Flag the running, Socrates had the right idea
Athens Travel Blog› entry 24 of 26 › view all entries
Here I was leaving Nafplion for Athens, and from Athens I was planning on flying back to Australia and home to New Zealand. Last night I had been overwhelmed by a sense of despair that my year had raced by so quickly.
I thought about my going back to Tokoroa where I would return to Policing, and I thought about the girl that had cut me lose and told me to head off without concerning myself about her.
I wondered who i had now grown into and whether she would be the same sweet thing I'd thought about whenever I felt pangs of homesickness over the past 12 months.
But there was no time for that right now... I had another fabulous experience in front of me and I was itching to see my last few sites.
My bus dropped me in the center of Athens and I caught the required bus out to the Youth Hostel. It was quite a distance from the city center so i saw plenty of the city as we weaved through the streets.
The hostel was great and the manager was very helpful. He got me settled in and I organised some food before relaxing for the evening.
Next morning I arose, scrubbed up, had some breakfast and jumped a bus back down town. Myplan was to head straight up to the Acropolis where I was hoping to beat the crowds at this early hour. I had timed my visit for the "Free Entry Sunday" as my cash was starting to worry me. I think it was a fortunate thing I was heading home tomorrow!
It was a grey kind of day and this brought mixed blessings.
As I approached the propylaea (gateway) to the Acropolis I discovered I was not early enought to beat "the maddening crowd". I was greeting by a sea of denim-clad students. They lounged all over the steps and I was forced to pick my way through them to make the top.
It was reasonably busy there too. Student were crawling over the place, sketching the carvings and enjoying the history. I wandered around and marvelled at the "open" feel of the buildings. i tried to imagine the inhabitants wandering from one structure to the other as they went about their business so long ago.
Over the edge, the modern city of Athens spread herself below. In between the apartment blocks lay grand pillars of other archeological treasures. I wondered where Christine might be and thought again how great it would have been if she were here teaching me about all I could see.
I tip-toed back through the denim and down off the mountain. I followed my city map out to Filopapou Hill where I found Socrates Cell nestled under a canopy of greenery. There was a bench outside and I sat there for a while imagining the man considering his life and the meaning of it all.
I must say it seemed like the perfect spot for a bit of philosophical contemplation!
Being the huge theatre fan I am (and a thespian in my own right of course) I had to visit a couple of the stages in the area.
I continued my circle of the city centre until I came to the Presidential Residence.
Timing had to be right to catch the changing of the guard and I had done pretty well with a good veiw and only a short wait.
Standing in the sun were the men to be replaced. They were dressed in flowing white skirts, white stockings, a lovely embroidered cape and matching red hat and clogs.
It was obvious this traditional dress was all about staying cool. I couldnt imagine at all having my blood turn cold should these guys challenge me in a fight, but I should mention they were carrying a pretty "non-traditional" rifle with bayonet attached, so THAT would probably be the thing to make me turn my heels at their challenge!
OUr small group of excited tourists were then presented with the next shift as they marched out to the front of the building.
Now this would be impressive enough considering their dress and syncronisation but this is no typical march and turn, this whole performance is done at super slow motion and the guards stand on one foot for an age as they slowly tip the toes of their clogs this way and that.
The bright red clog is dressed with a big fluffy pompom to match the tassles tied to the back of their knees.
It's a great performance and whenever I look at my photos I am always disappointed that it appears I have caught the action with a fast shutter speed. A snap just doesn't do this justice, video would have been the answer.
Once the guard has changed and the previous set marched off for a glass of Ouzo, the boss comes out and quietly goes about each of the new men and adjusts his uniform so he looks his best for the impressed tourists.
I had another night at the YHA before I flew out of Athens. Unfortunately when i made my enquiries about a flight to Australia from here I was given information that conflicted with that I had received in London.
I had been told Athens was, like London, a bargain basement hub and I would be able to get a cheap flight. When I discussed the matter with the travel agent I was told it would be much less expensive to return to London and fly back to NZ from there.
The next evening I was sitting in the Athens airport waiting to do just that.
Whilst sitting there I struck up a conversation with a young bloke who turned out to be a soldier with the English Army. We shared gruesome stories of our work and got seats together for our flight back.
When we boarded the plane we found we were in the last two seats at the rear of the plane. The two hostesses had their service area immediately behind us and they asked us if we wanted a drink. We took a beer each and settled down for the flight. Every time the hostesses came to get others on the plane drinks they passed us another two beers. We thenked them and they were astounded by our courtesy. I explained that we were nice polite public servants and the beers kept coming.
I am so very very glad we weren't on a long haul flight because by the time we landed I was rather the worse for wear.
He didn't want to let me in after he found I had no visa stamp and I advised him I had no money. Unfortunately it was about 1am, I was tired and way too drunk to be thinking this hard.
I told him that I was only going to hang in London long enough for my father to transfer some cash from my account to my credit card and I'd be flying back to home to start work again in two weeks.
Fortunately he was more awake and way more sober than I and noticed I had said NZ. he asked if I had a NZ passport and when I handed it over he checked my visa, restamped my entry and I was in.
You'd think I'd have learned after the fun I'd had in Czech right?