Wednesday Nov 1st - Athens, Greece
The flight to Athens was pretty nice. If you could invision the boot-like shape of Italy, we flew directly over the arch. Soon after that we started seeing the mountains and islands of Greece. The water around the coast line was a rich blue fading to turquoise and green. The islands had steep hills that seemed almost barren. Only scattered low lying shrubs gave color to the tan rocky hillsides. We seemed to weave in and out and I even caught a glimpse of a snow capped peak out of a window on the other side of the plane. Soon we were circling in to land
. I was straining my neck to see the city of Athens out the other side. But we passed it by to land, what seemed, far from town. We disembarked, collected our baggage and stopped by the tourist information desk. They suggested a few hotels and we were on our way to the train. Ten Euros for 2 tickets on the new train line took us downtown in about 40 minutes. Since the Olympics were here in 2004, Athens had totally renovated their transportation system. I remember seeing on the news a long time ago how it was a painstaking process to add new subway lines. Everywhere they dug, they found ruins that needed to be recorded and documented. We switched lines once and got off at the Acropolis stop. At the top of the escalator was a glass wall which held a few of the artifacts found while building this train stop. We headed out and rounded the corner to find the 'Athens Backpackers' hostel/hotel. I was surprised that the only language I was hearing was English. Given the central location and the fee of 20 euros a night with breakfast, we checked in and were given two beds in a 6 bed room w/bath. Soon a girl named Jen came into the room. Turns out she was American. We questioned her on everything we could think. She mentioned all the sites around and that there was a soccer game this evening, Athens vs. France. We left the hostel to get familiar w/the city and headed to the tourist info office two blocks away. There we got maps, info on the Athens Marathon that was coming up that Sunday, info on the ferry system to the islands and directions to the nearest grocery store
. We walked up the main drag (Amalias Ave.) past the tomb of the unknown soldier, we rounded a corner and walked directly into four guards coming directly at us. We hurried back to the tomb and watched the unique changing of the guards. We later found the grocery store which turned out to be the 'Champion' store that we shopped at in France and Spain. This one was definatly Greek. We purchased our usual; bottle of wine, pasta, sauce and 2 liters of orange juice for breakfast. All for 2.85 Euros and it last for two days. We headed back to the hostel and cooked a quick meal. We got talking to a girl from Chile and almost forgot about the soccer game. We hopped on the train, transferred a few times and ended up at this huge stadium built for the Olympics. It was a mob scene outside and we could hear the crowd singing inside. We had a bit of trouble finding the ticket office but we soon had to tickets for 20 euro each, third row back on the corner of the field. WE thought these would be great seats, but they were to low to see what was going on. You loose the depth at that level. Then the local fans lifted their banner that was about 7 feet tall and 40 feet long! The rowdiest fans were to our right next to the giant scoreboard and above us in the upper deck. Fearing that we would be hit by debris or fireworks that they were already lighting off, we followed our row around the stadium to the left and up a few seats. We had to climb the railings that madeup the sections, but no one seemed to care
. We were now near midfield and had a great view of both goals. The fans were going crazy clapping and chanting in Greek lead by 1 guy down on the field. After a few minutes, I thought France was going to lay a beating on Athens, but Athens came back and constanty had the ball in front of the goal. Athens eventually scored and the place went crazy. M-80's were going off and flares were being burned. They even had yellow smoke bombs to go with the teams colors. When the game ended we ran for the door. Only to find everyone stopped dead. Like in the beginning the guy on the field led the crowd by raising his arms straight above his head, followed by a single clap. The claps got faster and faster, then a big yell at the end. We tried to high-tail around all the fans and vendors to catch the train before it stopped running at midnight. There was a large crowd but we slipped into the first car. We were a bit nervous since we did not have tickets. But we made it back without a problem. Off to bed.
We arrived in Athens, Greece this afternoon.. Congrats to Michael and Vesna with their new baby girl Gabriella... Can't wait to hold her... Lyn is typing this one, if you can't tell.. I write totally different then Bart... We love and miss you all..