We have been following our parcel of spare parts for the water pump repair on the tracking website and got all exited, when it said “on van for delivery” on Wednesday, five days earlier than initially estimated! But then on Thursday morning it said “delivery failed, problem with address. Just in case things at said address change, it was already on the van for another delivery attempt. Hm…. maybe courier services do not like leaving things at the post office for Poste Restante (a service where the post office holds mail for you, until you fetch it – invaluable when you are travelling).
So I reluctantly crawled out of bed, fetched the phone and a calling marathon ensued. The first lady told me another number to call. The american-accented woman on that line told me that it was in their client’s contract (Motorworks that is), not to send things Poste Restante. No point telling me, should’ve told Motorworks that when they were sending the parcel!?! Anyways, so how do I get hold of my parcel now? – Call another number. Should’ve known!
This time I was through to the headquarters of ACS in Athens. They were the guys in posession of our parcel now. Apparently Interlink Express don’t deliver themselves, they just orchestrate a chain of local parcel companies to take it each a little further. Each company then changes the parcel number to one from their system. So the really helpful ACS lady asked me for every single number on the tracking website, till one finally showed up in her system. It was the German DBD service number from when they passed the parcel to ACS. By now my head was smoking!
I’ve got to hand it to her, the ACS lady spoke limited english, but she didn’t rest till my parcel was found. I had to give her the address of the flat we’re staying in, as the Central Post Office can’t sign for any mail, even if they are to hold it Poste Restante. Then she assured me, don’t worry, we will deliver your parcel today, and gave me the number of the local depot. Thinking they must surely bring it back to the depot, then change the address and then reload onto a van for delivery I confirmed, “Really, today?” “Yes, yes, today!”
Ok, very efficient! Sweet! So we had to stay at home, instead of going to that park on a mountain, that Aidan had researched as a cool place to go. Oh well, we’ll just sit in the sunshine on the terrace and read 🙂 Elias, Mihalis mysterious brother walked past, so we finally got a chance to meet him. But then he had to dash off to the bank. We haven’t seen him since. By 4pm the parcel still hadn’t arrived, and most people here close up shop and finish work around that time. The tracking site revealed another failed delivery attempt. What the….?!
I called the local delivery office, but the girl there didn’t understand me and decided I should call a different local office. They didn’t pick up. Maybe gone home already. Back to the nice lady at central. “Oh but of course dear, they had to bring the parcel to the local depot in Halandri today because of the new address you gave me. It will be delivered tomorrow, just like I told you this morning! Don’t worry!” Hm……! Thing is, she was so nice and helpful, I didn’t even feel like strangling her.
Free to leave the house again, we decided to explore the market the next road over. We’d heard them shouting and selling their wares all day, interrupted only by the many beeping horns from the cars and buses that got stuck trying to drive across the market street. But when we got there, the haggling was over and the last few stall keepers packed their vans and drove off.
What now? Rossi, our Greek friend from London was in Athens. But he was busy sorting out paperwork and trying to satisfy all his friends and family that demanded his company. We grabbed a beer from the Kiosk and started walking with a vague idea we could go to Oz-Bar. We’d ridden past it a few times and it was always busy with lots of trendy looking people sipping cocktails.
…We reached Oz-Bar. But this time it was empty. It turned out to be pricey and not quite our kind of trendy. Shame! We had a very boozy Mai Thai, just for the hell of it, and then embarked on the long walk back. At home we watched a movie and munched some of Lidl’s finest frozen baguettes (after baking them in the oven of course! We weren’t that drunk!) Over the course of the second movie I developed a giant headache and got sick. I’d managed to get sunstroke!
So I spent the next day in bed! The parcel finally arrived 🙂 Whoopie!!! But I had no intention of working on the bikes today! Aidan made me some tea and went to the supermarket round the corner, just to fetch me some biscuits – the only thing my tummy would keep down. Me duly looked after, he left to go to the pub!
I did eventually crawl out of bed in the early evening, just in time for Aidan to return, having lugged all the food shopping home by himself, including some marzipan chocolate for me 🙂 I tore open our long anticipated parcel and all the stuff was there 🙂 Lots of shiny new parts to play with!
So on Saturday we finally started the big bike repairs. It was real nice working away in the sunshine, drinking home-made ice tea with lemons from the garden and listening to music.
The work went well, except that Seven’s clutch actuation arm had completely corroded and so was permanently attached to the pin. After spending half an hour carefully trying to loosen it, it just broke off. Great! That part we hadn’t ordered spare.
I carried on anyways and replaced the completely shredded water pump shaft pinions. No wonder the pump didn’t work! The job is fiddly, but at least we did manage to get the dreaded banjo bolt lose, and we didn’t have to plasma-cut the steel oil return hose as Dave Wilkins had forewarned. A YouTube video had given us the tip that you can wriggle it out of the way if you loosen and lower the exhaust pipe first.
Everything back together I filled up the oil and coolant and started up the engine. I hate that bit, always wondering if I forgot a vital bit and the engine blows up. But it didn’t and the water pump was working fine. Result 🙂 Only now Seven has started smoking too! She must have seen Pippa do it….. Bummer, so now the sealing rings that keep the oil and coolant from mixing are fucked and I have to open it all up again and replace them, like Aidan is doing with Pippa. Well, not today! It was getting dark soon, so we decided to call it a day. The evening was spent searching the internet for clues as to where I could get a clutch actuation arm for Seven, while Aidan cooked dinner.
The next day was the first Sunday of the month, so entry to many archaeological sites in Greece is free. Time to finally visit the Acropolis! But it wasn’t free. Apparently that was only the case a long, long time ago at the Acropolis. 12 Euros each…. Poo!!!!!!! But I really, really wanted to see the Parthenon and decided to bite the bullet and cough up. The ticket also includes entry to all the other archaeological sites around so I guess its not too bad.
The Parthenon was overrun with tourists and there were several busloads of students queuing up. The ticket seller had told us that it might be less busy around four or five in the afternoon, so we had another nosy around the flea market. This time it was even busier and there were more crazy things we hadn’t spotted the first time.
Psiri is just next door and we decided to have lunch in one of the restaurants we had seen there. Pizza sounded good but the grill looked better. Just as we were busy looking lost, trying to decide which of the two tables to sit at, the guy from the restaurant next door yells something to the grill guy and ushers us towards the tables in the centre of the square. “I think we just got nicked from the grill guy,” Aidan said. We didn’t trust our new host, even when he confirmed that both restaurants (with different names!) belonged together. To be fair the waitress did bring our super yum gyros pittas over from the grill though….. We never found out what was going on.
Since we had that multiple ticket, we decided to check out Keramikos. I got us completely lost in a really cool arty area with unofficial galleries, a cool little cafe with Camden-style people sitting outside, and a general alternative vibe. There is some really cool street art too.
Keramikos is of course next to the old gas works we had been to before. I decide to go in quickly and use the loo. A bunch of Harleys came riding out and I joked we must’ve missed the party.
Tuns out we hadn’t. There was a huge motorcycle show going on! We strolled past off-road stands and pit bikes into the centre where loads of old custom bikes were lined up, some with the trophy they had won stood proudly on the seat. They looked great and I got lots of ideas for all the custom bikes I’ll be building some day 🙂
The big brands like Triumph, Yamaha and Honda, were exhibiting inside the gasworks museum, so we got to see that too, while checking out the latest bikes. This being Greece, there is a much larger proportion of scooters.
When I did eventually go to the bathroom, Aidan was straight back at the pit-bike stand, finding out the prices and everything about them. Luckily I was back before he could seal the deal! Seems like Mattia corrupted him back in Milan. I kinda wouldn’t mind one myself…. maybe next time Pippa and Seven break down? (Don’t let them know I said that!)
The Keramikos ruins were a relatively boring bunch of rocks (not that I read up about their undoubtedly archaeologically interesting history). I realised later that the more interesting rocks are kept in a museum. Icebear amused himself by hitching a lift on a tortoise that didn’t seem to notice or care and just went on bumbling about, munching afternoon tea.
Later Icebear sat posing on some rock while I took pictures. A couple of tourists carefully crept up behind me, trying not to scare Icebear away, trying to figure out what creature he might be. They jumped up in surprise when I just picked him up and put him on my shoulders 🙂
Approaching the Acropolis from the north slope, we found a bunch of caves with great views over the city and rooftop bars. The caves were each dedicated to some old greek god. The sky had got cloudy and we could see the rain engulfing parts of Athens. So cool watching it rain somewhere else. But it meant we better get a move on.
The theatre of Dyonisos Eleuthereus still has some (now beheaded) statues on the stage part and you can actually climb around on the seats 🙂
We also got a good view into the other awesome theatre that we had peeked into on our first walk around the Acropolis: the Odeion of Herodes Atticus. Apparently it was still in use in the 70’s and so it now has seat numbers on the end of each row.
The Parthenon is on top of the mountain and to get there, you are guided through another temple. The views over Athens through the columns are great. Aidan took a picture of me holding Icebear. Immediately one of those people that watch over the place that you don’t climb over the little fence and touch the marble columns, stormed towards us and started yelling something about not taking a photo with my dog. Then he stopped dead. I held up Icebear to show him he is just a harmless cuddly toy. But the guy angrily went on and on about respecting the temple and wanted to delete the photo. That was ridiculous! I refused partout and put the camera away. Eventually he gave up. But now he kept a close eye on us and started following us about at a distance. Someone else could have stolen the entire temple behind him, and he wouldn’t have noticed! We googled this later, but couldn’t find anything about dogs or cats or cuddly toys with spiky helmets not being allowed in Greek temples…..
The Parthenon itself is amazing. It is huge and the whole place would have been really impressive at its time with toga-clad Greeks walking about philosophising and discussing politics! Shame that there are massive restauration works going on at the moment, so there is scaffolding everywhere and parts are fenced off with cabins and machinery. And the restored bits look like they were trying to achieve a cow pattern with dark weathered marble and shiny white new bits.
As we climbed back down the hill, the torrential rains caught up with us and we were soaked through in seconds! My converse have cracked soles and soon the water was sloshing about in them. My waterproof Jacket works well, and the water runs all the way down it to soak through my definitely not waterproof pants. Aidan, without any waterproof gear or even a hood, just looked like a sodden poodle. We waded through the rivers of water flowing down the stairs and went home.
Still enjoying the luxuries of an oven, Aidan made a super yummie olive bread for breakfast and so we took ages to get going. When we eventually did, we decided to find a motorcycle parts shop in the city so I could get another clutch actuation arm. We somehow missed it and ended up in the place we were going to try next. Vagianelis is a BMW motorcycle repair shop that also has the odd (and I mean odd!) old BMW in the front, presumably to be fixed eventually and for sale.
The mezzanine floor is packed with spare parts. The little grey haired guy in beige overalls that runs the spares department doesn’t speak much English. But he has a huge smile and can recognise any mangled part and find you the correct new one in no time. He seems to know each part of every BMW off by heart! We also decided to get some more water pump pinions as they seem to go quite easily and I’d needed the two that I had ordered for Seven’s repair. They didn’t have any in stock, so he stole the last two from the workshop and said the other two would arrive in tomorrow’s delivery.
The post office would most likely be closed by now, but we decided to go anyways, as Aidan was waiting for another Poste Restante parcel, and I wanted to send something home. At the very least we could find out the opening times. And most importantly, the bubble tea place is on the way 🙂
A little detour took us through the stunning hilly Philopappos park round the other side of the Acropolis hill with some ancient road and ruins of theatres in it. But even ignoring those its awesome giant rocks and olive trees and winding stony paths 🙂 The bubble tea place was open, but had no tapioca bubbles again! I registered my disappointment and eventually the guy and I struck a deal. He would make some specially for me if I come back after we have been to the post office.
The Central Post Office was open after all. You have to draw a number and then you can either go out on other business or wait, sitting in the neat rows of chairs untill it is your turn. As we were trying to decipher the Greek to find out if we needed an A or a B number, a guy giving up the wait handed us his ticket with a big smile. Problem solved! The numbers clicked through quite quickly and my parcel was dealt with in no time.
Poste Restante is downstairs and the Lady turned every letter and parcel, then she gave us the sweetest apologetic smile. We’ll just have to come back another day. The bubble tea guy had really made me some tapioca bubbles, so I had a huge espresso-milk-green tea-bubble tea. Sounds gross, but it’s really yum! Bit like a fresh Latte with bubbles 🙂
The next day one of us had to go into town again, to fetch the last spare parts from Vagianelis. Neither of us wanted to go. But Aidan’s offer to make orange marmalade (with oranges from the garden) to go with the citrus buns he’d baked this morning, as well as some Portuguese chicken soup, had me persuaded to go.
I was too early for Vagianelis, so I went to the bolts and nuts shop we had spotted the day before. We had taken all the spares we’d been able to convince Dave Wilkins to hand over. But already the bikes had lost several and a few more were so rusty we had to replace them once we finally got them out, in case they rust tight and we could never get them out again. I had brought one of each of the bolts and washers I wanted. That shop has every kind of bolt and washer you could possibly need, the brown boxes stacked to the ceilling. The owner knows where each one is, having written the numbers in black marker on the front of each little box.
While I was waiting for my bolts to be counted out, three more guys walked into the shop. They looked at me with confusion. What could this chick possibly want with such a precise collection of bike bolts? I got a few odd looks that morning. The entire area is full of motorcycle show rooms, mechanics workshops, tool shops, oil and lubricants stores and places selling motorcycle gear. What on earth was a lonely girl doing in this mans world? Especially since my strap top clearly identified me as a tourist.
It was still too early, so I walked to the post office. Still no post for Aidan. But this time the tapioca bubbles were already waiting for me. I had another bubble tea, before heading back to Mechanics Town.The parts fetched, it was time for some chicken soup.
The next day started with citrus buns and orange marmalade 🙂 before finally finishing fixing the bikes. I had checked the day before, and Seven wasn’t leaking coolant. But today she was smoking again. Hard to kick the habit I guess. Luckily it was only the coolant leaking from that little hole onto the hot exhaust, no other leaks.
I had two choices: Open everything up again, wasting the new oil and coolant, and change the sealing rings, like Aidan had done on Pippa. Or leave it till the next big oil change is due, hopefully somewhere in Turkey, when we are staying on a farm or so under the workaway scheme. Since Aidan had made it from London all the way to Athens with the same problem, I decided to do the latter. I just have to keep an eye on oil and coolant levels and watch whether two liquids have mixed. Worst case we have to repair it all in the middle of nowhere. But since we have all the spare parts now, that shouldn’t be a problem. I attached the new cluth actuation arm and finished putting the last few bits back together.
Pippa’ repairs went smoothly. Aidan managed to open the clutch cover with quite a bit of persuasion and changed the sealing rings in no time. The water pump pinions were still fine, must have been changed not too long before he bought Pippa. All back together and topped up, she wouldn’t start! Shit! Oh wait, she’s just kidding around. Another try and she started up fine.
A short test ride was on order. But since it was going to rain tomorrow, we would use that day to clean the flat we’re staying in. But before the rain started, we quickly popped over to the market on the next street, that we had missed last time. I managed to find some new cheap converse and there was stalls and stalls of yummie fresh veg, with the odd street grill tempting us.
The day after was Friday, our last chance to check the postie for Aidan’s Poste Restante. And we still had some of those Acropolis tickets left. We headed to Akropoli station and I decided to finally buy a handbag. I had left without one, thinking I won’t need it on the bike. But on days like this one, just walking around town, not having one to keep all my stuff like camera, money and other important junk in, was really annoying.
There was one particular bag I really wanted. I had gone to look at it before and the lady said she’d sell it for eight euros. But the front zip is broken. I pointed this out to the lady and said I’d buy it for five. She just got angry and told me it was because of people like me playing with the zip. So I’d left it. This time I went back thinking I’d just get her to find me another in the same colours from her stock and pay full price.
This time an older lady was looking after the shop. She came over as I looked through the bags and I found one for five euros. Ah, but no zip. “So three euros for a zip!” I joked, and she laughed. The broken bag in my favourite colours was still there. I asked if there was another same bag? She looked through all her stock. Nothing. “Ok, this one five euros,” she offered. That’s what I said days ago!
The temple of Olympian Zeus is round the corner. It’s mostly a bunch of columns now. But it looks amazing and feels awe-inspiring to stand under the columns. On our way in we were asked to finish our Freddo coffees outside. And this woman could finally explain why Icebear isn’t allowed in. Turns out the Greeks really revere their gods and history and these archaeological sites are just as sacred as an orthodox church. It’s seen as disrespectful to have pets, toys, balloons, anything like that in those ‘holy’ places. A bit like strap tops and mini skirts in catholic churches. So Icebear hid in the new bag.
The other place I really wanted to see was the Ancient Agora and the pretty much intact temple there. It’s a huge area of ruins and you are allowed to run around in some of them 🙂
There is also one of those cute tiny churches with the round terracotta roofs that I have come to adore. This one was open and I could finally see the inside. It was the Church of the Apostles.