I’ve Arrived

By , 01/07/2014 22:40

My Plane

After 25 weeks of planning, I have finally commenced my Grand Tour of Greece.

I write to you now from the 4th floor of the Hotel Neos Olymbos in the heart of the Greek capital Athens – I am overlooking Athens-Larissa station, the Central railway station of the city.

It felt strange getting up this morning, seeing Dad leaving for work and saying “see you in Thessaloniki in a month”. (On that note: Thessaloniki looks great from 35000 feet above. We flew over it shortly before we began our decent in to Athens).

I was hearing Greek before I’d even reached Greece. There was a group of 8 Greeks (probably students) sitting somewhere behind me when I got on the coach in Cirencester yesterday morning; they’d got on at the previous stop in Cheltenham. They then got on the coach to Gatwick with me, and I bumped in to them again when we landed in Athens.

We landed 10 minutes early – shortly before 8pm; within half an hour I was in the taxi, travelling along the Attiki Odos motorway towards my hotel. I know Greek taxi drivers like to drive fast…but this is the first time I’ve been on a 3 lane motorway in a taxi. (It’s the first time I’ve been on an actual real motorway in Greece). Blimey, it was scary. But fun too.

By 21:30 I had checked in to my room and was considering my options for the evening. I walked out the front door and turned left – towards the Traffic Police HQ (lots of police cars with blue lights flashing going in and out – I’ve never seen emergency vehicles responding to emergencies in this country before, the islands are so quiet in comparison to the city).

I took a walk round the block, found the laundrette, lots of kafenions (that’s where the old men go to smoke, drink, and chat to their friends), the mini-market, the underground station, and a few tavernas too. I know in some of the reviews of this hotel, some guests said at night you can feel a bit uncomfortable or vulnerable in this district. I didn’t find that at all – and I’m a single traveller (for this bit of the trip anyway). I’ve felt more vulnerable/uncomfortable walking through some streets of Cheltenham after dark!

After a walk around, I had a cheap toastie for dinner in one of the nearby kafenions. The ability of an Englishman to speak Greek stunned the Albanian woman running the place. She too loves Greece, and moved here 7 years ago. I always take it as a compliment when someone tells me I speak “like a Greek” – more so when they say so without knowing I’ve only just arrived!

After paying my bill (€4,30) I was asked if I’d be returning to the kafenio every night. («Εδώ θα έρθεις κάθε μέρα;») «Μήπως», I said. “Maybe”.

I have to say that the wifi isn’t great up here on the 4th floor; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it’s just very slow. The signal’s better downstairs, where there are some sofas and tables etc. in the breakfast room – but that’s a long way down!

It’s extremely hot. Night time temperatures are in the mid 20s, daytime temperatures low 30s – this is the cool period between 2 heatwaves. It’ll be hotter at the weekend. At least the air con is free in my room.

Tomorrow? I’m thinking I might start with an early morning walk before breakfast. Then I shall get the underground to Syntagma and explore Central Athens.

Bye just now,

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