It was 2.20am when we started our journey. On arrival at Blackfriars we are greeted by the exclaimed notice. “Train to three bridges cancelled”. “Crew not available”. That’s strange we thought. Did somebody not come into work? We resigned to wait for the next train which arrived half an hour after. All was well until we were booted off at the nearest station. The train ahead had broken down and had left the passengers the majority of which were travellers, stranded! In Sharon’s words, “Unbelievable”.
A taxi ride in desperation led to no avail. With luggage in each hand, the frantic race to the gate looked like a challenge from Takeshi’s castle. It was safe to say that Takeshi got the better of us (as well as many others) and we missed our flight. I had always thought that the UK’s rail service was fairly consistent, but delays of two hours really did change my perception. So..given 8 hours in an airport, what can one do? We sat down at a cafe and ordered some well needed nourishment. It was at this point that Sharon brought out a whole wad of notes and proceeded to revise equality law. That was certainly taking a productive approach to the situation.
Eventually we arrived in Athens. Whilst we were unable to visit Hydra anymore, that did leave us with two days to explore the city. Athens was a city today that lived around the ancient ruins – many of which had stood tall since 500BC. There was a sense that the Greeks were proud of their rich history – as evident by original artefacts found from the ruins of Parthenon in the metro station itself!
Walking around Athens was at times a death trap. The roads seemed to be perpetually busy and navigation was difficult. Street names were in Greek and/or the names of roads differed from maps provided to us! It took us half an hour to find a bakery for breakfast but our hard efforts were soon rewarded with warm baked goods.
Later we climbed the Acropolis which imbued us with stories of the many civilisations which battled here and subsequently used it as a place of importance. A great sense of grandness indeed.
A walk to Mt. Lycabettus through somewhat more dingy suburbs – remnants of veg and fruit littered all across the street. Onto the top of the hill was an excellent vista showing panoramic views of the city. We stayed till sunset.
The best of all vistas offering an unobstructed frame of the city was Filapappos Hill. We were amazed to share our own private view without disturbance. Feeling a great sense of luck and appreciation, we proceeded to head back for dinner. We stumbled across the hill of Pyna on our descend and we then realised why our previous spot was private – the stone cliff, supposedly used for gatherings of free speech and democratic congregations, was far superior! How amateur!
The old town of Athens, Plaka offered quaint streets and steep alleyways housing restaurants in every possible corner of space. Open spaces and squares littered with candlelit tables. Among the restaurants were several cafes serving traditional Greek coffee – the beans first mashed, before being boiled. Greek coffee had a reputation for being quite strong and bitter, but after drinking the thick bean residue that gets poured in, we had an entirely different perspective. Later we were told that this was NOT to be consumed and were made to look quite foolish!
At the end of the main shopping street, Ermou is a flea market in Monastiraki. Here a bustling scene of traders boasting their wares and locals in establishments enjoying live music could be found.