The ancient/modern city of Athens

November 11th, 2008 by scott and becky

About 10 km around town.

Becky and the Parthenon

Becky and the Parthenon

What can you say about Athens that hasn’t been said by another of the millions of visitors who come here every year? We don’t have anything profound, but we have enjoyed our two days sightseeing and wandering around central Athens. It would take many more days than we have to even scratch the surface of all the museums, shops and districts, but we have enjoyed our time here.

We especially enjoyed walking around Athens. Other than the key attraction of the Parthenon, we have spent much of our time walking the streets, and getting a feel for the city. It is definitely busy, with everyone moving much more quickly and purposefully than we have seen elsewhere – comparable to New York City! The drivers tend to be quite pushy, especially with their horns, and scooters/motorcycles will leap into any available space. We have seen more big/powerful cars here than in Italy, and even the motorcycles are much bigger and louder. Even with this aggressiveness on the road, we have not yet seen an accident, not even a small fender-bender. The drivers seem to be careful and aware of their surroundings, unlike many in North America.

Originally, we felt bad about riding our bikes on the pedestrian streets. In Ottawa, riding a bike on Sparks Street will get you a nice fine. We realized that riding our bikes on the pedestrian street here was not going to be an issue when we were passed by a motorized scooter, then a motor bike, then another. It appears that scooters and motorcycles also qualify as pedestrians, at least in the minds of their drivers.

Becky in front of some of the better grafitti we found

Becky in front of some of the better grafitti we found

One thing that Becky has found surprising is the amount of graffiti in Athens – especially on some of the older buildings. We do wonder if some of the graffiti is actually commissioned. Back at home, most of the graffiti would have been cleaned up or painted over. Here, the graffiti seems to be left and Becky thinks there is much more of it than elsewhere – Scott thought it was pretty normal for a large city.

We have now replaced the most critical items from our stolen bag, and we’re ready to move on to Turkey – eager to get there before it gets too much colder.

After two days of not biking – but a lot of walking, Becky’s back and shoulder are feeling better. She figures the issue was caused by the fall, and all that her body needed was a day or two off the bike to recover. Unfortunately, by the end of Monday, we had both picked up a sore throat. Hopefully, that too will be temporary and will be gone by the time we get to Turkey. So far in our travels, we have both been much healthier than we normally are back in Ottawa, where one cough or cold seems to follow another. Some of this may have been due to taking “Cold FX” whenever we start to feel a bit of a sniffle, but unfortunately our supply was one of the things in Becky’s stolen bag. We have found some Ginseng in the pharmacy, and hope that will work as well as the Cold FX – at least until our supply is replaced.

Wednesday we are off to Turkey – taking an overnight ferry to Xios (Hios/Chios) followed by a short ferry to Çesme, Turkey. We have planned an extra day in Çesme, which should ensure we are well rested before we start biking again.

Athens extending north to the hills

Athens extending north to the hills

4 Responses to “The ancient/modern city of Athens”

  1. Friedel & Andrew Says:

    Ah, guys… that is terrible about your stolen bag!! I guess you’ve come to terms with it by now. We have just read about it so we’re still in shock 😉 We have been very lucky so far and nothing has been stolen in our 2 years but we have sometimes done like you and moved our panniers somewhere, then left then for a few minutes. Just lucky, I guess. We keep all our money/passports and camera in our handlebar bag, which never leaves our side though. On the bright side, the map of Syria was going to be fairly useless anyway. We had 3 and none of them made any sense on the smaller roads!! You can get free ones from the tourist bureaus. Maybe someone leaving Syria will give you a better one, that’s what happened to us. Oh, we wanted to tell you. In Istanbul, make sure you pick up any bike parts you need. Spare tires, that sort of thing. It’s the last good spot (aside from perhaps Ankara) where you can get anything decent. In Syria, a hammer tends to be the tool of choice. You can also get great bike horns in Istanbul for about 1 YTL each :)

  2. Jesse Says:

    Interesting about the drivers in Athens… I believe that Montreal is somewhat like that. People who are not used to it are intimidated by how Montreal drivers are more aggressive and pass more closely than they are used to, however after living in Montreal I actually trust drivers there more than in other busy Canadian cities because they are simply more aware of what they are doing. So, I completely understand where you’re coming from!

  3. Rowena Says:

    Hey – I couldn’t get ahold of my cousin in Athens. The land line connections are really bad. Sorry that you didn’t get a chance to meet up with her. Too bad – she would have loved to meet you! Have a great time in Turkey. Looking forward to the next post!

  4. Dimitris Tzortzis Says:

    Well, I think it’s a compliment to say that drivers in Athens/Patra are as good as in Canada!
    I would never expect to hear that! :)

    About the pedestrian streets, well, the idea is: “I’m a bike/scooter thus I’m not that big (like a car) and I’ll be off the pedestrian street in a moment”… so, they go for it! :-)

    And about the graffiti, I think even if the municipality painted the walls over, the graffiti would be back… But I think in some cases the municipality has given the people some walls for painting but you would know which walls are they, you would see great stuff there… however in most other walls the graffiti is just illegal but well, yeah…. besides, who would prefer grey walls to color drawings (however bad they are)….

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