Greece

Well this is a slightly different type of review, in that I’m writing it now (August 2012) when the main trip took place in July 2006. The reason for this is that at the time my website was only about Theatre, so didn’t have a home for this type of review. So my plan is to talk about this trip and add in what I can remember about my other visits to this country.

So to the trip, well it was a two stop holiday organised independently. So it starts when I fly into Athens. The first of the two locations, well actually 3 locations but we’ll get to that later.

The flight was as I remember uneventful, and I take a Taxi to my hotel The Golden City Hotel, in central  Athens.

I was meeting with a friend there, and we were travelling together to see two very different aspects of Greece. The first half being a sight-seeing holiday taking in the Acropolis and other sights in Athens. The second a few days by and near the beach resort of Tolon.

The remainder of this first day we just wandered a bit locally and had a meal ready for the busy first full day. On the top of my must see list was the Acropolis, as I’d been there once before many years earlier. On a day trip from Glyfada, where I spent my first ever foreign holiday, Oh and NO my memory isn’t good enough for a review of that! Although I do have a few iffy (better explain that, slightly out of focus) photos. Glyfada being a seaside resort just outside Athens.  

I remembered it (the Acropolis) as white, high, and dusty. I also remember the smog during that first visit was so bad that I couldn’t get any good long shots of the site. Well on this day the smog had gone, but wouldn’t you know it, the builders had moved in, and, to be honest so it appeared had half the population of a reasonably sized city! … So we queued … and queued eventually reaching the top, to be greeted with these remarkable views.

My memories of this historical and world famous location … HOT… Busy… and a feeling of respect for the way they are trying to save it for future generations, Oh and that the public toilets near the new Museum they had just finished were disgusting! This is unfortunately, for me one of my abiding memories of this country. The fact that their plumbing requires … well let’s just say the pipes are narrow so certain ancillary items necessary for a hygienic experience have to be collected elsewhere and disposed of manually. Something I have no doubt is becoming less prevalent now as progress marches on, but for my trips I know it still existed, and it wasn’t fun.

Oh and that Museum, I know space is a premium, you don’t really want to demolish the Parthenon to build a bigger museum to tell people what the Parthenon used to look like! But allow for the fact they only permit a certain amount of people in at a time and the others have to wait outside in the heat.

After the Acropolis & Parthenon we headed down a bit to another site of historical interest, now to be honest the WHOLE CITY is a sight of historical interest, or at least surrounds bits of them, check out the photos.

Also and it was here that I first encountered a very simple but very effective device, in one of the restaurants I visited they had a large fan outside with a water spray generator in front, the fan then blew the spray outwards cooling the customers, and very welcome it was too.

As my companion was of the female persuasion the rest of the day was given over to shopping, in Athens. Where I was greeted with a Cow reading a book. No I hadn’t been out in the sun too long, check it out!

So we jump to the next day and our trip moves on by Bus to Nafplio and onwards by taxi to the small town of Tolo on the Peloponnese coast. The bus I must admit is not my favourite mode of transport but I made it, the taxi was efficient and got us to the first drama of the trip.

Remember earlier I said this was an independently arranged trip, well to mix a metaphor this was where the wheels came off. We were delivered to our hotel for the next (longest) part of the trip, to be informed that we didn’t have a booking. We had the confirmation paperwork but they didn’t have us on their list, and to use another well known phrase it was a case of “you’re not on the list so you ain’t getting in”. To be fair they were friendlier than that, and it turned out we had requested a sea view, and when they didn’t have one they cancelled our booking rather than disappoint us!!

Apparently the idea was to switch us to a sister hotel, but someone had forgotten the second half of the process. Luckily for us the other hotel had a room, and the Manager of the first drove us to the second which was, as it turned out, literally 100 feet from the beach. So Good Times!

Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember the name of this hotel and I don’t know why but I only took a view from the room not of the hotel. So if anyone recognises this view let me know!

The next two days were a beach holiday, spending time by and in the sea, going out for meals and generally recharging batteries.

After this was a trip to Monemvasia, which I’ve heard described as the Greek Gibraltar. A good description, it’s an “Island” with a one lane in one lane out road bridge leading to it. We drove there, an adventure in itself. Luckily my companion was German so was used to driving on the wrong side of the road!

It was here I had a life lesson … that being, when in a dark room (toilet in a cafe on the island) remember how the door was on the way in, … ‘cause I didn’t (remember how LOW it was) and damn near decapitated myself on the way out, am I exaggerating for effect? Well put it this way the couple walking up the street outside when I did this stopped mid step and in perfect unison went “OUCH!” at which point I tried to walk off coolly desperately wondering if the part of my head above my eyes was still attached!

There then followed what became a regular aspect of this trip, walking … up hill … in VERY hot weather! We headed up, and up, and up, mind you we did end up with views like these…

As we had the car for another day we decided to do a little more travelling, and guess what Rob manned up and drove, okay so primarily it was on a motorway so I was corralled to the “right” side, but I didn’t bump the car once, and I lived to tell the tale. We visited Mycenae, a set of ruins up a hill, with spectacular views of the surrounding area.

After this we headed to Nafplion, one of my favourite places, once the capital of Greece this reasonably sized town gave us one of the best meals of the trip, and another walk up many MANY steps! To admittedly more spectacular views, it was on this walk that I used 3 bottles of water 1 I drank the other 2 I poured over my head on the way up, it was HOT.

“A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step” excuse the probable miss-quote, and not quite 1000 miles but still one hell of a walk! However these steps lead to these views

Our final stop on this road-trip section of the holiday was Epidaurus, for believe it or not, Theatre. Well some say modern theatre was “born” in Greece, … no one did? … Well it sounded good so I’m saying it.  

Epidaurus is a theatre over 2000 years old and still operating! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Broadway! It is famous for its acoustics, and is of course an out-door theatre. We were lucky enough to be there during the annual festival and so got tickets for “The Thesmophoriazusae” No I don’t have a clue what it means, and that’s AFTER I’ve seen the show, all I can tell you are these few pertinent points:

Sitting in an amphitheatre whilst a guide tells you for a few minutes about a show is one thing, sitting for over 2 hours on those stone steps is quite another!

Greek plays with unpronounceable names aren’t necessarily performed by people in togas. In fact for parts of this performance some of the female cast were wearing skirts, … not unusual you may say, but I mean ONLY skirts, peaked ones attention I can tell you, especially after

Realising that it was performed in Greek so I didn’t have a CLUE what was going on

The show itself was fun, was costumed in a sort of 1950’s American military theme, contained 1950’s style music and included a man / creature with a very large … phallic object!

Beyond that to be honest they could have been performing the script of an episode of Emmerdale for all I knew, but I really enjoyed the experience.

The idea was to visit the area, see a show then return to Tolon, and basically that’s what we did, taking our life in our hands again on the roads, I tell you what the Greeks really do have their own way of driving, best described as … by Radar!

What do I mean, well it seems they just drive with no consideration of other drivers till the screams attract them to the fact that maybe they should stop! Oh and that’s not to have a dig at Greek people I don’t mean they are inconsiderate merely that they literally don’t seem to consider there may be anyone else on the roads the same time as them.

Oh and it continues to the Police there too, at the end of the show we were one of many hundreds of cars, busses, scooters heading down the winding lanes from the theatre till we came at a right angles to a dual carriageway, in the middle of which was a policeman motioning for us to enter straight away, trouble was at this time there were cars heading in BOTH DIRECTIONS AT SPEED in front of us, so we just closed our eyes gassed it and, hey it worked, haven’t a Scooby HOW it worked, but again I’m here to tell the story! So it worked.

So after this the trip was drawing to a close, and as our flights were from Athens, and early, we returned to the area around Athens staying in Glyfada. Remember where I said I’d spent my first foreign holiday?

Well to be honest that first trip nearly put me off for life. On that trip we three fresh faced individuals were bussed from the airport, past armed Police, something I’d never seen at that time, it was years ago, past pavements with no pavement, to a Hotel and a room for three guys. With 3 beds so close together you couldn’t walk between them, when I walked to the balcony pushed the doors open only to have them spring back and smack me in the head. When I tried again, a little slower I saw that there was a rope across the outside of the doors holding them closed, as the balcony had fallen off!

We couldn’t leave as the hotel had our passports, so we wandered around what was sold to us as “Well Glyfada to Athens is Porthcawl (Welsh seaside resort) to Cardiff, as in where all the city dwellers go for a day by the sea” to be greeted with a crumbling, dusty, location with a few bars some rough looking small beaches.

Where we proceeded to spend a week eating Burgers, in the only burger place, with so much Garlic Vampires haven’t been a problem ever since, and all three of us trying to chat up the one young female, in the only bar we found with ANY life. As we thought she said her boyfriend wasn’t about, but what she actually said, we found out on the last night was, he was the other bar person! So needless to say after a trip like that it was a while before I ventured outside the UK again.

Oh and it was in that bar that I was given another life lesson, don’t drink flamin’ Ars*holes when your drunk, as we witnessed one poor sole at the other end of the bar nearly losing half an eyebrow by not realising the others with him were lifting the glass to their lips BLOWING OUT the flame THEN drinking the contents!

So I can say it was with some trepidation that I returned to this local. My thinking being:

  • I needed to be close to the airport
  • It was only for one night
  • The Olympics had been to Greece in the intervening years so it must have got better … hadn’t it!?

Well to be honest it had,but was still not a place I would want to spend any time in, as there were now some very nice beaches, but they’d all been turned into beach clubs where you had to pay an entrance fee.

Luckily our hotel had a very nice pool on the roof, the rooms were functional and it was a good way to split the return journey.

So lasting memories of this trip: mad drivers, the magnificent views, the cleanliness of Athens (especially public transport), the mad “sculptures” in the centre of Athens, the toilets and the heat. Would I visit again? Yes, but I would pay for the best hotels I could afford.

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