Around Ancient Greece (5 Mar and 10 Mar)

Following the mega trip in the countryside, the plan for Sunday was a more leisurely trip around Athens taking in the standard tourist sites, on foot. It was a glorious blue-sky but cool day.

I headed out from the hotel down past the birthplace of the modern Olympics (Panathenaic Stadium) and then to the complex containing the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Arch of Hadrian. Being the nervous tourist, I was a bit worried when it seemed you didn’t need to pay to enter the gated/fenced area. I was to find out why later.

The Acropolis dominates from everywhere around central Athens – every time you turn around it’s staring down at you.

From here it was across the road and down some back streets to the Acropolis Museum. This is a modern museum built in the shadow of the Acropolis with many artifacts preserved. It’s built on many ruins, so in places you look down and realise you’re on a glass floor with ancient walls meters below. Apparently you’re not allowed to take photo’s in some parts.

From here is was up the Acropolis. I didn’t have to pay here either. Seems that on the first Sunday of the month all the sites are free. That would explain why it was wall-to-wall locals. I passed the Theatre of Dionysus and continued up the hill to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a very impressive theatre.

There’s a slight logistical problem in accessing the sites on top of the Acropolis – there’s only one single way on to the top of the hill. There were thousands of people trying to get through a small entrance two-people wide – it took ages. The top of the Acropolis is like some large garden supplies yard with building rubble everywhere and giant cranes covering the Parthenon. Still it was worth the effort, and crowds. The view out over Athens is amazing, and if you work at it you can get a photo without scaffolding or cranes.

From here it was back down the hill (over half an hour to get off the hill). Across from the Acropolis (south-west) is a small hill that gives amazing views back to the Acropolis. I returned there on the Friday evening. I was hoping to see the Temple of Hephaestus, but it closed at 3pm (and the lady was pretty insistent of me not entering at 2:50). So I wandered back to the hotel.

The following Friday evening (10 Mar) I headed back with camera and tripod hoping to get some reasonable evening shots. I started with the area around the Acropolis.

I couldn’t wait for sunset, so I wandered around the popular shopping district and around the catholic cathedral, with lots of little greek orthodox churches in the most interesting places (like in the middle of the main shopping mall).

This was one of my favourite shots, the cathedral seen from one of the little laneways. I finished the evening with a few shots of the Aropolis lit up at night. After the cathedral I was tempted to head back to the hotel, but decided to try exploring a few back alleys and found some interesting spots.

All the Athens photos can be found at:




Train (and Bus) Trip to Meteora (4 Mar 2017)

Given a weekend in Greece before starting work on the Monday, I was looking at things to do. Obviously there was the whole “Ancient Greece” thing in Athens. But my brother suggested something he’d come across online – a train trip to Meteora and a guided tour of the monasteries perched atop rocky features hundreds of metres above the valley floor.

It was supposed to be five hours on the train, four hours touring the area, and then five hours back – 8:30 am – 10:30 pm, for about a hundred Euro. It would be a long trip but hopefully worth it.

First thing Sat morning I jumped in a cab to the central station. I had visions of a grand central station like they have in Rome, London and Paris. Ahhh, no. two or three outdoor platforms, a small coffee shop and announcements in greek (which I don’t speak). Let the adventure begin.

The carriage was like the old red rattlers we used to have in Vic – little cabins with six people. My carriage was a group of older greek women, and a Japanese girl I later found out was doing the same trip.

I’d taken my laptop and a book. Reading wasn’t bad – documentation, including screen captures for lab guides was quite a challenge. No food!

At some point there was an announcement which one of the ladies had to translate – due to train line works, we would have to get off and on a bus, before continuing the trip on train later.

I did get to see some amazing country on both the train(s) and bus. Mighty snow-capped mountains, great valleys with the ocean creeping in and rolling fields. Nothing that I’d imagined in Greece.

We arrived two hours late (i.e. seven hours rather than five) into Kalambaka, the town below the monasteries. So, instead of four hours touring the sights, we had two as I had to be back on the 5:30 train back.

Meteora is amazing. As the train pulls into the station you see the cliffs and outcrops rising 300-400m above the valley floor. Perched atop you see some of the monasteries.

The tour involved a local taxi and driver taking us around. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I was a but hungry. The taxi driver produced a kebab which I started scoffing down. Big mistake – 10 mins up the road was the first stop, where one had to climb a steep driveway up to the monastery and I felt every mouthful. This was the Monastery of Áyios Nikólaos Anapafsás (St. Nicholas).

Due to the short time, this was the only one we were able to go into. We drove around and visited the others. The guide obviously does this every day as he knew every spot for a great photo.

All too soon, we were back at the station and repeating the process to return to Athens. Like most, dinner was chips and a drink from a little shop beside the station after the bus leg.

Despite the fourteen hours of travel, it was well worth it. Ideally you’d go up on one day, observe the sun coming up over the valley the next morning and return.

My photos can be found at:

Welcome to Greece (3 Mar 2017)

After god-knows how many hours in Economy (Melbourne – Dubai – Athens) I arrived. I’ve not been to Greece before. First impressions:

  • Mercedes’ as taxi’s
  • Lots, I mean lots, of grafitti
  • Gum trees (that’s Oz, California, India and now Greece)
  • Crazy traffic and parking (but not as bad as India, Manila, Jakarta etc.)

The city does have a generally run-down feel to it. It’s all low rise, boringly consistent and all balconies. Certainly doesn’t have the feel that Rome or Paris does.

My digs for the first two nights is the Hilton – which has a real 50’s feel from the outside, although renovated inside.

Later I went for a wander down to the home of the modern Olympics and up to the Parliament building. I was looking for a good Souvalaki – closest I got was a kebab with chips shoved inside.

Got a reasonable photo from the hotel balcony of the Acropolis.