This blog aims to give a personal and totally biased view of the Greek islands I have visited. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the islands. Two aspects of Greek islands that I love are seeing goats wandering around and the dawn chorus of cockerels crowing. Accordingly, each island I have stayed on will have a Cockerel Count and Goatiness rating.
Unless otherwise stated, all images are my copyright and may not be reproduced or copied. Should you wish to purchase a license for commercial use of my images please follow the link to my stock photography blog where you will find details of my agents. Comments are welcomed but reviewed before publication. Enjoy your visit. Regards, David.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Athens 2016:

The Acropolis of Athens - full of history
Smart readers of this blog will have already realised that Athens is neither small nor an island. Nevertheless it deserves a place here because of its pivotal role as a key departure point for ferry and cruise ships to the many islands of Greece.

As a lover of small un-touristy islands I resisted the City of Athens for a long time -thinking that it would all be too un island like for me to enjoy. Strange really because I enjoyed living and working in London for many years and have had regular great trips to Paris in my time so it's not as if I dislike cities in general. Against that background I realised last year that there really was no reason to ignore the Capital of Greece any longer. I also factored in that, as a gateway to so many islands, I might be able to combine a city break with an island day trip.

So in May 2016 I found myself booking a last minute hotel/flight package to Athens. Last minute as in booked on Sunday and travelled on Tuesday! I'd be lying if I said I hadn't previously done some extensive research on this trip. Possible hotels, transport to and from the airport, ferry schedules to various islands had all been looked at. What I settled on was the Faros1 hotel conveniently situated by Piraeus port but, equally, not too far from central Athens.

I'd decided that the X96 express bus was going to be the best solution for getting to and from the airport as
Adamantios Korais - non stop nautical action at Piraeus
this goes right to the heart of Piraeus (other buses are available for different destinations in Athens). You'll find the ticket kiosk for the bus handily situated outside the doors of the arrivals area. Should this be closed for any reason you can always pay when boarding the bus. At the time of writing the fare is currently a modest six euros (each way). After boarding the bus don't forget to validate your ticket by inserting it into one of the little machines you'll find throughout the long, two sectioned bus. Travel time to Piraeus will vary depending on traffic but expect between 60 -90 minutes. My big concern was that, unfamiliar with Athens, I wouldn't have a clue when it was my stop to get off. However, on boarding I soon saw that the bus has screens displaying a graphic of its current location and the name of the next stops (in both Greek and English) so this wasn't the problem I thought it might be.

The hotel proved to be barely a five minute walk to the harbour front and I spent a happy few days watching and photographing all the comings and goings of numerous vessels. All the various shipping lines have offices along the harbour front with timetables and fares detailed so this is a good place to book an island trip. My hotel actually had an in house travel agency which I used to book a trip to Agistri island (a post on that will follow later) but you could just pitch up to the harbour front if you wanted.

Panagia Tinou - listing badly at Piraeus
One of the more interesting boats to photograph in the harbour was the ferry boat Panagia Tinou. This wasn't going anywhere, however, as having taken on water it was listing badly to one side. At one point the list had been more pronounced and my picture shows the "after" result of stabilising things. Some internet research threw up the interesting information that I knew this ferry from the past. In a previous life it had been the Folkestone to Boulogne ferry Hengist which famously became beached near Folkestone during the Great Storm of 1987 in the UK. Photographs and film of the unlucky vessel featured heavily in the British media at the time. Now here it was, 29 years later, again not doing so well.

Of course, no first visit to Athens would be complete without seeing the legendary Acropolis. I must admit that initially I had my doubts about this -mainly because of many people insisting that I just had to go while in Athens. I was concerned that it would be overrun with tourists and perhaps be something of an anti climax in reality. Common sense prevailed however and I did go. From Piraeus it was just a 30 minute or so ride on the metro to get there. Yes, there were plenty of tourists but not so many as to spoil the experience and the sense of history I felt in this spectacular hill top location standing high over the city was unmissable. It truly deserves its place as one of the top tourist attractions in the World.

So my first (but certainly not my last) visit to Athens was a mix of ancient history, fascinating busy port, cheese pies, and a trip out to the islands. Of course, my main holidays will continue to be to small tranquil islands but vibrant Athens is certainly a great city break and one that I can really recommend. Regards, David.

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