A layover in Athens

Athens, Greece

Upon landing in Athens I had a brief layover planned since I needed to take a ferry to my next destination, and the ferry terminal at Piraeus was closed for the evening.

My initial plan was to take the Athens Metro from the airport to my hotel at Monastiraki. I asked at the airport information desk how to take the Metro from the airport but was immediately shot down — “There’s a strike,” the woman at the desk informed me. She told me to go outside and take the express bus to Syntagma Square — a short walk away from Monastiraki.

After an hour on a very crowded bus I finally wound up at Syntagma. I’d never seen this part of Athens in at midnight before. As you can see in the above photo the streets were hardly deserted.

Athens, Greece

I picked up some late night snacks as I wandered over toward the hotel. But first I checked out Monastiraki, taking in the late night Athens style touristy madness, with young tourists partying, street vendors selling all kinds of silly stuff, and the moon bursting through the clouds over the Acropolis.

It’s hard to explain but after a week in Stockholm during the summer, being in a place where the sun went down at night felt like a relief. People partying and playing loud music outside didn’t bother me — they were just doing their thing — my only focus was on the comfort of a dark sky.

In my hotel room I finished up my blog post on Stockholm before going to bed. It was still a party outside but fortunately the hotel had provided earplugs (I’d brought my own anyway.)

When morning came I had to take the lift elevator downstairs, then take the express elevator up to the bar and restaurant for breakfast.

Athens, Greece

The hotel breakfast would have been unremarkable — if not for the view. That’s the Acropolis in the center, with Monastiraki down below. Upon checking out of the hotel I walked to the Metro station to take a ride to Piraeus. I already had my ferry ticket from Piraeus to the island of Hydra and there was a pre-wedding lunch scheduled, so there was some time pressure.

And that’s where a comedy of errors began. First I tried taking money out of the ATM at the Monastiraki Metro station. It only dispensed twenty euro notes, but as I quickly learned the ticket machines wouldn’t take anything more than a five euro note. Next I tried buying a ticket with a debit card. Since I was in Athens the previous year they’d upgraded the ticket machines to accept plastic… almost. Of the eight ticket machines at the station I waited in line at six of them before I found one that had a working card reader.

Hydra, Greece

Fortunately I’d left enough time for all the Metro ticketing madness to get to Piraeus ahead of schedule. I even had time to stop at a nearby cafe for a much needed cappuccino freddo on the way to the Hellenic Seaways dock to catch the ferry.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned traveling in Greece over the years, it’s this: schedules are more like suggestions, things just happen when they happen. I think of this as “Greek time.” There’s no need to rush when you’re on Greek time — if you’re late you may still be the first one there.