Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Athens Ahoy!

After a relaxing ferry ride (note of advice: when riding Greek ferries, bring card games, books, and bakery treats from town to make the time pass quickly) on Sunday, we left the laid back islands behind for Athens. From the moment we stepped off the boat, it was clear we were is a different world. Far from shutting down for the season, the port of Piraeus was hopping with black market vendors, cab drivers soliciting the new arrivals, and swarms of dazed-looking tourists. We headed straight for the metro station. Hotel Tempi, where we would be staying for one night only before joining the Rick Steves' tour, was an easy, direct metro ride away on line one, and we were eager to get settled in.

But, as with many of our transportation experiences in Greece, it wasn't quite so simple. Point in case: for two days only, most of metro line one was closed. We arrived on one of those two days.

After checking the advice of a ticket counter clerk and a random man-on-the-street, we decided to hop the metro and take it three stops - the end of the line for the day. According to man-on-the-street, from there we could catch a bus to Monastiraki Square, a short walk from our hotel.

Things started off well. We managed to fit (but only just) on the bus heading into the center of town from the last metro stop. When I literally fell into the back door as the bus rounded a corner, I was kindly offered a chance to squeeze in to the one remaining seat in the back. Now all I had to do was keep an eye out for Monstiraki; how hard could that be?

Dang near impossible, it turns out. It finally dawned on me we must have overshot our mark, so I asked the woman sitting across from me on the now half-empty bus, "Pou ine Monastiraki?"

My Greek was apparently good enough to encourage the woman to discuss with me, and then another woman one seat up, in great detail about the location of this place in relation to the bus. Throughout the conversation, I could occasionally make out the word, "Monastiraki," but not another syllable. Fortunately, I did correctly deduce that we should get off at the next stop, which turned out to be about a mile down the road from where I'd first asked the fateful question. No doubt about it, we were far, far away.

But the fates were on our side! The next stop was conveniently located at an entrance for metro line two, and before long we were on a speeding underground train, emerging at Omonia Square, and walking down the pedestrian street to our hotel. Athens, here we come!

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