Day 2 (Tue, Sep 16): Arrival in Athens (Ελληνυκον)

Really a continuation of Day 1. We managed to get a little rest on the plane, but no real sleep. Strangely, we felt as if we had in fact spent a night, and it definitely felt like morning when we saw the red sunlight off in the east. Saw some of France from high above ... hilly country in the south. We arrived Athens at 11:00 (schedule called for 10:15), and had a very smooth landing. For that the pilot received an emphatic round of applause. Incidentally, the airport was the old military base, (Ellinikon) international airport, 5mi/7km S of Athens and closed forever in 2001.

We had to be bussed from the plane to the actual terminal. It was very warm, quite uncomfortable in the terminal. The building was designed by Finnish star architect Eero Saarinen, but you'd never know it by me; looked more like a bunker. We had no problems with luggage or passports. We did have trouble finding our guide, Christina Condoleon, and imagined her apparent absence might mean the tour had in fact been cancelled due to the coup in Turkey. We did finally connect, however; the Turkish border had been re-opened; the tour was on. Incidentally, it seems to me her name should be Christina Kondoleon, but that's not how it was typed on the "membership list" for tour no. 534-259.

Hadrian's Arch

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Syntagma Square, Parliament

Amstel and

Myzithropita (cheese pie)

We rode a bus into town to the Royal Olympic Hotel. According to notes on the web, it had just opened that year. We had to wait a little for them to deliver our luggage to our room, then went out to do a little exploring. We walked to Hadrian's Arch, walked around the Temple of Olympian Zeus but couldn't get inside since it was closed on Tuesday. We then walked along Amalia to look around Syntagma Square. Returning along Amalia, we stopped at the Oasis sidewalk cafe. We enjoyed Amstel beer and Myzithropita ("cheese pie"). Returned to the hotel, wrote some post cards, took a short nap, then a martini ( 110 (drachmas) or $2.75) and went to dinner with the group (shish kebab). We sat with a nice couple named Beth Eurich and Jim Baird, both from Colorado Springs. At 9:00 we went back to our room to try to get some real sleep. I turned on the radio built into the desk and its first words were "Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!" Someone had left it tuned to US Armed Forces radio. I didn't come half way around the world to listen to that and snapped it off immediately.

Random observations noted for the first day:

  • Hadrian's Arch looks like a stage set. The columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus are lovely, silent, lonely, brooding.
  • Amstel beer is very good and is a very good buy - 50 for a large bottle.
  • Postcards cost 3, stamps 14 (at the hotel).
  • The Parliament building is rather seedy looking. As I observed, "It doesn't look like much is going on."