Friday, August 1, 2008

Greece: Home of the Acropolis, Socrates...and giant flying beetles??

On arriving in Thessaloniki, we found out straight away that there was a strike and we couldn't in fact get a train down to Athens, and that we would need to take a bus instead. So Dani and I, after saying bye to Ana (who was going to be staying in Greece for a while), got on a bus for Athens, erstwhile capital of culture and knowledge for Western civilization, present day capital to a somewhat lesser empire of drug addicts and prostitutes. At least, that's what we seemed to find almost immediately once the bus dropped us off at Omonoia, Athen's central plaza and home to some of the seediest people this side of the Tiber.

                                                      Nondescript Omonoia Square, Athens

After finding (of course) an internet cafe, we located Dani's hotel, which it turned out, would let me stay for the same price (he had reserved), so we took showers and wound down a bit before going out to explore a bit. As it was quite late, my exploration mostly involved the area in and around Omoneia, which included a cafe at the top of a large department square just off Athena Ave. to the south of the plaza. It had great souffle and a nice view of the Acropolis, which I decided to make my goal for the next day.

Me (apparently trying to look butch) in front of the Parthenon
The next day dawned...well, late, for me anyway. But we made it to the general area of the city which housed the Acropolis by early afternoon at any rate, taking in Hadrian's library (very disappointing, not worth the entrance fee) on our way. The Acropolis was definitely worth it though. Even though there is a lot of restoration work happening on the Parthenon (the main building at the Acropolis), it was still a sight to see, and quite amazing to think of how long it's been around and still in decent shape.

Later that evening I said bye to Dani as he headed off for the Greek isles and I caught a night train into the Peloponesse, or the Western town of Kiparissia, specifically. As exhausted as I was, I of course slept, although since it wasn't exactly the most luxurious of trains it was pretty fitful. That's why I expected I would be awake in time for Kiparissia, and was therefore shocked to wake up to an almost empty train at dawn! I asked a station attendant if we had reached Kiparissia and found I had missed it, and it was the last stop! So I got off to wait for the next train back, and in the meantime, had a coffee at a cafe near the tiny station. I can't recall the name of the town, which is a shame, and apparently it's too small to show up on any internet maps, but I was almost tempted to stay there, it was so lazy and seemingly untainted by tourists. A quick walk down to the beach, though, revealed that it's beach was dirty, probably because it was only frequented by locals and didn't have any reputation to preserve.
                                                                                        Charming Kiparissia (Peloponesian Peninsula)
So I got on the train some 30 minutes later, and spent a very peaceful (if somewhat lonely) day in Kiparissia, making three different trips to the beach throughout the day and wandering along it's coastline, where I was shocked (and disgusted) to discover the eponymous creatures of this posting...on research, I have decided, the Great Silver Water Beetle, which swarmed in droves out of the coastal bushes, and which I sometimes literally mistook for birds (the bigger ones anyway, which could reach up to two inches long). Shudder.

Anyway, following that calm day of beaches and wandering through the quiet streets and up the hill to the castle at the top, I got on the train back to Athens, only to miss it too, the next morning! But thankfully only by one stop again.

I spent the day and another night there, as I found out there was no night train to Skopje from Athens, and the following morning I got an express train back to Thessaloniki, and there, at 6.15, boarded a train for the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.

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