From the arrival at the ferry port of Piraeus to the flight departure, we had three and a half hours. The ferry arrived an hour late. Someone from our company was lost when we left the ship, and the rest had to wait, losing precious time. An X96 bus from the port to the airport again and again was getting stuck in traffic jams. Eventually we arrived at the airport 20 minutes before departure. We found the registration area, it was empty. We were sent to the counter under the name "Swissport", where happened a full awareness of the disappointing news: We missed the plane!

"Swissport" belongs to the type of companies, which existence I had never suspected. They are involved in airport maintenance of airlines, i.e. do all the work at the airport related to passengers and luggage instead of airlines. "Swissport", among other things, make maintenance of the Aerosvit Airlines at the airport of Athens. Further our dialogue took place with a young employee of this company. He got in touch on the phone with Aerosvit, offered us the options of this and other airlines.

In the end, we settled on this: we will fly five days later in the evening of October 14 with the same Aerosvit, arrive in Kiev at midnight, wait in the airport all night and in the morning of October 15 fly to Moscow. Extra charges accounted for only 25 euros per person, which was much cheaper than other options. Our remaining money, 500 euros, was just enough for five days in Athens hotel and for food.

The same employee of "Swissport" suggested applying for housing to the travel agency "Pacific", the counter of which is located downstairs in the arrivals area. There, with a glance of available resources we have, they have chosen a hotel for us in the central Athens and the Russian-speaking staff. There we go taking the metro.


Athens, Athena's street

Hotel "Fivos" is located in Psyrí district, 50 meters from the metro station and square Monastiraki, on the left side, when viewed from Monastiraki, of the Athena's street (Athínas), and occupies part of a six-storey building. Two stars. Behind the check-in counter at the reception we were met by Russian-speaking gentleman (probably from the Ukraine) and sent to the last, fifth floor. There was not elevator and we had to trudge with suitcases on the wooden stairs to the top.

The room was for 4 people, there are three beds, one of which is double-level. In addition we had a wardrobe and a table. We had not refrigerator, TV and kitchenette. A bathroom is not available in all rooms of hotel, we had, but there was also a common bathroom at the end of the corridor. It's pretty shabby, through the windows facing the street - a view of walls and roofs. You can climb onto the roof; there are view of the Athena's street and a part of Acropolis from here.

For breakfast, included in price, we went to the first floor. Here's the full menu for each day: boiled eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, bread, jam, biscuits, tea and coffee.

Advantage of the hotel, besides its central location, had the opportunity to receive the reference information in our native language. The above-mentioned gentleman in the reception always told us about the location of stores, how to get to the sea, etc. At nights the hotel is locked, but with bell you may call a night porter, who opens the door to guests without question.

The Athena's street connects Monastiraki and Omonia Squares. Approximately midway there is a market area. On the right side, when viewed from Monastiraki, there are meat and fish markets. On the left they sell cheap vegetables, fruits, olives, eggs, sausages. Here is a pair of Russian-Polish shops selling, among other things, the Russian beer, kvass, meat dumplings. By the market, the Russian-speaking old women sell cheap fake cigarettes (what they are fake was tested at personal experience).

Throughout the street there are many shops selling electrical goods, tools. At the end of the street, near Omonia Square, the Marinopoulos supermarket is located where we bought foods that we could not find in the market.

In general, walks through Athinas were used for shopping purposes. Regime of economy not allowed walking to restaurants, so we were cooked right in the room, using a small pot and immersion heater.

It should be noted that on Sunday afternoon the shops, including grocery, are closed. Not knowing this, we went at this time for shopping. All markets and shops were closed, as well as Marinopoulos. There were open only souvenir, and other, intended for tourist shops, snack bars, as well as some street kiosks (períptero), selling all sorts of small things (cigarettes, bus tickets, phone cards, water, etc.).

Late at night in our room from the street, the sound of contemporary music came, particularly loud and long it lasted at the nights before the weekend. It appears that directly beneath us, at the adjoining Athinas side streets there is an area of nightclubs. Loud music, lots of young people walking. Some clubs have security, but there are others in which one may freely come in. All the people are the Greeks. No tourists, no immigrants. In the daytime and early evening, these streets lined with tables of restaurants, clients of which are the locals again, but of all ages and with families. Some restaurants have live folk music and dances.

In the same quarter, only further, near the market, there is an area populated by Asian immigrants. Directly on the streets are boxes of fruit and vegetables for sale. We wandered there in search of opened on Sunday store and have found almost everything we needed.

With regard to immigrants, the most visible area of their activity is the small trade on the streets and squares: Africans are selling leather bags, Asians - all sorts of trinkets. The latest fashion - a bright rubber ball, thrown with force against the floor, which upon impact becomes flattened to the state of thin flat spot, and in a second turns back to its original shape.

With regard to Russian-speaking immigrants, my mother, going daily at the morning to the beach, always found a company on the way. Most of them are women working as domestic helpers, i.e. servants. Many interesting things about the Greeks can be learned from these conversations. My wife and I were talking in Russian with a porter and a maid in the hotel, as well as with a sales girl at the shop near the market.

The Monastiráki Square is full of life until late night; it is always filled with tourists, street musicians, artists, street vendors. Here are the former mosque and the ancient Church of Mother of God.

Click the images to enlarge them.

In general, the ancient churches of the Byzantine era are one of the main adornments of Athens. The urban area had been changed: all around had been demolished - a church had been left. As a result, many of them absolutely don't fit into the modern urban environment, excelling in beauty and elegance against the background of dismal kingdom of right angles, glass and concrete.

Two streets connect Monastiraki and Syntagma Squares. One of them, the street of Hermes (Ermoú), for most of the way between the squares, is a pedestrian zone with lots of strolling tourists, with the appropriate shops and a couple of small fountains. Here in the middle of the promenade there is one of the above-mentioned ancient churches - Panagía Kapnikaréa.

Another street is the street of the Cathedral (Mitropóleos); the entire motor transport from Syntagma to Monastiraki turn off from Ermou and goes on it. Here, between the columns that prop up a modern building, we can see another old church, a smaller one. A little further there is the square of the Cathedral with that same Cathedral. When we were there, it was open but under restoration in scaffolding. On the square there are the monuments of the Athens Metropolitan Damaskinos and the last emperor Constantine Paleologos.

In the block north of Ermou there is the National Historical Museum (former Parliament); next there is a picturesque equestrian statue of the hero of the war for independence Kolokotrónis.

Sýntagma (Constitution) is the main square of Athens. It is a little park with benches, surrounded by streets from all sides. Here is one of the main transport hubs of the city. From here, for example, we went to the city's beaches. Across the street is another square in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the eternal flame, evzons and the building of Parliament. A wide street between the areas is the avenue of Queen Amalia. This part of the avenue is the most popular place in Greece, at least among journalists. If you see a usual news report from Greece (meetings, demonstrations, disturbances), you know - it's from here.

In addition to wandering through the neighbourhoods, we performed also the rambles to specific routes. One of them was around the Acropolis.

We go to the south of Monastiraki; here is a tourist district of Pláka and two sites of archaeological excavations: the Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora. On the territory of the latter there is the famous Tower of the Winds.

Going to the Acropolis, we turn left and further pass along the foot of the hill. On the way there is a small ancient Church of Transfiguration. The path goes on some height; there are panoramic views of the residential areas of Athens and the hill Lykavittos. This is Anafiótika district. The houses here closely adjoin the Acropolis hill, even a little climb on it. And we go down on the narrow lanes in the form of stairs, that typical rather for the hilly villages in the islands.

We descend down on the street of Trásyllos to a wide pedestrian road - the streets of Dionysius the Areopagíte. Here on the right the whole Acropolis is seen with the top of Parthenon on it and the Theatre of Dionysus in front of it, and on the left there is the newly built Acropolis Museum.

The area in front of the museum is designed as a platform over the place of excavation. Part of the floor of platform is made of transparent material, and ancient ruins can be seen right under your feet. In addition, for a survey of the ruins there are spacious "holes" in the platform. There are a lot of people and queue for the tickets. Unfortunately, to pass to this and other museums, as well as to the enclosed territory of the excavation sites (in the Acropolis, for instance) we did not allow ourselves. However, the regret for this was very small, on the streets of Athens can be found no less interesting things than on the above mentioned places.

We go along the promenade further, climb up to the theatre of Herod Atticus, rise to the ticket office of the Acropolis and to the rocky hill of Areopagus. The places are familiar to us through the last visit of Athens. Further we go down the path that cross a vacant lot with ancient ruins (one of the few unfenced sites with ruins) and go to the area of the Roman Agora, thereby committing the intended circle around the Acropolis.

All-round panorama from Areopagus hill

Another little trip we performed to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. On the way, on the street of Philhellenes there is the Russian Holy Trinity Church, and then - the Anglican Church of Saint Paul. On the avenue of Queen Amalia in the middle of the sidewalk there is a sightseeing hole with the ruins of Roman baths. On the way there are interesting monuments.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus impresses with dimensions of the remaining columns. Though, I had to see and take pictures of all this from behind a fence. Near this site there is another monument - the Gateway of Hadrian.

It's to climb up the Lykavittós (Lycabettus) hill that I most wanted to do in Athens. It was the next trip, performed alone.

On the way, accidentally I managed to visit the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Besides me, the event visited some statesmen of Greece, including the newly elected Prime Minister Geórgios (Yórgos) Papandréou.

My way lay along the Parliament building and down the avenue of Queen Sofia. Then I turned left towards the hill on one of the side streets. The main thing is that the purpose of the way is visible from everywhere. Approaching the foot of the hill, I saw the winding road up. In principle, I could find a station of the cable railway and come up more easily, but, feeling the strength, I began the ascent on foot.

At the top there is the Church of Saint George, the bell tower and the observation deck. The view from here is magnificent. All Athens lies beneath us: the Acropolis, the sea coast, each neighbour and a distant district of the city. From anther side of the church, at the lower level, there is an area with tables of a caf? and with the views of another side of the city. Still below there is the station of cable railway.

All-round panorama from Lykavittos hill (1)

All-round panorama from Lykavittos hill (2)

The last but one day of our stay I decided to go to the sea. The bus stop is located on the avenue of Queen Amalia near Syntagma Square. The buses B2 and E22 reached the coast and run along it. The ticket costs 1 euro, are bought in kiosks and punched inside the bus cabin; you can punch the ticket a second time on another bus, but no later than 90 minutes after the first time. The trams go from Syntagma to the sea too, but we did not use them. Bus goes faster, as just skips many stops. You have to actively signal to the driver so that he stops: inside the cabin by pressing button and at the stop by waving with hands. The tram is going slowly, but with all the stops.

I find myself in the district of Paleó Fáliro. As ill luck would have it, the weather turned bad. The sky was clouded and the sea stormed. My last sea bathe did not succeed. I walked along the beach and went back. The rain fell, it was the second rain for our month in Greece (the first we met at Tilos), though there was mid-October. However, the rain soon stopped, and by the afternoon the weather improved.

On the day of departure, we leave the room and headed by the metro to the airport. It is clear that not all trains of the blue line of the Athens metro go to the airport, since it is located far outside the city limits, a few people need to go there, and the ticket price there is quite different. The interval is half an hour. We alighted at the station Ethnikí Ámina, and waited there our train. The indicator board at the station displays the time remaining before the arrival of one or another train, where the newly arrived train goes, in general, everything is pretty understandable.

Getting to the airport, we obtained the tickets at a familiar counter of "Swissport" and began to wait for departure, this time we had enough time.

On the second floor of the airport there is a museum, which displays items found here in the neighbourhoods, plans of the excavations, vases, as well as copies of famous ancient sculptures, such as the Sphinx of Spáta. Several of these sculptures are located at the entrance to the airport building. Wall of the corridor on the second floor is devoted to the memory of Elefthérios Venizélos, a politician of the beginning of XX century, whose name was given to the airport.

So, a month spent in Greece ended. It left a lot of knowledge and experience, and material for a year of work. Finishing the story, I note only that at the end we performed two flights: from Athens to Kiev with a stop in Odessa, and from Kiev to Moscow; and we spent a nearly sleepless night in Kiev's airport Borispol. That's all!

Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.