Greece   1 comment

I wake up at 4 on Sunday, after having gone to bed at 2, to be ready for the taxi at 4:30, outside the hotel in Valencia. The plane departs at 6:30, destination: Athens. One connection, in Milan – I already know the airport. The flight from Milan to Athens is 1 hour late, and the girl sitting next to me has been told that her baggage has not been loaded on the plane, and will arrive late. She is upset and nervous, and for all the travel asking the crew about her luggage.
I wanted to tell her about one of my friends in Valencia: she came from Poland through Milan, for the conference, and her baggage arrived 4 days later. And she was not on holiday! But I kept the secret: the crew has told her the baggage would have arrived the very same day, and she was quite confident.
After landing in Athens airport, I knew I had to look for a bus to the city bus station, then another one to Patras, final destination and venue of the second conference in two weeks.
At least, in Greece, a lot of people can speak English, and most of the signs and indications are written in both Greek and English. So it’s easy to communicate. They told me that they do not study so much English at school, but they take private courses to learn it. I appreciate!
It’s already 4pm, and one may think that the "airport shuttle bus" should be quick. The bus takes a motorway, but suddenly exits and goes around a bit in some very narrow streets, with old cars parked on both sides, and very poor houses. It stops and then takes the motorway again. For one minute, and then same thing. And again and again. After one hour, I see something like a bus dumping: a lot of old buses parked messly. Instead, it was the bus station.
I had a very bad impression of Athens: I saw just the suburbs, but they are horrible. Someone told me that there is not so much to see, around the famous Acropolis.
I take the bus to Patras. 3 hours of slow driving for a quite short route. On the bus, I try to finish my article, that is due the following day. I need some information from the internet, to finish my presentation as well, but around I see only small villages. I think that they do not know what internet is, either!
In Patras, the landscape changes a bit. I forgot to print the name and the address of the hotel ESA booked for me once more. So, I look for an information point, that fortunately is very close to the bus station. I vaguely remember the name of the hotel, and the guy gives me the directions. At the same time, I see another guy picking up a brochure in Italian. So immidiately I start to talk with him: Luca is a Ph.D. student at Politecnico in Milan and he is there for the same conference. Forget the paper and the presentation to finish, we go out for dinner together.
We go in a tiny restaurant with noone else sitting, but two old men. But it looks very typical, so we decide to stay. We ask the waitress, who was speaking a pretty good English, to choose something good to taste. She starts bringing us a rich salad, very good and enormous, then many slices of fried feta, then meat, then meatballs, and then something else. We are worried, we don’t want to leave there 50 euros for the first evening. We have ordered two beers as well, and she has brought the classical Oyzo liquor at the end. As we ask the bill, we see that it is amazingly just 10 euros each. We decide to leave some tip. It has been the most beautiful dinner in Greece. There, everything is quite cheap: usually 10 euros is the price for a huge dinner with drinks, but that time we ate really a lot of very good food.
On Monday, Tuesday and Friday there was the symposium, at the university. In spite of being organised mainly by students, and for students, the conference is perfect. They gives us a bag, a badge, a t-shirt, and the program. There are even 2 coffee breaks during the day, and free lunch at the local canteen with reserved seats in a special area. They organised even the night, bringing us in cool places to have dinner, and then to drink and dance. The gala dinner, free too, was in a very nice restaurant near Patras. Then, night at the club. Unfortunately, it was in the second night, so on the third day lots of people were missing and/or sleeping in the conference room. I had my talk on the second day, so for me the gala dinner was perfect to celebrate!
Patras is a bit surprising. There is not so much to see, it has a huge harbour and if you want a proper beach, you have to take a bus for half an hour, and go after the last oil tanker. But the city centre, where out hotel is, is very beautiful: there are 2 or 3 main streets which are full of people after 4pm, until late night. You can find a lot of shops, of course, but also many many bars, with tables outside on the street. What surprised me most, is that a lot of these places are very cool and posh. So walking up and down, while looking for a seat, and meeting people, is very nice there.
One thing you notice, even while you are on the bus, is that every kind of vehicle on the road can do whatever it wants. It is much much more messy than Spain and Italy! Noone is wearing the helmet on the motorbike, neither the second or the third passenger. Once I saw a whole family on a moped: the little little male child was on the first row. Then, the father, driving. On the third row, the female child. Finally, the mother, trying to keep all the "pack" together with their arms. Of course, no helmet. You have to be careful to cross the road even if the traffic lights are green for pedestrians, and once a car was really about to run me over.
At the end of the conference, I decide to stay there one more day and one more night (without having any room) to go to the free trip the committee organised to Olympia. After 2 hours of bus, we visit the ruins of the old site of the olympics games. The olympic flame is still lighted up there. Then another fun night, waiting for the 2am bus, then bus again, then plane, then plane again, then bus again, then bus again. And finally, at home!
 
See you!
 
Matteo
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Posted October 21, 2006 by mtcerio in Viaggi

One response to “Greece

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  1. This place sounds cool. Especially when you say that every vehicle can do whatever it wants. It\’s the most appealing dream of every Italian driver! Cheers!

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