Holiday Tales – Part 4 The Streets of Athens

Our trips always used to be meticulously planned – by me. Husband couldn’t care less. We visited cities like Paris and Rome before Poohi was born, and it was a different type of schedule.

Armed with a map, and guide books, we would get on the local transportation, walk through little alleys, following our instincts, and sometimes other tourists, or sometimes just the road. We would reach cute localities, or little alley ways where we would actually get lost. But it used to be so much fun! Both of us were in agreement that we could not go with guided tours, because we love doing our own thing.

It had been a while since we last did a European city. The last was Switzerland, when daughter had just turned two, and it was not exactly city sightseeing, and she was happy to be in her buggy, so we were free to go wherever we wanted to, to some extent, at least.

I was in two minds if Athens was a good idea or not. I did not want her getting bored with all the archeological stuff, but as I mentioned here, she loved it! The other part that I was worried about how much she would enjoy the aimless walking through the city, that both of us loved so much.

Well, all I can say is, she sure is a daughter of ours 🙂 She had just as much fun as we had on the streets of Athens. Even on the first day, on that torturous trek to the hotel, she was in her element. She was cheerful, delighted by all the cats and kittens that she saw on the road, pointing out whatever caught her eye. That just meant that we had the kind of holiday that we all love!

We ended up in a place called Plaka, where the souvenir shops enthralled me. I love these shops, there is something about souvenir shops that I love 🙂

That’s me making a beeline to those gorgeous pots!

Look how pretty they are? They have events from Greek mythology painted on them. I could not afford to buy them, so brought back pictures instead 🙂

Daughter, proving that she has indeed, inherited my genes 🙂

Daughter did get a little tired. So we got on one of these.

Tourist transportation of a different kind..

One of the domed churches of Athens

All roads lead to the Acropolis. See the Acropolis shining up on the hill ahead?

More ruins, much to daughter’s delight 🙂 We came back here in the daylight to see it properly.

Isn’t this cute?

The streets of Athens is full of cats..

of all kinds 🙂

Trees flanking roads, full of oranges!

Aren’t these the cutest? We stumbled across a market place, which had the cutest of things! Most were handmade and so very creative.

Remember those balconies full of greenery that I was so enthused about?

And as I said earlier, all roads lead to the Acropolis.. There it is , all lit up at night..

Two days of Athens, and we were looking forward to Santorini. We were all excited, and waiting to get to the island. Little did we know that a ghost town awaited us…..
to be continued…

Holiday Tales – Acropolis Part 3

Thought I would let the pictures do the talking..

Our first view of Athens from our hotel balcony. Tell me, couldn’t this be just about anywhere in India? I loved some of the balconies I saw there – full of greenery. Full of pots overflowing with plants! How I love those!

Then we set off to see the sights. First stop – Acropolis. Do refer to the link for more information. I love the history behind the ruins, but do no want to bore all of you by going into it 🙂

Our first view of the Acropolis

The first monument we saw was the Theatre of Herodes Atticus. It used to be an amphitheatre, with a roof. 

The view from the top. Doesn’t it look majestic? It has been renovated, is even used as an auditorium now. I think the only historical monument that is in use in Greece.

This is the Propylea. The link shows what it might have looked when intact. We had a guide who explained all this to us. It would have been ‘Greek and Latin’ to us otherwise 😉

The temple of Athena Nike – it has been reconstructed to give a fair idea of what it looked like.

The Erechtheum. This was a temple dedicated to the Greek hero Ericthonius. Check out the Porch of the Caryatids. The supports in the form of women. We got to see the originals at the New Acropolis Museum, and they were exquisite. The figures here are apparently replicas. We could not take the pics of the originals, because cameras are not allowed inside the museum. If you happen to go there, do not miss the museum – it is totally, totally worth it!

And Finally, the Parthenon. The Parthenon was a Temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, who was the patron goddess of Athens. The Parthenon has a amazing history. Originally, a temple, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and then was mosque during the Ottoman period.

The Theatre of Dionysus.

And among things so old, we found something so incredibly young 🙂

And another young one tryng to catch the view of Athens from the Acropolis..

I am exhausted with all the uploading, so I guess you must be bored with the pics, but I wanted to make a quick mention of the New Acropolis Museum. It is built on top of the ruins of an old Christian settlement. The ground floor of the museum has glass floors which allows us to see the ruins. It was fascinating, to say the last. A few pictures that we managed to click from outside.

The view of the Acropolis from the top of the New Acropolis Museum..

And that covers the main part of Ancient Athens. I was surprised to see how much Daughter enjoyed the whole day. She loved hearing about the legends, tried her best to understand what these ruins stood for. At the end of the day, she told me that she wanted to show her friends what she saw. She put away her map in her backpack, and yesterday, she took it to school and told her class all about the story of the Athena and how Athens came to be named after her 🙂 To think that I was worried if she would get bored during this part of the trip.

Holiday Tales – Part 2

The start of our trip was memorable to say the least.

We had an early start at 5 in the morning. Our flight was at 8.40 am and we were driving to the airport instead of taking a taxi as we usually do. We reached the airport parking with just about enough time but to our surprise, had a tough time locating a free parking spot. Even the airport parking in the country is almost full!

Just as we managed to get our luggage out of the car, we spotted the airport shuttle.
Missing it would mean having to wait for another 10 mins in the cold. Not a very attractive option. So we raced towards it, managed to get on it, just in time. Just as we reached the terminal, husband asks, ‘Do you remember me locking the car?’. We had left the car unlocked! I was sure that it would be safe – who in their right mind would go around that huge parking lot for an unlocked car? If thieves were so hard-working, they would not be thieving! Husband thought that he could run back after we check in, just before security check.

Check in went off smoothly, and we rushed to Security check to figure out it were crowded. Well, lets just say that ‘crowded’ would be an understatement. We could not see the end of the line. It extended right out of a hall, into the exit. It was the longest queue I had ever seen in an airport. And this is not even one of the huge airports. Guess lots of people had the same plans as us. The last term break before proper winter set in  was to be made the most of.

Then on, the flights were uneventful. We even managed to banish worries of the unlocked car.

Finally we reached Athens after a five and a half hour in flights and airports. Athens looked bright and sunny. The mere feeling of warm sunlight is so refreshing and comforting.

Now, normally, on all our trips, I would have planned what to do next. I would have done the research on the best mode of transportation to the hotel. This time, I was busy with other stuff, and somehow managed to forget to check out all these essential details. So I asked a lady at a shop at the airport, the best way to reach the city. ‘The Bus’, she said, ‘No Taxi, taxi big money, take bus’. She even told me which number to take.She seemed horrified at the idea of taking a taxi. Husband was a bit cynical, he wasn’t sure if we should do something like this, on our first day, with all luggage.. But finally, we decided to give it a try.

So off I went, trying to figure out where to board the bus, and get the tickets and stuff like that. In any foreign territory, I am the automatic info-gatherer. I talk with my hands and eyes, and get info. Husband gives up immediately if people don’t understand him 🙂

So I locate the ticket counter, who tells me, ‘Not here, there’. We searched for the counter, but every other counter was closed. Finally, we managed to get the tickets, and boarded the bus, when it dawned on me, that we had no idea how we would know where to get off. So I went around asking. There was no driver in the bus, at that point in time, so I asked others travelling with us. All of them had no clue. Most were tourists themselves. It made me worry if I had taken the wrong decision in taking a bus. Finally the driver came on, and told me, ‘Don’t worry, next metro, sit down’. That made me feel slightly better.

Of course, it was not to last too long. The bus started stopping, and we were still clueless about where we were. We were worried that the driver might forget about us. What if we landed up somewhere else? Finally we saw some people board the bus who looked like locals. So I mustered up courage and asked them. One man, turned and asked, ‘You Indian?’, I replied in the affirmative, and that had him smiling broadly,’ Don’t worry, sit down’!

Finally with no other advice coming our way, we decided to just enjoy the ride.

Now at this point, I have to tell you, that Athens felt a lot like Bangalore with a lot less traffic. The weather was gorgeous, and we were having fun soaking in the atmosphere.

Finally, we managed to reach the city centre. We wanted to take a taxi from here, but our new Greek friend refused to let us. Too expensive, he said, and insisted that that we take the bus. He was going the same way, and said would guide us. Have to say something about this man. He was so very friendly, went all out to help us. Would not take no for an answer, and was so very expressive. He managed to communicate beautifully with hand gestures, facial expressions, and even his tongue 🙂 to show displeasure when he was talking about the Greek economy.

While we were waiting for the next bus, our eyes and nose started itching. Apparently that was due to the left over tear gas, that was used a few days ago during the protests. There were several signs that this beautiful city had been through some turbulent times recently. Despite all that the people, seemed so cheerful and friendly.

To cut a long story short, we took another bus, and got off where he asked us to. The hotel was on the other side of the road. Untl this point, our bus ride had been comfortable and fun. Now started a real ordeal. Crossing over the street with our luggage was no mean feat. There were steps and lugging the suitcase up and down was a pure torture for poor husband. I could not help much, my hands being full with our hand luggage, and daughter to keep track of.

This was also the point that we realized that when a Greek says ‘Five minutes’, he means it just like we Indians do. It is more than likely to be 15 mins. The driving was quite similar to India as well, the pedestrians had to move out of way of the cars.

It was a huge relief to reach the hotel, after escaping speeding cars, huge, dangerous looking stray dogs, and endless asking of directions.

That trek to our hotel was probably the most scary bit of walking I have done. All we had energy for to hit the pillows and sleep…

to be continued…

Holiday Tales 1

This trip of ours was a complete mixed bag, so to speak. Not every thing went as per plan,  but that did not stop us from having a whale of a time!

– First the weather, yes, it got cold. How could it not? And this time, I was over optimistic. I carried a couple of shawls for myself, no coats. I just about survived. The weather was extremely erratic, to say the least. The first day in Athens, I felt that we would get roasted alive. It was scorching! The next day cold and windy. Santorini was gorgeous and warm, most of the time. The rest of the time it was cold and windy. That just meant that we had to be prepared – All THE TIME.

-Greek People. They must be one of the most friendly and helpful people in the world. I could write a full post on how lovely they were.

– The experience. We did everything we wanted to. Did all the touristy things. Saw the Acropolis in Athens, went on the Red Bus Tour( we had never done the city sightseeing tours, we normally explore places in our own way). This time daughter wanted to get the bus with no roof. So we indulged her. It is another story that we always got on the bus when she was tired after hours of walking and they ended up being a sleeping tour for her 🙂

– Ended up living in a ghost town. More on this coming up in a separate post.

– Stayed at an old windmill and a traditional cave house.

– Food. Ate, ate, and ate like there is no tomorrow. Especially a tomorrow when clothes refuse to fit. The Greeks serve cakes at breakfast, and I made the most of it. And their bread – delicious! Stuffed vine leaves – I drool at the thought of them. I should stop talking about food now.

Those of you who wanted Greek gods, let me tell you, there are museums full of them 🙂  Daughter on the other hand is obsessed with Athena. Not a bad thing, I guess, if she is fascinated by strong women, as a lady observing her said. Also, she shows great potential as a future tour guide 🙂

Belated Diwali wishes to you and your families. I can see that most if you have been super-active while we were away. So many new posts !

Off on a short break..

We have real bad luck when it comes to weather on holidays. Not that it really makes a huge difference – we still have a lot of fun, but always end up wondering what is that link between us and the holidays?

For the last couple of years, we ended up going to the US for holdiays. People started asking us if we have relatives there. Each year, by the time, autumn starts, we get antsy. We feel the need to flee from the cold cold weather here. Both times, bad weather dogged us. Once there was a hurricane that almost derailed our trip. And the weather was cold cold cold! Last time as well, the weather was colder than normal. It almost feels as if we take bad weather with us. This time, we decided to stay here during December(why take bad weather to other parts of the world, see, how kind we are ;)) , and travel in autumn instead. We wanted to go to someplace in Europe and that would be difficult in December, given the weather.

I was torn between Turkey and Greece, when a friend of ours uploaded pictures of his holiday here. That settled it. We decided to finalize Greece.

So off we go tomorrow to Athens, and after a couple of days there to Santorini! We are all super excited, packing is yet to be completed, school work still needs doing, haven’t managed to get all the things I had planned, sorted. But nothing matters because our holiday is about to start! All we need is good weather now 🙂 See you all at the other end of the break!