Thursday, 26 June 2014

Things you need to know about Athens and Greece Part 1.

1.  When crossing the road, hold hands.  No one wants to die alone.  Yes, who was it that said 'It's a dangerous thing, leaving your front door..'? I think it was a hobbit.  But I don't think he'd quite envisioned being taken out by an entire family including the dog, all perched pricariously on a scooter and not one of them wearing a helmet.  No.. wait... the dogs' got one, only having decided that his elbow is the most precious thing on his body, he's got his front paw hooked through the visor section, as contrary to popular belief, it's his doggy arm and not his brain the surgeons have trouble mending.

Further to this:

2. When the green mans green look straight ahead at the other side of the road to safety.  There seems to be some sort of cultural more that I'm not getting, that when I make eye contact with drivers under these circumstances, they assume I'm either some kind of threat and must be taken out forth with, or that I wish for suicide and they're very happy to oblige.

And further once more on this:

3.  Be aware that traffic, cars, scooters, lorries, buses, and even trams will assail you from all and every direction.  They have an excellent public travel system.  For 1 euros 40, you can get right across the city, using busses, trams (a particularly civilised way to travel), and their metro which pisses all over FirstBus and the Edinburgh Tram system. But these items are subject to the same road rules as above so unless you are actually on one of them, be aware.  You can be standing on tram tracks and wondering if the heats making you think that a big shiny train is heading right for you.  Just so you know, it's not the heat.

In saying all this:

2. Go for a wander.  On foot.  Have I just taken leave of my senses, given my first three points?  No I haven't.    I'm not saying be stupid, wave your money about or get yourself horrendously lost, nor am I saying I've never heard of any tourist or other getting mugged, but Athens is a surprisingly comfortable and non-violent city, particular for tourists.  It is a city that never truly sleeps, where your regular Athenian family can - children and all - be found having dinner at 11 pm at night.  The equivalent of their tabacs - little stalls that are open when you get to your own hotel bed at 2 in the morning, but still open when you leave for Hydra at 7am - never close and have owners that seem to live within their cigarette packeted walls.  Don't think you can't sit at that little bar on the corner, that's  down that quiet residential street, sip your ice cold beer, with all the other locals who have one eye on the silent TV in the corner and are shooting the breeze - loudly and with hand movements - whilst they nurse their own beers and smoke their cigarettes until three in the morning.  How else will you find that little canteen with the butter beans in tomato sauce, served with rice and mint stuffed peppers baked to an almost bbq but not bitter finish? Or the tiny coffee and ice cream place,  that filled your cone from the bottom up or that Slouvaki place that does the hand made pitta, and the garlickyist Tzatzki you've ever had.  But I'm getting onto a subject that really deserves it's own post so I might leave this here for now.

Unfortunately we never got a chance to cycle.

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