speaking Greek blokes. Was pretty cool though, even if they were pretty much hacks and hit he most ugly looking 3-balls of all time. After the second game, I waited for the Russian-Canadian to finish his game and headed back to the hostel.

Now, being I was already buggered, the game didn't healp that at all. But by the time we git back, the bar was jumping with about 30 people in it. A few drinks later, and by midnight when they kicked everyone out of the bar, I for some reason decided to head to the club with everyone else - should have chosen sleep. Had a good time though, but the few beers and major lack of sleep was taking its toll. Anyway, headed off from the club, and got totally lost walking back to the hostel. TWO hours I wandered around, thinking I was getting closer, when I finally jumped in a cab and asked to be taken to the Metro station closest to the hostel. I was miles away, and obviously headed in the wrong direction!

A few hours sleep and I was back up the following morning. I headed to the Athens Archeaological Museum with a few people from the hostel and wandered around there for a few hours. It was okay, but by the end of it I had a case of "just another sculpted rock" syndrome. Headed back to the hostel and did some washing, then cooked dinner. A couple of people were headed out for dinner and I tagged along, going only for dessert. Man that was a bad idea. One apple pie with ice-cream and a sprite set me back 10 Euro... $17AUS. Glad I had eaten dinner already, and decided for sure I wouldnt be eating out again.

Had a quieter night last night, hitting a couple of bars and clubs, but didn't drink much at all. Woke up this morning and headed to the Acropolis. Now, after Jordan, man the peace and tranquility vanished in a hurry! I must have been stuck behind the United Geriatrics Travelling Team and man it sucked. There were thousands of people up there (and it's safe to say that I was shattered to hear that people were up there Sunday avo and got photos of the Parthenon with no-one in the way). The ruins were okay, but between the people and the scaffolding that was dominating the structure, it was actually a little disapoiting.

Then I headed of the rest of the 'tour' that my Acropolis admission ticket got me: The Acncient and Roman Agora's, The D (something) Theatre, and The Temple of Olympian Zeus. Some of it was pretty amazing. A 17,000 seat outdoor theatre that is almost 3000 years old. A temple that had 104-off 17m high marble columns that are 1.7m in diameter (only 16 survive, 15 standing, 1 fallen). Two areas that were the bussling shopping centre of town. It was pretty cool to see all of that and the areas were much quieter than the Acropolis.

By 3pm, everything was shutting (Siesta time!) and I headed back to the hostel to start planning the next phase of the trip. Tomorrow morning I head to Olympus and then make my way to Selonica. Spoke to Stef today and am looking forward to seeing a familiar face.

The bar was pretty quiet tonight. The power went off a couple of times and we were relegated to using an ipod with external speakers for tunes. Also had to drink beer that was getting warmer by the minue in fridges that didn't have power. Oh well, with a 700am bus ride, probably not the worst thing in the world.

That puts me up to date (besides photo) and next entry will include my time in Olympus. I have recently hit 1000 hits on the website, and 1200 songs on the iRiver! Hope everyone is well, and I'll speak soon.