Daily Journal: Thursday, 30 March 2017

Today is my last day in Athens – for perhaps a year. I confirmed this morning that I saw, or will have by the end of today, everything that was on my list. Of course, by the time I return, I’ll have a bigger list. For this visit, I just wanted to get around the city, visit a few attractions and lay plans for another visit at a later date.

Today, I planned to visit the Acropolis Museum and Plaka. The Acropolis Museum holds many historical items from the Parthenon and other artifacts from the Acropolis. Rather than walk, I took the Metro and was downtown, by the Acropolis, in two stops.

Found a Starbucks, one of 10 in Athens. I guess with so many established coffee shops, may be difficult for Starbucks to get a good hold in the city.

After a 15 minute walk, I was at the Museum. It always takes me a few minutes to orient myself after arriving at a museum. Generally my approach is to do a quick walk-through then go around again and take time with the things that interest me. Seems to have worked so far.

It became apparent that I should have visited this museum early in my stay in Athens. So much of the historical aspects of Athens is based around the Acropolis, especially the Parthenon. My host had told me that much of the Parthenon (other than the big pillars) is at this museum. He was right.

The entry into the museum, and within the museum’s transparent floors, so you can see the ruins from the early years. See the pictures below.

I also took pictures of the Acropolis from several angles – just because it is interesting to see various perspectives of this multifaceted hill.

The best part of the museum was how the remains from the Parthenon were displayed. On the top floor, you can see much of the restored or refurbished elements from the Parthenon displayed as they would have appeared originally on the building. The Parthenon had a rough life over the last two thousand years. On the ground floor of the museum, you can see how the Acropolis developed over the last 3 thousand years.

Museum Entrance:

3rd Floor Gallery:

My recommendation would be to visit the Acropolis twice. Once, to get oriented with the Acropolis in relation to the city and have an overview of the elements from the site – then visit the Acropolis museum, and then return for another visit to the Acropolis site.

After leaving the museum, I next wanted to wander around Plaka, an old area of the city near the Acropolis. Many shops and homes in the area. Also wanted to find a place to get a bite to eat.

Found a decent enough restaurant and had a salad, bread and coffee for dessert. I watched the local cats wandering around the outside part of the restaurant where I was eating. Also a good time to edit the pictures that I had taken.

After eating, I decided to visit Syntagma Square again. I took a picture of the square at dusk last week and posted it. Today I got a picture of the old royal palace that is now used, since 1934, as the Parliament House, where I visited yesterday.

I kept seeing a poster on buildings as I walked back to the flat that reminded me of what I posted yesterday. Though I’d include in today’s update.

Getting ready to pack tomorrow morning and clean the flat. Tonight I’m making dinner and watching TNG before heading to bed. The taxi will be here at 6:00 a.m. so I figure I should be up by 4:00 so I’m ready.

My flight to Budapest is direct so I’ll be in my flat by noon for sure. I still need to meet with the customs folks in Budapest to confirm how long I can stay. One step at a time…

 

Daily Journal: Wednesday, 29 March 2017

I actually made it out of the house before noon today! Quite an accomplishment. In all honesty, was a little bit hungry.  Didn’t have much for breakfast (see below) and looking for someplace where I could have more than coffee, bread and cheddar cheese. My Airbnb host told me of a neighborhood not too far from the flat with a number of trendy coffee shops and stores – perhaps I could find some food there?

I walked up to this area, and true, there were many coffee shops and stores – and young and old from the neighborhoods were visiting and playing. Just couldn’t find anything of interest. So I headed downtown to visit the parliament building and some new neighborhoods. Maybe find something while I walk.

On the way, I took a picture of the sidewalk. Most sidewalks have a yellow set of tiles that I think are there to help people with vision impairment navigate the sidewalk. Will have to research.

After walking about 40 minutes, I gave up and just got some pizza. Had no idea what it was, just ate it. (See below.)  Gave me some time for people watching.

As I walked near the parliament buildings I saw a crowd at one of the gates.

This is what I wrote on Facebook:

“We the people…” This is what I thought while walking near Greece’s Parliament House and saw a group of people outside its gates. I don’t know why they were there, but what I saw and heard was democracy in action – in the hometown of where democracy was born in the 6th century B.C.E. Democracy, for me, is the voice of the people – a collective representation. Makes me happy.

I walked through the botanical park nearby then around to the front of the parliament building where I saw two of the traditionally dressed guards. Not sure if they can be seen in the picture below, so I found one on Google to add.

Botanical Garden (below)

Greece’s Parliament House:

Took a coffee break before heading back to the flat. The coffee shop was in a nice shopping alley near the heart of the city. Good to sit and enjoy the mild weather and soft breeze.

Even though I had on a light shirt, I was still getting very warm and perspiring. As mentioned in an earlier post, many of the local citizens were wearing coats – and some with scarfs too.

There is a park that I walk through to get back to my flat. Great way to save time by not having to wait on traffic lights and just enjoy the scenery. Took a picture of one of the park’s statues and one of the paths. I feel safe in the park and have walked through there in the dark too. Athens seems to be very safe at night – though a little noisy.

Got home and went to the store for more strawberries. Yes, they are that good. I’ll have them a bit later. I’ll make another bowl of fruit (see below) to enjoy while watching Next Generation. Almost through with Season 5.

More strawberries!!!  Very red and juicy.

 

Daily Journal: Tuesday, 28 March 2017

So many places to visit before I leave on Friday. I’ll be back in Greece within the next year (I think). Just wondering where I should plan to visit today. Since I left the flat hungry, I decided that going down to the central (flea) market, Monastiraki. I’m sure to find a place to eat.

I walked to the Victoria metro station (about a 15 minute walk) and caught the green line to the Monastiraki stop. Sometime during the ride, I started to develop a migraine. Not a bad one, but enough where I had trouble reading the text on my phone. As I left the Monastiraki station, I forgot about my migraine and looked out at the variety of shops and food stands.

Found a restaurant (offering traditional Greek food) to have lunch. The server was nice and my food arrived quickly. After I saw how much had ordered, or maybe it was my migraine, I didn’t have much of an appetite. (Greek Salad and Chicken Souvlaki)

After lunch I found a coffee shop and ordered an espresso. Also a chocolate chip cookie. 🙂  Then walked around the various markets. Must be over 100 vendors – maybe more. Up one street and down another. Amazing. Above the market is the Acropolis. Was fun just to walk around and take pictures.

 

When I finished with my coffee and cookie, I stood up and noticed that my glasses had fallen to the sidewalk. (They were on my lap when I stood up.) Had I not noticed them on the ground, I would have lost my glasses. This is the second time that this has happened in the past week. I need to be more careful. I only need glasses to see up close, but still…

Nearby to the markets was Agora, the ancient gathering place for early people of Athens. The guide from the Segway ride said they could dig down further but ran out of funds.

Before leaving the market, I couldn’t resist buying some strawberries. They were so big and red. Perhaps not as juicy as the Hood variety, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy them later this evening. I took pictures of a couple of fruit stands that were selling these strawberries. (See below.)

Came home and took a nap to get rid of the migraine. Almost gone now. I’ll fix a simple dinner and continue watching the 5th season of Next Generation (TNG).

 

 

Daily Journal: Monday, 27 March 2017

A little cooler today. Was very apparent, while walking to the post office, noticed that I was dressed a little differently from most everyone else. Was only wearing a light long-sleeved shirt while the local folk were wearing coats.

Today was the last day to hang low so my cold (or allergies) went away. Took care of a few errands, including some grocery shopping. Made a phone call to a friend in the U.S., made some dinner, then went out at sunset to Mount Lycabetus – a very prominent hill in Athens and known for its views of the city at sunset.

Below is a picture I took from the Acropolis a few days ago. Mount Lycabetus can be seen in the center of the picture.

View of the chapel on the hill.

I ended up taking two different taxis to get there. One driver said he had another customer that he was scheduled to pick up – so he got me further down the hill where he flagged down another taxi to take me the rest of the way. Had a good time talking with the second driver who was interested in family history and also gave me a lesson in how Greek surnames are formed. All of this in less than 15 minutes.

He dropped me off at the parking area of Mount Lycabetus so I could walk the rest of the way up the hill to the viewing platform, chapel and restaurant. Glad it was a cool evening – can’t imagine doing this hike during the heat of the summer. Wasn’t quite sure where I was going – just followed some people up the hill – walked through part of the multi-floored restaurant and found the chapel on the hill along with the viewing platform. Had plenty of company – guess others knew that this was a good place to be during the Athens sunset.

Took some pictures of Athens, mainly from this location to the sea. As it got darker, the Acropolis was lit up – though was several miles away. Still, was beautiful to see.

Chapel on the hill.

Paddington Bean returns!

After I took enough pictures, I walked down the hill and then all the way back to my flat. Was going to take a taxi at the bottom of the hill, but decided to keep on walking. The road down the hill was partially lit, but had enough light to make my way. About halfway down I was thinking that, given the lack of traffic, it would be a good place to get mugged. I quickly forgot about that possibility and kept on walking.

Made it home in about 45 minutes. Got over 14,000 steps in today. Guess I’m 100% better now. I have more outings over the next few days before I leave early Friday morning for Budapest.

Below, added a picture of the building where I’m living.

Daily Journal: Sunday, 26 March 2017

Continuing a thought from yesterday’s post (holiday closures), I should have also asked about what was closed on Sundays. Found out that grocery stores are closed on Sunday. I was going to do some shopping for food and discovered that not only did my local market close for the holiday yesterday, but it was closed today too. And many, if not all, of the other stores that have more than cigarettes and beer. I did manage to find one nearby where I could buy some food to cook this evening. Not exactly what I wanted, but with few options, I made the best of it.

Good thing is that I got my laundry done. The laundromat that I visited today was not busy and the person helping customers was friendly and spoke good English. We got along well and she got me in and out of her shop in a little over an hour.

Other than that, I’ve been using today to get more rest and recover from my cold or allergy – whatever it is. Less sneezing today and my stuffy nose is no more. I’ll plan some activities tomorrow that will get me out and about. For the remainder of the evening, I’ll rest up for tomorrow.

Weather looks good for the rest of the week. On Friday, I return to Budapest.

 

 

Daily Journal: Saturday, 25 March 2017

Happy Greek Independence Day!

I really need to better research countries before I travel to them. Didn’t realize it was Greek Independence Day today until late yesterday. Perhaps I should have considered that stores and businesses may be closed. For instance, I wanted to do my clothes washing, and after getting my dirty duds in a bag and walking to the laundromat, I learned that the business was closed for the holiday. Same with the local full-service market. In any case, another beautiful day in Athens to enjoy.

Fortunately, a local bakery was open and I was able to get some treats for breakfast. (See below.)  Only 5 Euro for everything on the plate.

Later I went back and got some bread, since I was out. We started talking and before I left I was given some baklava as a take away treat. (See below.)

Then went to a small shop (think that some Greeks call them booths) to buy some Sprite and orange juice. The shop owner also gave me a candy bar treat. (See above picture.)

Not sure if it was me or the holiday that inspired the merchants give out treats. I’m not complaining. I’ll watch my calories tomorrow.

Today, will take it easy. Yesterday, sneezing and also have a stuffy nose. I feel okay. Perhaps some pollen allergies? Will get plenty of sleep and orange juice will help. Also, some of the goodies I picked up today.

 

Daily Journal: Friday, 24 March 2017

Another beautiful day in Athens with a high of 75F. After checking the forecast for today, I thought it would be a great day to visit the harbor. Not sure if this is part of the Aegean Sea or is it considered to be the Mediterranean sea. In any case, nice to see on a day with lots of blue sky.

To get there, I needed to take the Metro train and then walk a little. Another new experience to understand the city’s transportation, purchasing a ticket or pass and navigating the train network. (Think I’m getting good at this.) I managed to get a 5-day pass and directly onto a train (thankfully) headed to the shoreline.

Route to Pireas:

It was still a 15 minute walk to the shore from the Metro stop, but I passed through a few neighborhoods along the way and saw people going about their daily routines. (This is the part about traveling that I really enjoy.) As I got to the harbor, I was stopped by a restaurant owner who wanted me to see his menu. Common in many cities where you’re approached on the street and invited into a restaurant. We had a good talk and said I needed to be on my way. Who knows – maybe I’ll go back and have a meal there.

What a great day for a walk. The water was so blue and a number of people were getting into the water. I walked through a marina and saw people getting their boats ready, I imagine, for the weekend. Got some nice pictures from a higher point along the harbor and then down by the shore.

Some orange trees along the street were ripe with their fruit.

The other thing I wanted to do today was to visit the U.S. Embassy and ask questions about the visa rules for U.S. travelers. Was a little confused when I met with the Cyprus boarder control who said I didn’t have many days left to be in Greece and Hungary. (U.S.citizens, with a passport, can be in most European countries for 90 days out of every 180 days.)

Just getting into the embassy was interesting. Very high security. And a good-sized building too. But I got in just fine and was able to meet with someone who gave me some good advice and showed me how to keep track of my time in each country. I also have the same questions for the U.K. people, but that will be another day.

I noticed that when I left the embassy, and I had to turn my phone on again (requirement for being in the embassy) that the phone required me to enter a SIM card Pin number to activate the SIM card. Yikes! I didn’t have the PIN number with me. And since I couldn’t access the maps or my address in Athens I had to rely on memory. I also needed to instruct the taxi driver where to drop me off. I did wander around some when I got into my neighborhood, but eventually found the flat.

When I got into the flat and found the PIN number, I must have done something wrong because the phone wanted another number in addition to the PIN. To make a long story short, I took a taxi to the nearest Vodafone store and they unlocked my phone. Not an adventure to have when you’ve been walking most of the day. Oh well, that is the life of a traveler.

All is well…

(Over 18,000 steps today.)

 

Daily Journal: Thursday, 23 March 2017

Decided to take the day off from touring Athens. Saw quite a bit during my first two days and now need to complete the settling in process by going to buy some groceries to make beef stew tonight.

On the way to the store, I got my hair cut. And this time I had a good conversation with the person cutting my hair to avoid another buzz cut. This time I was 100% satisfied with the result.

Really enjoyed making my way around the nearby grocery. The added twist in Greece is that most of the packaging is written using the Greek alphabet.

Good news is that I found some Worcestershire sauce! Woohoo! All the other ingredients for the stew are common. Had a good time trying to communicate with the person at the meat counter regarding the cut of beef I wanted to buy. Other than that, I was in and out in less than 30 minutes.

By the time I got back, it was time to start cooking. Also updating my blog and making a birthday phone call to the U.S. Tonight, I’ll have two days of posting to do.

Tomorrow I’m going to head over to the U.S. Embassy to confirm the visa rules for Europe and for the U.K. I’m not 100% confident that I understand them.

Tonight, I’m hoping to go to bed early. Would rather get up before 8:00 and enjoy the fine weather here in Athens.

 

 

Daily Journal: Wednesday, 22 March 2017

I’m looking forward learning to sleep while hearing motorbikes at all hours. Think I’m getting there, but not last night – waking up every hour or so. The weather is terrific and will enjoy my visit to the National Archaeological Museum, just down the street, and then the Segway tour, starting at 4:00 p.m.

Because of the technology installed in this flat, I’m still learning how to turn on the appliances, regulate the heat, and operate the electronics. Today was learning how to turn on the stove’s burners. My host sent the instructions. I managed to find out how to adjust the heat. The shower is amazing and is one of the high points of this flat. I’m very happy here.

Managed to get out the door before 1:00 p.m. and walked to the museum – about a 15 minute walk. Was a little apprehensive about visiting the museum – knowing that there will be many jars and vases. Looking forward to seeing a special exhibit inspired by the Homeric Odyssey.

National Archaeological Museum:

The museum is very large and admission was only 5 Euros. Plenty of elbow room for the artifacts and the displays were well organized. I did come upon a room that was filled will a variety of vases with similar decorations. (See the example below.) Enjoyed walking through and seeing exhibits of gold items and various statues.

And a large room full of this. In all sizes, but essentially all looked like this example.

After the museum, I headed to the meeting place for the Segway tour – about a 30 minute walk. Grabbed a bite at a McDonald’s then headed on. Not too many McDonald’s or Starbucks in Athens. But I had to sample a Greek version of a cheeseburger to check consistency. (It passed.)

When I got to the Segway Tour shop, I saw that 5 others were also part of the tour. We received a quick driving lesson then off we went. First stop was the Acropolis.  Everyone one the tour had been up there so we heard a little of the history and then our guide (Alex) recommended going up Mars Hills (or Areopagus) which is really a rock outcropping located NW of the Acropolis. It is where Paul gave one of his most important gospel presentation at the time of his visit to Athens.  (A reminder: the Acropolis refers to the citadel, an extremely rocky outcrop above the city of Athens. The Parthenon is one of the building found there.) Got some pictures of me and the city from this location.

Alex (below) explaining the operation of a Segway.

And off we went…

Next were the observatories not too far away from the Acropolis. The site we visited was where the Greeks first met when democracy was founded and put into practice. There is more to this history and will need to do further research. But it was a great spot for viewing the city and to take pictures of the Acropolis.

Visiting Plaka and the market was fascinating. The number of shops was staggering. And to think this has been a primary market area for a few millennia. I’ll visit this area again before I leave.

We then visited the oldest part of the city where the Greeks established their government and then to where the Roman’s government “set up shop” when they governed Athens. Both the Greek and Romans apparently worked together. I have so much to learn about Greek history. And this was a good place to take a picture of me on a Segway.

On our way back to the Segway Tour shop.

The two-hour tour went by quickly. I headed back to the flat as it was getting dark.Took a nice picture of the sunset during my walk. Didn’t get back to the flat until after 7:30 so just got a pizza and called it a day.

16,000 steps today. Nice!

 

 

 

Daily Journal: Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Woke up around 9:00 a.m. this morning. My first day in Athens (Greece). It was a long day yesterday in the airports and didn’t get to my flat in Athens until after 10:30 p.m. the night before. More on this later…

The map below shows Cairo at the bottom, the island of Cyprus in the middle and Athens near the top.

Feeling very rested after a week in Hurghada. Finally have been able to get a full night’s sleep. Was important for me to “unplug” from the responsibilities of traveling. For me, to “unplug” means to get plenty of rest and just enjoy everything. Staying in a hotel with good room service was an added benefit.

I got out for long walks each day. Also took advantage of  the hotel’s walkway out into the Red Sea. Being in Hurghada during the off season, from what I understand, was a good way to avoid the tourist crowds. They will arrive during the summer to escape the heat.

Had some great food. And a birthday cake.

Before leaving, Hurghada had a dust storm. I’d never been in one and thankfully, this one was a small one. In the morning, most everything was covered in dust. Normally, this view from the window would look out as far as the Red Sea.

Was in Luxor too, visiting with my friends at the Luxor Hilton, then left for Cairo and then Athens. Because I didn’t allow for enough time to change planes in Cairo, I missed the connection to Athens. To remedy this,  I was rerouted to Cyprus and then on to Athens. One casualty was my suitcase which didn’t make it to Athens with me. As I’m composing this update, my suitcase is on its way from the Athens airport to my flat.

Views from the Nile from my room in Luxor.

Between Luxor and Cairo you can see, from the plane, the old river beds that resulted from the annual flooding of the Nile. The river no longer floods to this extent so these ancient river beds will remain until erosion eventually erases them.

My Airbnb host was very kind when I arrived late. He showed me around the flat and then took time to mark the places he would recommend I visit while here. Meanwhile, I was thinking about my suitcase. Would I ever see it again?

Airbnb Listing:  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12864326

Given all that, still had a good sleep last night and woke refreshed this morning. After making some coffee and having a shower, I put on my clothes from yesterday and headed out the door. I knew where to go on my first day, The Acropolis of Athens where I’ll find the Parthenon. The only other “to-do” item on my list was a visit to Vodafone to get a SIM card for my phone.

Heading towards the Acropolis was interesting. There really isn’t a direct and well-marked route to it. You can’t miss it, since it can be seen from many places in Athens, but there were few signs. Even with GPS, the ancient roads are difficult to follow. In any case, I had a good time wandering around the side streets until I found a road where I started to see tourists all heading in the same direction. Was a little concerned that it would be a long uphill climb and found out it was actually very easy.

Along the way to the Acropolis, I saw some shoes that would be fun to wear.

Also, motorbikes are used to get around the city. This block was lined by parked bikes on both sides of the street.

Once at the ticket booth to the Acropolis, I found the layout of the site easier to understand. There are a number of ruins nearby so there is a lot to see. From the ticket booth, there are 60+ steps from there to get up to the top level. At each level during the climb the view of the Acropolis, and the city below, became more spectacular.

Pictures of the stones worn by years of visitors.

The Parthenon had scaffolding, but the building was still standing strong. You could see where parts of many columns had been replaced. Back in the day, it must have been quite something to see. I took pictures of the smooth rocks that have been worn down by the masses of people visiting this popular site. (See above.) The ground is very uneven so an attempt to pave some of the paths was a good idea. Still, you had to watch your step.

On the way back to the flat, and hopefully have some word that my suitcase was found, I came across a Vodafone store. The price for a SIM card was only 18 Euros and the clerk was able to install the SIM card and get me on my way in about 20 minutes. Very happy.

About this time I was getting dog tired. Maybe still a little run down from yesterday. It was about an hour walk back to the flat. On the way I learned that my suitcase had been found. Later I found out that it would arrive later in the evening. I got some pizza from a nearby store and then took a much needed nap.

Tomorrow, I have a museum to visit and a Segway tour, like the one I had in Bruges, Belgium. Booked a two-hour tour. Think this will be an easy way to get around and have fun ta’ boot!

Update: The suitcase arrived! In good shape and all items accounted for.