Our captain made the announcement from the bridge last evening that we would be docking in Piraeus along with five or six other cruise ships today. Our ship alone held over 3,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members. Times six! That is a lot of people. I definitely can’t count that high in Greek. Also, they were forecasting bright sunshine with highs near 90° F, so get out the Vaseline. It’s going to be another sweaty underpants and chafing thighs kind of day.
No matter, because I have been looking forward to Athens the most on this trip. I have always been enamored of Greek architecture, culture and history. I have been intrigued by Greek mythology, with all of its gods and goddesses and creatures, since the very first time I saw Clash of the Titans. Athens has been inhabited by humans for the past 7,000 years, at least! Athens was the home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. It was the host city for the first modern-day Olympic Games. It is called the birthplace of democracy and the Cradle of Western Civilization, for goodness’ sake. How could I not be excited to visit?
Well, let me tell you…
We opted for a Hop-On/ Hop-Off bus tour in Athens. Hop-On/ Hop-Off is a great tour choice that was available in many of the cities we visited. The gist is that these bus lines have several stops located at different points of interest throughout any given area. You can stay on board and listen (in several different languages) as a tour guide explains pertinent details along the route, or you can hop off at any stop to walk around and explore in more detail. You can then hop back on at any of their scheduled stops to continue on around the city or return to port.
At the port of Piraeus, there were three options for Hop-On/ Hop-Off bus tours… Red, Yellow or Blue. There is little information to base your choice on, so we randomly chose the Yellow Bus. We would find out later that it was not the best choice.
We started up with a brief tour of Piraeus. From what I could tell, it’s a great place to live if you endeavor to be employed as a porn salesperson or a stripper. But, to each his own.
Our first stop was the Acropolis. Time for our first Hop-Off. How exciting!
The main interchange there was jam-packed with vehicles, vendors, and people. We loaded up on cold waters and set up the mountain toward the ticket office. It took us a ridiculous amount of time to walk 100 yards. When we finally made our way there, it had become clear that this was not the place to be on this day. It was so overcrowded (and rumored to be very unsure footing) that we opted not to go see the Parthenon up close. Instead, we climbed a smaller peak and got a spectacular view of the whole city. No tickets necessary.
After our short hike, we walked back down to explore other parts of Athens. We stopped for lunch (tzatziki, lamb, Greek salads, ΑΛΦΑ “Alfa” beer) and walked around a little more. At that point we were ready to Hop-On to our bus. It was easier said than done.
Once we finally found a Yellow Bus stop, we waited. And then we waited some more. While we waited we were unwillingly serenaded by aggressive musician-types, looking for money. A young, gypsy boy came up to us and was playing the accordion (really poorly – not one lesson) right in our faces. I did my standard, “No, no!” and waived him off. Sister B did it too, but instead of moving on, this eight or nine-year-old boy stopped playing and yelled, “YES!” right back at her. My mom got involved and then he said something inappropriate to her as well. Sister B replied with, “You need to learn some manners. You do not disrespect an old lady!” It was turning out to be that kind of day.
So we waited some more. And waited. More waiting. “14 stops in the city center. A bus every 30 minutes.” Um, no. We waited with a Yellow Bus representative (who likely wanted to use his perky yellow tie to choke himself by the end) for almost an hour until a bus finally came to take us back to A4: The Acropolis & Parthenon. Then we had to wait some more for another bus to take us around Piraeus and eventually back to the port.
The only fun part about all of the waiting was when we met a French couple who were also waiting, and we practiced our French phrases. When Sister B said something really obscure and correct, she screamed, “Regardez-moi!” Our new French friends laughed and laughed.
Around 4 o’clock, we finally got back to the ship along with several other groups of passengers. We were all hot and tired and dusty, and we smelled like Greek soup. I called out to no one in particular as we waited for the elevators to drag our sorry butts up to our rooms.
“So… did everyone enjoy Athens today?”
A man next to me answered in his thick Irish accent, “I enjoyed going there. I enjoyed much more coming back.”
Ditto. Athens was a big, fat bust. Its awesomeness must only be a myth, just like the Centaurs and Sirens.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…