Two tips you need for the train from Meteora to Athens.
- It seems that when buying a ticket they still sell it to you when there are no seats remaining, so you have to stand for the 5 or so hours. Luckily, Eagle-Eyed-Sarah spotted a couple of people sitting in the café cart so we nabbed a seat at a table just before the rest of the passengers arrived, so were all sorted.
- In the middle of nowhere, when the train stops and every single person other than you get off, don’t stress, it is just the designated smoking stop.
Other than these two things the train journey is great, with fantastic scenery. Before we knew it, we had arrived into Athens where a taxi driver tried to hustle us before dropping us off in what turned out to be one of the worst areas to stay, Omonia, and at one of the worst hotels we have ever stayed in, Epidavros. It was only 10pm, but with what was looking like numerous “deals” taking place around the streets of our hotel, we double locked the door and went to bed.
We woke to find blue skies and most of the shady characters missing so we wandered through the back streets layered with amazing graffiti towards the Acropolis.
By the time we reached it, we were drenched in sweat, but we pushed through the crowd to the top of the hill. The Parthenon was partially under scaffolding (the scaffolding has been there for quite some time, so maybe it too will be declared a monument by UNESCO) but it was still incredible. By the time we were done taking photos it was time for lunch. Instead we walked to the New Acropolis Museum’s cafeteria for a quick drink for the view towards the Acropolis.
We walked along to the huge Temple of Olympian Zeus and onward to the stadium of the modern day Olympics, Panathenaic Stadium. Truth be told, it was our favourite of all the old monuments. Although it was hot, and there was no shade, we hung around there for over an hour, listening to the audio guide before spending half an hour sprinting on the track, long jumping onto the steel plates covering the sand and jumping off the winners platform. Just like the children we are.
We got lost walking through the park as fences were closed off while armed police and SWAT teams assembled on every corner. Still unsure of what was going on, we just decided to get some lunch of prawns, tomato and feta cheese that was eagerly mopped up with fresh bread.
It was at this point we realised that I was lucky enough to be sporting a lovely white salty sweat line from where my backpack had been. We thought it worthwhile to head home to shower our disgusting bodies before heading to dinner for the fastest moussaka ever, served alongside a delicious tomato salad. That’s right, a salad! As we were staying in such a lovely area, we panicked as the sun started to set, and scurried back to hotel before nightfall.
The next morning, we were slightly devious. We had booked a cooking class for this evening and saw they did a food walking tour as well. However, instead of spending more money, we noticed they had a small map on their website, so maybe we copied it down and did it ourselves. First up was Doris’. Perhaps the website was not up to date, as Doris’ was closed. Next up was To Pantapolion. We couldn’t find it. Perhaps the website was just throwing curveballs so we gave up and wandered into the covered food market. It was brilliant. One section for Pork (you could tell by the pig heads) one section for beef (you could tell from the cow heads) one section for chicken (you could tell by the chicken heads) one section for fish (you could tell by the fish heads).
But, there was one section missing, lamb. Or lambs heads, to be exact. Then we found this (some people may not like this picture)
Just outside the market, we spotted the cheese shop that was on the list from the website. After that we noticed a heap of spice shops. We were so preoccupied at staring at food that I walked knee first into a bollard when we saw a shop full of dried meat hanging from the ceiling. The guy at the counter said we should come back for lunch where could just get a plate of dried meat and cheeses. That was that sorted. As we walked out we realised it too was on the food website. Perhaps this website wasn’t throwing curveballs.
The day before we had forgotten our ticket to the Acropolis which, when purchased first, gets you into a few other areas, including the Agora. We remembered them today, so after first heading to a jewellers to buy ourselves some travelling wedding rings (“real” silver for €5) we wandered inside. The area used to be the old market place so was quite large with plenty of ruins, one of which was quite intact when compared to the rest, the Temple of Ares.
By the time we had wandered around the huge gardens we worked out it was time for a plate of dried meat and cheese so wandered back to Miran. The guy there had lived in London and Australia so we chatted about different things while he filled our plate with spicy meat and spicy cheese, plus the most delicious dolmades we had ever tried.
The afternoon was free for adventure so we thought – if you had a spare 3 hours in Athens what would you do. If you thought – walk for an hour and a half to the outer suburbs, past more drug deals and quieter streets to find a shop that didn’t exist so a taxi driver who you asked for directions generously took you in their car 15 mins to another location as they didn’t understand, just so you can walk an hour and a half (plus 15 minutes) back to your hotel room above more drug deals – than you are right. The only positive, I now had two shirts with white salty sweat stains. Shower time.
We wandered along a pedestrianised side street to grab a cold beer at a nice bar, FourTwenty, before starting our cooking lesson. The cooking lesson was in an old family taverna where we learnt some Greek dishes with fantastic fresh produce and fantastic local wine. It was at this point we realised that the big tin cup of wine we were given in Meteora was actually a carafe to pour into a more suitably sized glass. Then we ate, and by ate, we mean eight. Roughly eight courses were consumed. We were tired and ready for sleep, but had met a honeymooning couple from the US who wanted to watch the World Cup so we tagged along for a few beers. Unfortunately, Team USA lost, but more unfortunate, we were now 20 minutes walk through the dark side of Athens to our hotel and it was 1am. Then we got in a taxi. Had we not learnt? Taxi drivers in Athens don’t seem to know where they are going. As he sped past our hotel, we had him stop, and then he turned around and drove past it again. There was then a little discussion about why we were not going to pay the full amount. He eventually understood when we got out and shut the door. We wandered back through the now familiar but sad scene of people passed out on benches around our hotel for a few hours sleep before our ferry to Santorini.