If the guards at the Presidential Mansion in Athens were anything to go by, I knew right then that the 8 days that followed would be an adventure of a lifetime. But as it happens with the country at the Southern most tip of Africa, every trip abroad is a lengthy commute. The flight from Johannesburg to Dubai was 8 hours long, followed by a short 2hr 30min layover and another 5 hours to get us over to Athens in Greece.
And If you’ve read the account of my New York arrival New York subway? Of cause, you know I’m an eager traveller. So we arrived at the Astor Hotel in Athens about 4:20pm, I took a quick shower with a change of clothes and was out to the streets. The 1st thing I was determined to do was get a local SIM card and data. I was really not about to hog every free wi-fi spot we found. I was lucky enough to find Public (a Greek network provider) around the corner. And just like that dream 1 was accomplished. Well not just like that, they still needed my passport and some proof of residency. That’s if I remember well.
We had arrived at Athens Airport around 3pm. And I’ve gotta tell you I was stunned to see that airport trolleys are locked in Greece. You pay 1€ to use one while you’re there. Weird. 6pm was still enough light for a girl to get lost in the streets. Besides my SIM card, one of the first things I bought in Athens was a street braai’d (grilled) corn stick. I really don’t know why I did that because let’s face it, corn is corn anywhere in the world. Yet here I was nibbling away.
Nonetheless I journeyed on into the streets. And as one does when they are still getting familiar, you try not to veer too far away from the hotel. But that wandering is how I landed up at the Presidential Mansion. Now let me tell you, whatever you’ve heard doesn’t quite describe the Changing of the Guards ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. To start these men are wearing very short tunics, white leggings, and shoes that can only be described as pompom embellished slippers. And then they do a very elaborate parade on the hour as they switch shifts. Every single hour of the day. Can you imagine? I’d have never believed it. And if you’re wondering, they do have rifles. It was quite the site.
That 1st night I had carbonara pasta for dinner, about 9pm and decided to walk back to the hotel. I was tired and I needed to rest sufficiently.
The following day started bright and early with a historic walking tour, on a bus… Don’t ask. And we went everywhere from the Panathenaic Stadium where the first Olympic Games were held, many government buildings, the Acropolis and the excavation sites of the old city.
Athens was a great start to the tour, the food, the shopping, good people, the flags. But maybe we talk about Mykonos and Santorini soon.