We’re so lucky Mihalis is letting us stay in his awesome flat in Halandri. This seems to be a posher suburb of Athens, where balconies are bigger and most buldings have a garden. And we have landed the one with the biggest garden full of orange and lemon trees.
There is a bakery just down the road that sells fresh coffee & pastries, ice cream and a huge selection of bread, biscuits, cakes, gateaus, mini and big pizzas, chocolates and just about anything else yummie you can imagine. Aidan is having a real hard time trying to prevent me from munching my way through the display cases pac-man style. As a compromise I am allowed one of those fluffy almond topped citrus buns I had become adicted to ever since discovering them in Ioannina, every now and again 🙂
The flat itself is really great too. All open plan and so big, that you still feel like you have a separate bed room, living room, dining room and office. There is even a fire place.
And the huge kitchen is separate with a window hatch onto the dining table. Aidan is stoked to have a proper kitchen again and has been cheffing up yummie dinners, including drunk chicken (Aidan was drunk, not the chicken) and blown up garlic. I’m busy trying to persuade him to make pretzel rolls again…
There are piles and piles of great CDs to choose from and shelves of movies, sometimes stacked three DVDs deep! And Mihalis has good taste! Wickid coffee table books with awesome pictures of Greek life too! So basically we are stuck in an awesome place waiting to fix Seven’s water pump problem. Thanks so much Mihalis! Really appreciate it! 🙂
Knowing we still had a while to wait for the spare parts, we decided to see the Acropolis.
We picked a tube station that looked sort of close and then walked around till we spotted the Parthenon on the top of a mountain. The streets leading up to it get smaller and smaller and are full of tourist orientated shops. Some sell really cool alternative stuff though, sort of like the more hippie stuff in Camden. So Aidan dragged me out of there before I could find something I just had to have. Past lots and lots of restaurants and cafes filled with tourists spilling out onto the street and almost blocking the road completely, we finally found a footpath that circled the Acropolis.
It seems like we’d arrived at the back of the complex. Oh well. In the end we actually decided to leave it for another day. There were still a few things to sort out online and we wanted to find a cafe with WiFi. The central ones were too pricy though so back to Halandri. We found a cafe as soon as we’d given up looking for one, searching for the local Lidl instead. In fact it was a square full of cafes surrounding a church. We picked “Homemade” and settled in for a beer.
Only to be disturbed by a bunch of Norwegian guys who wanted to borrow a charger. They had come over to visit their friend who’d been working with them in Norway for their annual “Burn in Hellas” event. They left us to finish our rather tedious stuff online but kept popping over for a quick chat, where are you from and what are you doing here, and to recommend some Metal bars in Athens.
Eventually it was time for us to find that Lidl for some supplies. I went over to say good bye which turned into a long conversation during which they bought us a beer, we exchanged travel stories and life philosophies and they invited us to come clubbing with them later. They’d been out since lunch the day before and wanted to go home for dinner and to freshen up first. Really interesting guys! Shame they were flying home the next day. They never called to confirm which bar later, so maybe they’d finally passed out? Just as well since we were starting to feel all those beers in the sun earlier… (This is where the drunk chicken comes in.)
We went back to Homemade for their internet the next day and finally got hold of Mihalis so he could tell us how to connect to the internet at the flat. And no, despite looking it, the oranges won’t be ripe till May or June. Damn! Explains why no-one has been picking them despite their seductive efforts, looking all yummie and munchably orange. I tried one later. Encouraged by the first one tasting almost sweet, I tried a juicy mandarin and it was horribly bitter! Yuk! Guess I’m used to apples…. they only look red and edible, when they actually are ripe. Its like that yummie and ripe looking olive I picked off a tree in Portugal once; it was horrible! Seems like a trend in hot counties…
Sweet, so now we didn’t have to spend beer money to go online 🙂 The days at the flat were spent washing the bikes and starting some work on them that could already be done without the new parts.
And washing laundry. There is a washing machine, but its in another building and Makis hadn’t got round to showing us yet. We haven’t seen him since and I don’t really want to call him and bother him with it. Anyways, the kitchen sink is just fine and I’m developing tennis arms wringing out all the clothes by hand. Maybe I’ll be able to hold the bike next time it falls over? Hm….
Of course we’re not just staying in the flat! 25th March is Greek Independence Day and on some national holidays entry into museums and archaeological sites is free. So we decided to see the Acropolis that day. When we got there, things looked promising with a coach load of japanese tourists arranging and rearranging themselves outside the amphitheatre at the bottom of the complex.
But the gate to the main site and Parthenon was closed. There was some sort of ruin on another mountain poking out of the city not too far away though, so we decided to investigate that instead.
It was a real nice sort of wild park with terrapins greeting us at the bottom and stony paths leading up hill.
Of course we went the wrong way first and ended up at the back of the ruin again, but we found a nice little cliff from which to look over sunny Athens.
The other way finally revealed a statue of three now headless people at the windy top of the mountain. I found the statue a little boring so I didn’t read up about who it was. Aidan did and remembers its someone’s tomb, but doesn’t remember whose. Google will tell you though, I’m sure.
The views from up there were stunning. Basically a 360 degree view of Athens and the Parthenon on the next hill.
On the way down we met a tramp that had made himself a little home next to a well. He had even planted little bushes in little flower beds and he was feeding the pigeons. He tried to get his dog to lie on his back and play dead for the photo.
I strained my eyes to see if I could spot any tourists running around the Parthenon, but nothing moved up there. Definitely not open today then. So we decided to walk home and so explore the city on the way.
We came across the parade of police, army and fire brigade to celebrate Independence Day, watched by a few mainly older folk, clapping half heartedly. As we were walking on, there were lots of fly-overs of jets, helicopters and gunships but no-one we went past seemed to care much. Google later told me that the main event was happening outside parliament with only special invited guests allowed. This year had been the first time after the riots, that the public was allowed to watch at all: at the end of the parade where we’d come across them.
It seems Athens is still very worried about riots. Whenever we’ve been in the center, we have come across riot police in full gear, massive riot vans with iron mesh across the windows.
And for every small thing main roads are blocked, causing huge traffic jams. Police are absolutely everywhere! It seems the motorcycle police ride any bike they want. BMW, Triumph Tiger, Suzuki of any kind….. it just has to be white and kitted out. And many carry a pillion! But we havent seen any riots or violent behaviour. Only a peaceful protest with banners and chanting. Otherwise the Greeks just go about their business and tourist do whatever tourists do in the city centre, as if there wasn’t any cops around.
Closer to home we found a little cat that just couldn’t get enough of Aidan scratching it. There are loads of cats around and some definitely have a few battle scars. They seem to be almost wild city cats. People leave food out for them in random places on the streets.
Reading up on the upcoming motorcycle repair works we were made to believe that a certain bolt is particularly difficult to losen. Dave Wilkins had warned of this too, when I’d first called him for advice on Seven’s problems. And as things would have it, its a 22mm one (the first of that size we’d come across on that bike). We had neither a suitable spanner nor a ratchet socket and our efforts with the adjustable spanner were futile. Worried about rounding the bolt off by using unsuitable tools (as we had done so many times before), we decided to buy the relevant ratchet socket.
Armed with a 21mm socket for explanation purposes, we rode off to the other side of town on Pippa to where there was supposed to be a hardware shop. But there wasn’t any to be seen. Eventually we popped into another motorcycle mechanics and asked them, where we could by such a socket. The guy immediately knew where to send us, though round the corner-ish, it wasn’t easy to explain. We got the general direction and another shop sent us down the street and left to find Labo.
It was a small shop with a vast array of spanners of all sizes, prices and quality with big banners of some German supplier above them behind the counter. Rows and rows of shelves full of shiny tools disappeared into the darkness on the right and on the left a small old man appeared. He spoke no english. I showed him my 21mm socket and drew a 22 on a piece of paper. He knew immediately what I wanted and asked whether I preferred an expensive or a cheap one. I have no idea how, but we understood each other with sign language without any problems.
He found the socket but we had no idea if it would fit, as the frame of the bike is sort of in the way. So Aidan fetched Pippa so we could try it out (almost ending up in an accident on the way, but luckily him and the scooter rider came to a halt, front wheels kissing). Meanwhile the old man had established that I was Geman and told me in German (with such a thick Greek accent that I thought he was talking Greek), that he was off to a tool Expo in Cologne in two weeks time.We took the 22mm socket and completely covered it and our hands and arms in oil, trying to see if it fits, without burning ourselves on the hot engine or exhaust (Pippa was leaking then, or is it the malfunctioning Scottoiler?). The old man came outside, passed me a kitchen roll and asked if we wanted to wash our hands out back. What a sweet guy!
Still unsure if the socket would fit as we couldn’t quite reach, we bought it and a cheap spanner (which I was allowed to pick from behind the counter myself), all of which was rounded down to 10 Euros. As we were off, the old man was all smiles and waved good bye 🙂 The shop we’d asked for further directions earlier sold us some engine oil and WD40 (we’d used up the last can spraying all the sure-as-hell-rusted-shut bolts we’d have to undo for the repairs.)
Aidan had always wanted to see the canal of Korinthos so on Friday we hopped on Pippa and rode over there. Google says its an hour or so, but it takes an hour just to cross Athens. Aidan was getting used to the whole Greek just-gun-it-I’m-sure-it-will-work-out-ok driving style and I wasn’t even scared riding pillion (I’m usually shitscared!).
The beach in Korinthos was empty and a cool wind was blowing, but the turquoise waves looked seductively jump-in-able. The town itself was nothing special.
We stopped to look at another F650 GS, trying to decide what the difference to ours was. The owner just came home with some shopping and sent his little daughter inside to put the poppies they’d picked into some water.
He told us it was a 2002 GS and asked us if we’d had any troubles with ours. His had started leaking oil and the mechanic had taken payment, saying he’d fixed it. But he’d just cleaned it up and back home the leak was back. “Greek mechanics…. you know!” (His words, not ours.) And then there had been an engine-cutting-out problem. The mechanic had thought it was to do with the engine and had charged 600 Euros. In the end it was just the sidestand cable. The rubber had melted and the cable had shorted on the exhaust, sending the signal that the side stand was down. That set off the security function, which switches off the engine. The solution? Insulation tape around the cable! And maybe move it away from the exhaust….. That reaffirmed our decision to try and fix our bikes our selves.
We parked down a little side street in the village of Ancient Corinth and walked up to the ruins. The site was closed! Well, we could see most things from the fence anyways, so why pay to get two metres closer? The cafes and ice cream places were still open, but no-one except the owners was there.
An artist was painting the fountain on the corner. She stepped back to look at her work from afar and almost fell over her chair, then shared a guilty smile with us and was back absorbed in her work and the music from her headphones.
Nearby is the Akrokorinthos mountain, on top of which many different religions from different eras have built their strongholds. Today its an awesome little area full of walled-in ruins that you can climb around in and explore. For once no fences or keep-out signs. Just a gate at the bottom that closes at 5pm so we had an hour to rummage around and enjoy the views 🙂
A kitty in the car park climbed under the bonnet of a car so I ran over to tell the driver before he would race off. When banging on the bonnet didn’t help, he started the engine, and the kitty jumped out and said hello to us instead.
On the way home we crossed the canal again but there were roadworks so I just took a couple of pictures while Aidan and Pippa waited.
And back in Athens Aidan went into Greek mode, weaving through the traffic jam, caused by another road block, with only milimetres to spare! I could tell he was having far too much fun! But then thats what all the other traffic expect a motorcyclist to do, so its almost like its safe.
On Sunday its flea market day in the Monastiraki area of Athens. There are stalls and people selling stuff everywhere. Some are just the usual tourist-targeting people with the same stuff that the next guy sells, although some actually really make the jewellery they are selling, while they are waiting for the next customer. You have to weave around endless old furniture and old men greeting each other and all the shop keepers. Eventually you get to the flea market stalls.
And they sell everything, absolutely anything goes! China, paintings, coins, table cloths, dolls, cutlery, old typewriters, cameras and telephones. I also found stuff that belongs in a frankenstein science lab or a medieval dentistry. A tiny pony-drawn carriage (without the pony), violins, shoes, books, comics, statues, even marbles! The list goes on and on. Everything is piled up and no-one cares much about it being rummaged through. People shove past the busy stalls, the older they are, the harder they push through! We even walked past a room piled to the roof with shoes for sale!
Back out in the open tourist area around another ruin, the market went on. More coins, records, pen knives and pistols.
Around them and spread into the park were poorer people selling their wares on a sheet or out of a bag: Endless phone chargers and cables, batteries that are almost certainly flat, old shoes and well worn clothes and handbags. I had to wonder whether they had picked these out of bins, as I had seen people do a couple of times on our walks about the city.
Suddenly all of them up and left! Things were thrown into shopping baskets and bags and some just gathered the cloth that their wares were spread on. The cops must be closing in. We had seen them kick a street vendor out of the way earlier.
We found a couple of girls in the park collecting old plastic cups and making mud cakes with them, like I used to do in the sand pit as a child.
A stall back in the flea market had yummie gyros wraps for 2.20 Euros, so that was lunch sorted. We milled about people watching and taking photos for most of the day.
Aidan had finally got his camera out, having been busy reading a book on photography. Maybe one day we’ll be good enough to take poster quality pictures? Well, its fun anyways 🙂
We found the Gas works museum, which looked much cooler online than in reality.
So we had a freddo with ice cream in a wickid nearby cafe. That was some strong coffee but yum 🙂 And like in most cafes it came with a little snack, in this case some deliciously juicy marble cake.
Our energy renewed we headed off again.
Found an area that was supposed to be a little more alternative with tattoo places and the odd metal bar. It being daytime, the bar was closed but lots of cute little cafes and restaurants were open. The food looked yum, shame we weren’t hungry. Definitely a wickid place to come back to next time we are starving on our bumbles.
A jewish guy came up to us with a rather random story. He wanted some matzos and passover wine. But somehow he had pissed off the owner of the jewish shop/restaurant that sell them and especially his mother in law. Could we go fetch him some, if he gave us the money? Er… ok, sure. So we walked into the place and came up with some story of how we had no idea about the products, but we wanted to surprise our jewish friend, that was coming to Athens for passover…. The shop owners liked the story and helped us pick a wine and some matzos and invited our imaginary friend to come over for the passover ceremony. Back out on the street Yosef was waiting around the corner, real happy to have his food.
We have had news that the parcel is supposed to arrive in Athens on 7th and then they have to sort it for Poste Restante. We’ve already found the postie in question and there is a bubble tea place nearby 🙂 So far no luck: the first time it was too early, and they didn’t have any bubbles yet, the second time they were closed. But I’m sure we’ll be back a few times, looking for our parcel, so I’ll get my bubble tea eventually!
Oh, and just in case you care, here some cool vehicles we’ve added to our things-to-buy-when-we-are-rich-list 🙂