2018/02/12 – Athens and Sounion – 1978 – 2018

Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th February

Our campsite for two nights: Parkopolis Port Parking, Piraeus/Athens

Took the toll road as there didn’t seem to be a lot of options from Corinth to Athens.  Went through two toll gates and thankfully only paid a total of €10.   The toll road was a breeze and we reached Athens quite quickly. 

Travelled through the outskirts of Athens to get to the Port.  Back in the big smoke again and dreading every minute of driving through it.  The traffic fortunately was reasonably light though probably my driver would not agree with me as he was very quiet and concentrated very hard. 

The campsite is nothing more than a car park with no amenities other than Internet, but only a couple of minutes walk to the train station and the Port itself.  Marie the parking attendant was super and gave us a map and a wealth of information to assist us with getting to Athens by rail and what to see whilst we were there.

Spent late afternoon walking around the Port area.  Had walked less than 100 metres and saw men urinating in the streets, homeless people sleeping in doorways and footpaths and men, women and children begging.

The whole area, and this is typical of much of southern Europe, particularly France, Portugal, Spain and Italy as well as Greece,  is not much more than one big rubbish tip – individual residences and businesses don’t get their own rubbish bin but a communal one for the street or the area and of course when there is no ownership to a bin then there is no responsibility and the whole system goes out the door and rubbish is just thrown anywhere and everywhere – even though some bins are marked recycling this just does not happen.

We felt very safe in our camp though with attendant supervision all day and gates are locked at 10pm at night.  We had a Brit motorhomer next door for the two days but didn’t see them at all, they like us spent full days in Athens sightseeing.

Took off early next morning to the train station and following Marie’s instructions, made life easy for us.  Piraeus is the end of the rail line and within seven stops we were in the heart of the Acropolis area. The view from the train on the way to the Acropolis was just mile after mile of graffiti.

Near the Athens Flea Market and Plaka area

Bought a seven site pass at the Acropolis which normally costs €30 each but being over 65 and using my EU passport was reduced to €15 each.  We have found a few places that provide reduced rates for EU citizens over 65 years of age.   We visited The Acropolis and the Parthenon, Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephaistos (and so many more Archeological sites and museums), the huge Athens Flea Market at Monastiraki and strolled up and down the Plaka area until we could walk no more. 

Possibly one of the few places in Athens you will see any greenery – right below the Acropolis

 So much has changed since our visit in 1978 with most of the statues now missing from the Acropolis and Temples – now housed in the museums.  Even out of season, it was extremely busy at all the tourist spots – very popular with Asian tour groups – would hate to battle the summer crowds.

The Amphitheatre at the Acropolis

The back streets away from the main tourist spots were an eyesore – beggars and derelict buildings everywhere.  Lots of Police on motorbikes, bikes and on foot.  This has been the norm here in most of the European big cities.

Athens is obviously feeling the results of the EU migration policy – in the Plaka area there were hundreds and hundreds of men aged between around 18-30 years old just standing around doing nothing in groups or around 4-12 – on a working day and in the middle of the day – they had a real eastern European look about them and it was quite worrying – they obviously were not gainfully employed.

Feet and knees not sore and tired yet

We have procedures that we follow when walking in areas of high risk – we always walk in a direction facing the oncoming traffic, change sides of the street regularly, look in the glass of shop windows for reflections and when we feel someone is close behind us for some period of time we stop suddenly without warning and turn around.

Looking down at the Temple of Hephaistos from the Acropolis

I always carry my shoulder bag which contains our passports and all important paperwork with a chain which is locked to my wrist and the Driver regularly wiggles his shoulders to feel if anyone is trying to get into the backpack .

When walking down a narrow lane in the Plaka near the Flea Market we were followed by two dodgy looking guys and a female.

When we stopped unexpectedly and turned around the female was almost in the Drivers backpack and they pretended they were lost and moved to the side.

We resumed our walk and then the same thing happened again – just after that 2 Police came along on bikes gave them a real check out and the dodgy ones disappeared.

Very disappointing how Athens has changed.

Tasted the local “gyros” which is similar to our kebabs but wrapped in a whole Greek pita and served with a delicious sauce a bit like spicy hollandaise, tomato, lettuce and a few hot chips – so yummy!  Two of these and two 500ml Fix (best Greek beer) for a mere €9.

Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed the day but by late afternoon when we could walk no more, headed to the train station.  There was standing room only and we were packed in like sardines but no one cared (except my feet of course).

Another very quiet night with just the two motorhomes in the car park overnight.  Highly recommended for location and ease of transport to Athens – though could not find anything interesting in the Port itself.

Wednesday 14th February

Valentine’s Day today so headed down to the tip of the island to the beautiful seaside village of Sounion.  We had such fond memories of this place in 1978 so thought after 40 years we would go back – expecting lots of changes of course.

Took the coast road and passed by so many Olympic Games sites – now looking very unoccupied.   Must have been such a financial burden on this relatively poor country.

Our campsite for tonight:  Sounion  GPS  37.6552N. – 24.0247E

Surprisingly, very little had changed and even the little seaside restaurant (Fish Tavern Ilias) we so fondly remembered, was still there.  Some renovations of course but the main old part still there. 

Celebrated lunch with my Valentine whilst overlooking the sea.  The grilled octopus was just delicious (but quite ugly looking).

Looking down at Sounion from Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon – brown building is hotel we stayed at in 1978 and white building top left is our favourite Taverna from 1978

One of those funny little memories we had of eating at this Taverna in 1978 was that when we arrived I ordered an Ouzo and Coke and my Driver, as usual, ordered a beer.  The Greeks could not imagine that Ouzo and Coke would be mixed so I was presented with about a 7 ounce glass of Ouzo and one of Coke. 

Beautiful octopus – great looking too – not

This is one of the great memories we have recounted over and over again for the past 40 years.

The hotel next door where we stayed in 1978 was still there.  The only addition was another waterfront restaurant – all else unchanged.

Overlooking the small village, high on the hill, was the Temple of Poseidon.  Again the statues had been removed and now, like everywhere in Greece, barricaded and fenced off, with a pay station (in 1978 there was no fence and no pay station).  The entry costs to all archaeological sites are reduced in the winter months, but still very reasonable compared to other cities.

Rain clouds came over in the late afternoon but we were so happy that we had a beautiful day until then to visit the Temple and have a superb relaxed lunch in the sunshine.

There is a campsite area half way up the hill to the Temple but is very open and exposed so opted to spend the night at the other campsite down beside the Taverna.

Temple of Poseidon – Cape Sounion – southern tip of Greece mainland

Lots of stray cats here, but given a choice, they are better than the stray dogs who bark endlessly.

Rained all night but had another very peaceful quiet night with one other motorhome here to keep us company.

Food and drink is still comparatively good value in Greece compared to most other European countries, however not as cheap, comparatively, as it was 40 years ago – could have something to do with the fact that there is now 24%  GST in Greece on everything you buy.