Wednesday, 22 November 2017


Five days in Athens in November - what an opportunity.  I was asked to go to a conference from the Sunday evening to the Tuesday afternoon and flight times meant the easiest solution was to fly out  on Saturday and back on Wednesday.  This meant I had Sunday for sightseeing.  I flew with Easyjet and all went well with arrangements.

First off I arrived at Athens Airport about 8:30 and debated whether I should get a taxi (€38) or the metro (€10) in to my hotel.  As usual I had used Google Maps to check out the route from the metro to the hotel as, despite good instructions from the conference organisers, I know all too well how a "gentle slope" can in fact be insurmountable in a wheelchair.  I had mixed feelings on whether I could easily get to the hotel as I was fairly well loaded down - with my carryon bag on the front, freewheel stowed on the back and my carry on bag on my lap.

The metro ticket office said there was no charge for me so I went with that.  What a pleasant surprise - it's a brand new metro so every single station is fully accessible and in all my travels I saw no more than a 3cm gap between train and platform.  The norm was a much, much smaller gap.  Don't mind the gap.  There isn't one.

When I got to the Megaro Mousikis station, near my hotel, I could see it was a gentle downhill slope to my hotel so opted to walk, which was fine apart from dodgy the branches of an orange tree (complete with oranges) and a few detours for dropped kerbs.  Hotel was lovely, room was nice and accessible, but the lift doors were only about 70cm wide - I had to remove the silicon grips from my push rims to fit in one!

Sunday morning I got up early and had the most ridiculously generous breakfast in my room - for a €3 surcharge over breakfast in the dining room. Conveniently this avoided dealing with the stairs to the dining room.  Each morning I would tick fewer boxes on the menu and still get more than I could eat.  By the time I left I had an impressively stocked fruit bowl in my room. Really all I wanted was a piece of fruit, some Greek yoghurt and honey and a couple of pastries.

I headed back to the metro station, feeling much more confident about using it, to discover the Athens Classic Marathon underway.  You know - the one that actually starts at Marathon and finishes in the ancient Panathenaic Stadium.  I managed to find a gap in the runners (who were going pretty slowly, it being the 40km mark) to cross to the metro station's lift and headed off.

First stop on my itinerary was the Acropolis museum - built to house the Elgin Marbles should they ever be returned.  It's an amazing museum, taking you up through the different periods of Athenian history with well chosen examples of each periods treasures.  Given the sheer quantity of archaeological treasures in Athens - they even have mini-museums in many of the metro stations - it could have ended up looking like your Granny's attic.  Instead it's light and airy and everything is well displayed.  The top floor is constructed to the exact dimensions of the Parthenon, which overlooks it.  There are spaces for each of the panels currently in the British Museum.  It really is where they should be.  No photos allowed, though.  Apart from of the Lego version.

Slight comedy moment at the entrance:

Me:  One adult please
Cashier:  Oh, you are free, do you have proof of the percentage of your disability?
Me:  Um, no.
Cashier, looking me up and down:  Can you walk?
Me: A little, a few metres at most.
Cashier, handing me a ticket:  I guess you must qualify, no charge.

Note to others:  Take your Blue Badge or similar to Greece with you!

Next up - I'd heard from friends that there is a lift up to the Acropolis itself.  Keen to add another site to my list of "World Heritage Sites I've been in a lift in", I started wheeling myself up.  It was a warm day, at least for someone who lives in Scotland.  The Athenians were in coats and hats.  I was in a summer dress and knee length leggings.  The first stage was a gentle hill with marble pavements.  I well recommend marble as an outdoor wheeling surface.  Effortless. 

Next up was a steeper hill with what were basically marble cobbles and poorly grouted.  Very hard work, with zig-zagging not really helping because it just made it more likely the wheels would get stuck.  I accepted a few offers for help on steeper bits, but only for a few minutes lest my helper expired.  Eventually reached the ticket area, over halfway up the Acropolis hill, to discover that whilst there is indeed a lift there is also a ramp (I think they mean one of those platform lifts) which was out of order.  So I didn't get my trip to the top.  I got pretty close though.

The climb was well worth it though as I went down the north side of the hill - much steeper but more interesting.  Including this view over the Ancient Agora.

After some detours when streets turned out to be staircases, I made it down to Monastiraki, which is very much tourist central of Athens.  Lots of little lanes with small shops, some of which I could even get into, interspersed with ruins from various periods. 

It's a fun place just to walk around, people watch and see what's around the next corner. 

Being Sunday there was a flea market on.  I worked my way down through the tiny streets to Thissiou station, where I wandered a wee way up the Apostolou Pavlou Avenue, a walking route through the centre of Athens which is a much more sensible route from the Acropolis Museum than the one I had taken. There was a great view here of the Temple of Hephaestus (which I'd seen from the Acropolis earlier) but by this time I was too tired to attempt to get closer to it - and it was time for me to head for the start of my conference.

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