By the time we made it to the Greek port of Pateras, I was very much ready to be off that boat. There was a shuttle bus that took us over to the regional capitol’s bus station. The whole city looked tired and run down, but I didn’t get my first real taste of Greek austerity until I asked where the train station was. She indicated down the street, but also added that there were no trains… What?! I had my paid for my rail pass already and wanted to avoid incurring further transportation cost. Not knowing what to expect, I went down there to check it out myself. Sure enough, no trains. There was however a bus that would take me to the nearest functional train station, somewhere outside of Korinthos (of Corinthians fame). This was the free option and it didn’t take me too long. Lots of olive trees at least.
The bus stopped at some really bad looking stations to pick up some yokels and a couple of wayward tourists. The bus ride lasted almost three hours, but it traced the Gulf of Corinth the whole way. I saw plenty of people swimming, not so much at beaches, but wherever suited their fancy. When I arrived at that first station, I saw my second austerity measure: no electricity. The clocks, display boards and lights were all dead. The only electric thing running were the trains. I had to embrace analog means of information until I arrived into the inner Athens lines.
I checked into my hostel located conveniently a very short walk from the Acropolis. This was the best hostel of the trip this far: it was clean, provided free sheets, fast Wi-Fi, a good atmosphere and staff, free breakfast, and the surrounding area offered plenty to do in the evenings. Generally you are only able to pick three or four things from that list. The first order of business was to get some Greek food shoved sudden my gullet, and it was souvlaki that came highly recommended. This is basically what the west would call a gyro. I got one chicken and one pork, and they were both so good. I did like one more than the other, but I’ve no idea which it was.
The other order of business was to wash my clothes. My four pairs of undergarments had a combined 12 days on them and the amount of sweat brought on by the Mediterranean sun had everything else musty at best and otherwise rancid. Fortunately this place had a 24 laundromat on the first floor, but the 8 euro cost of washing anddrying was well beyond my budget. I got some complimentary detergent from the front desk and returned to the dorm, where I took care of it myself. I felt pretty good about this economizing effort.
By this time all the famous sites and museums were closed so I just plopped down in the sports bar to chat with whomever looked friendly. Hostel people are rarely hostile and before long I found myself chatting with some Commonwealth people. Rugby was on the TV, so that steered our conversation to manly stuff like sports. People came and went, sports became Hardcore Saxxx and eventually that first joiner and I went to explore the surrounding area a bit. There was a nearby hostel under the same management that had a roof bar where we could socialize.
They closed down just about as soon as we arrived though so we walked down the road to a wine bar instead. She really wanted to do some Greek wine tasting, and I having nothing better to do went along. My budget was devoid of a fine wine allotment, but being a lightweight she begged that I aid her; these were all medium dry reds that were light palatable. I really enjoyed them all. At least, the cost to quality ratio was unbeatable. On the way back to the hostel, we made plans to explore all the old stuff together after our free breakfast the next day.
We rose to get an early start and see as much as possible before it got too hot. The obvious must was the Acropolis. We had to walk a few minutes from the hotel and then start climbing the hill to where it was located. There were some old amphitheaters and broken pillars along the way. This one has been restored a bit to make it fit for modern day use.
There was a huge tour group gathering that we were hoping to get in front of. The only thing worse than being a part of a large tour group is being stuck behind one. We were able to maneuver past and get to the Acropolis before it was overrun by tourists. We took a few I[c]onic pictures.
There was a nearby hill with some sort of monument on it, so we wandered over there before heading to lower regions of the city. There would be all sorts of ancient rubble waiting for us! But first was our breakfast, frozen Greek yoghurt. Yoghurt here is thicker and has a bit of a tang to it, so the frozen variety was sure to impress as well. It did. We could add whichever toppings we pleased.
We walked through a flea market that was filled with people selling all sorts of goods, mostly garbage though. I mostly looked and soon we arrived at an expanse of broken pillars and building foundations. There were a couple of impressive things still standing and also a museum that included this bust of Voldemort.
The final two stops of the day were to a temple dedicated to Zeus and the stadium where the Olympic games were first held. The temple was just a few pillars, but I figure that it was impressive back the day. The stadium was modernized a bit but it still bore a lot of ancient charm. After this it was back to the hostel for some much needed relaxation. Between Florence, Rome, and here I had seen more than enough statues for a lifetime. Still, these were fascinating streets and ruins to stroll through.
That evening I just relaxed at the sports bar to watch a bit of football and relax. The day was filled with a lot of waking and I was exhausted by the end of it. The next morning I would be making an early exodus to head north to central Greece. I had wanted to do a day trip to the island of Hydra, but a lack of boats made this an impossibility. No worries, I was plenty fine with moving onward and upward into central Greece. The islands could wait until the day I returned to this fine country.
Crazy as it may seem, but learning the Greek letters during my fraternity days actually really helped me out here. I was poor with the phonics, but at least I could sound out the names of cities and streets. Can you tackle the word below? This one is easy.
I feel as if this was a bit verbose.