Monday, May 19, 2008

Backpacking in Greece (Part II)

Athens is the ideal, and probably the obvious place to start your trip. Everyone always asks me how long to stay in Athens, "Is a day long enough?" Well my answer to that would be no, ok Athens is busy, and the traffic is chaos, but within a five minute walk you can be somewhere away from all the noise of the traffic. I would say 2-3 days perhaps your first visit, there are lots of great things to visit, from Museums, street markets, National Gardens, the list is endless. (I mention a few of the places worth visiting further down the page.)

On arrival at Athens Airport, immediately outside the Terminal Building you will find a taxi rank, the taxi queue will start from Door 4 of the Arrivals Level, you will also find a bus stop. I always use a taxi to get to the Plaka District of Athens, expect to pay around 17.60 Euro...The meter should be turned on as soon as you are in the taxi, but i prefer to agree the rate beforehand, (i have been told this is illegal) lately there have been a few reports of meter fixing. I feel i have been lucky with taxis as i have never had any problems with the fares or drivers. In most cases i have found them very helpful. I have received a few e-mails from others who have had problems, but i suppose this can happen in any country.

The Plaka, which is close to the Acropolis in the centre of Athens, should normally take about 60 minutes if the traffic is not to bad . . . which it can be . . . especially during the rush hour!

The new airport is located 27km northeast of Athens, away from the city and it's located near Spata. (see my link page) Athens International Airport is accessable via Attiki Odos, a six-lane motorway constituting the Athens City Ring Road. Public transport is provided by express airport buses, which have connections with Athens centre and the port of Piraeus on a 24hr basis. There are three bus itineraries dedicated to carry passengers to and from the airport.

LINE E94 connects the Ethniki Amina Metro Station with the airport. Passengers can transfer from the Metro line to the airport bus at this departure point.

LINE E95 Syntagma Square - Airport Express has it's departure point at the centre of Athens and via Vas. Sofias Ave, Mesogian Ave and Attiki Odos terminates at the airport.

LINE E96 Pireaus - Airport Express starts from the centre of Pireaus (Karaiskaki Square) and via Posidonos Ave, Varis-Varkiza, and Koropiou Roads terminates at the airport.

For Express Lines E94-E95-E96, the ticket costs 2.93 Euro and is valid for 24 hours on all public transport.

I always stay at The Plaka because its a good base from which to visit the city's many sights. The Acropolis and much more is within easy walking distance, and in the evenings the Plaka is quite lively. There are plenty of Taverna's some with live music, bars and late opening shops, all within a few hundred yards of THE ADAMS HOTEL. It has a great atmosphere whatever time of the year you decide to visit . . . even in January! As I found out this year.

The Acropolis and it's museum are of course a must for any visitor to Athens, and just below can be found Ancient Agora where there is also a good museum. Hadrian's Arch is at the corner of Amalias Street and the Roman Market at the beginning of Aiolou Street. I would strongly advise that you purchase a tourist map, which is readily available from the many small kiosks dotted around the city. A "Sky Map" of Plaka, should cost you around 1.46 Euro.

Take a walk to Syntagma Square, about 15 minutes, where traditionally dressed ceremonial guards are on duty at the Parliament Buildings, (the former residence of the Greek Monarchy). The changing of the guard ceremony is very popular with tourists from all over the world, but don't stand to close! they will not go around you!

Kolonaki is also worthy of a visit, a great place to relax on a hot Athens day, chill out with a "frappe" (iced coffee). Omonia Square and Monastiraki are other areas you might like to visit.

Recently opened is the underground railway, "The Metro", this might sound crazy amongst all this ancient history, but it is something you should see. You will find a Metro entrance in Syntagma Square. It is a cheap way to travel but can get very busy, as can all of Athens. Whilst building the station the completion date was delayed due to the discovery of ancient ruins, these can be seen from a viewing balcony, displayed behind glass panels.

The main port of Athens is Piraeus, this takes about 30 minutes from the city, from where most of the Greek Islands can be reached by ferry. At first I was a bit worried about just turning up at the harbour and attempting to purchase ferry tickets, but it's not a problem. Just check the sales kiosks in the port for the Island or group you intend to visit, and purchase your tickets . . "No Problem", as the Greeks say!

It is a large port, so make sure you find the right ferry company and boat, then check departure times at the boat. Destinations and departure times are displayed on the boats. (This being Greece however they might not leave on time!)

A lot of visitors head for the island of Paros (not to be confused with Poros) a good starting point as it's only 4 hours by ferry, and is central to the islands of The Cyclades.

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