Thursday 21 April 2016, 3 pm, Athens
In a seafood restaurant, having just gorged on greek salad, boiled wild greens, eggplant dip, fried zucchini, squid, sardines, mussels… just a light lunch We’ve been on the go all day, so I still haven’t managed to sit down and write. But, briefly back to the story now:
After we’d had drinks in the roof garden, and it got too dark for photos, we walked around the area some more, ending up at a souvlaki restaurant.
At the restaurant there was a moment of crisis when Lytteltonwitch discovered her wallet was missing and the pocket of her bag was hanging open. We figured out what must have happened was that we’d stopped to watch some buskers in quite a crowded square, and someone had obviously pick-pocketed her in the crowd. A couple of other things were also missing out of the same pocket of her bag, either taken at the same time as the wallet, or fallen out of the open pocket later. Luckily, she didn’t have much money in the wallet, and a quick phone call back to New Zealand got her cards cancelled, so not too huge a loss (except to her pride in being an experienced traveller, perhaps).
The meal was amazing – we got Panost to order for us, so we had a traditional dish that I’ve forgotten the name of (I knew I should have written this up sooner) that was a sort of filled pasta that I think was fried – it was crispy and very tasty anyway. Then there was fried zucchini strips, and then, when we were already feeling full, huge platters of meats – kebab, doner (which I never realised was a different thing to kebab – I spent too long in the UK, where it’s just called “doner kebab”), pork, chicken, and loads of pita bread to go with it. Greeks are definitely very big eaters – we were all struggling to make any sort of dent in the platters, and ended up with a few doggy bags to take home. It was about 11 pm by the time we got back to the apartment (this is on top of the 31 hours of travel, remember), so I was very quickly asleep.
This morning Lytteltonwitch and I decided to try and retrace our steps of the night before, just in case we spotted any of her lost gear. We didn’t have any luck, but it was a nice walk, and I was pleased we didn’t get lost, considering we’d been so tired the night before when Panost was guiding us around.
We’d arranged to meet the others back at the apartment at 9, so we could visit the Acropolis together. We were a little bit late getting back, having been distracted by a little Byzantine church (one of the ones we’d seen last night), which was open, so we snuck a look inside. It was so amazing inside – everything either painted or gilded, icons everywhere, and so ornate (we weren’t allowed to take photos, so you’ll just have to use your imagination).
And of course we had to stop for a quick breakfast, of something similar to a pain au chocolat from a little bakery we passed along the way. And then a further distraction when we spotted Skyring and Mrs Skyring sitting in a cafe. So we never did make it back to the apartment, but the others set out towards the Acropolis hoping to meet us on the way and found us chatting to the Skyrings, so we all caught up in the end. The Skyrings had only just arrived, so they were off to their accommodation for a nap, but the rest of us, plus a couple of the German bookcrossers who the others had bumped into, headed up to the Acropolis.
5 pm, Tourist Police station
We’re here attempting to report Lytteltonwitch’s pickpocketing, so she has it documented for insurance. There’s quite a queue, so we may be here some time, so I’m grabbing the chance to sit and write some more. I’m determined not to let this journal get too far behind (tricky, considering how much we’re packing into each day!).
So, where was I? We’d met up with the others, and stopped for a quick coffee at a roadside cafe (where, due to a miscommunication/miscalculation, we ended up paying twice for some of the coffees, so the waiter must have thought we were very generous tippers!).
Next, we climed the hill up to the Acropolis. In hindsight, we probably should have gone up earlier, because by 10 am when we got there it was swarming with tour groups. But despite the crowds, it was amazing. They’re still in the middle of the restoration, so there’s scaffolding around one end of the Parthenon, but even with that it’s still an incredible structure. And the other temples too are amazing, and the views out over the city, and just the sheer antiquity of it all. It’s amazing to think that these buildings have been here for thousands of years, and that chances are the site was used way before that too. When you are up on top of it, you can see why the site was chosen for a temple – it feels so high above the city – definitely where you would expect the gods to hang out.
And for such huge structures, there’s so much detail in the carving. Of course, a lot of it has been lost to the centuries, but there’s bits remaining here and there that tell you what they must have been like.
We spent a few hours up there (and took so many photos!), then walked down the hill to Monastiraki Square, where we were meeting up with another Greek bookcrosser Katherine. The square is full of life (don’t worry, we’ve all been watching our belongings closely after Lytteltonwitch’s experience), with buskers, many many beggars (we’ve got quite good at shooing them away, and haven’t yet had to resort to the Greek swearwords that Bronwyn picked up from her kids ), and stalls selling everything from shoes to fresh fruit. The fruit was incredibly cheap (or, at least, it seemed so to us – I’m sure it’s much more expensive to buy it there than from a less touristy market) – we bought a whole kilo of strawberries (which were amazing – so sweet and juicy!) for just €2, and sat in the sun eating them while we waited.
Katherine took us for a long walk around the city, (Lytteltonwitch’s Fitbit reckons we’ve walked about 17 km in total today!) and to a museum devoted to the jewellery of a famous Greek jeweller. Some of us was quite spectacular, but I was starting to flag a little, so I was glad when we went on from there to lunch (which I think I described above). We were all feeling pretty tired, so lunch was long and leisurely (and very pleasant) but eventually we had to move, and set off walking again – I’ve got no idea where we ended up going, but I know we saw all sorts of interesting little churches (including one where the basement was used to manufacture gunpowder during the war of independence, and another where, along with the usual saints, the porch was decorated with images of the ancient philosophers (whose names, I’ve learnt, I’ve been pronouncing completely wrong all this time)), and every sort of architecture from the ancient to the very modern, often right next to each other, and streets lined with orange trees.
And cats everywhere (feral cats are definitely a feature of the city – they’re everywhere you look, even sunning themselves on the stones of the Acropolis. Most are pretty mangy looking, so I wouldn’t want to touch any of them. We met a woman this morning who was feeding one colony. She said she has 6 cats at home, and when she can afford it she buys extra food and feeds the strays (I couldn’t help thinking a better form of charity would be to catch them and get them sterilized) – I noticed she was wearing gloves to touch them.)
We ended our long walk by meeting back up with Panost and yet another Greek bookcrosser (whose name I missed). The rest of the group were going with them on one of those hop-on hop-off bus tours to see some more of the city, but Lytteltonwitch and I opted out so we could come and get a police report. We also want to go to the pre-convention dinner tonight, which the others are skipping, so we wanted to make sure we’d be able to get back to Thisseo on time (although that’s looking less and less likely, because we’ve been here an hour now, and although Lytteltonwitch has managed to get a statement taken by one officer, she still has to wait to see someone else who’s responsible for actually writing up the report).
At least I’ve achieved something while we’ve been waiting – I think I’ve got this journal up to date now