Reading some of my previous entries, I realise this blog needs some hefty work. It’s essentially a stream of consciousness that reflects how I think and speak, but not how I am capable of writing. Any good blog that you see will be carefully curated and edited. This is very much not like that, but it’s me. Maybe one day I’ll fine tune it, but today is not that day.
We never managed to see Victoria and Abdul in the outdoor cinema, because it was closed. Why? The man who offered to help us didn’t seem sure. All he could say was “because it’s fucking Greece”. Well, that didn’t really help, but we went for a nice drink on a Monday evening anyway. Because it’s Greece.
Yesterday was a bit of a blur, but it was memorable for a number of reasons. I walked to the Kallimarmaro (Panathenaic) Stadium to meet an old friend of mine, Konstantinos. We met a few years back when I did this European Parliament simulation thing at his university in Piraeus. It was like a forerunner to the Harvard MUN I did in 2015 – and I still didn’t know what I was doing.
The Kallimarmaro stadium was one of Athens’ landmarks I had somehow passed by in all the times I’d been here. The U-shaped marble structure is modelled on the original stadium built by the Ancient Greeks, and subsequently improved by the Romans. In the 19th century, the ruins were recreated into their present structure, in order to host the ‘first modern Olympics’ in 1893. At one of the running races, a Greek farm boy won, doing much to boost national pride. Here I am attempting to recreate that feat.
I think I ran about 10 metres before I stopped.
Now, the best way to see Athens is to walk it, as it is compact enough to do so. Strolling through the Zappeion Gardens, through Syntagma (to watch the changing of the guards, which by the way looked ridiculous, but very difficult), Konstantinos explained to me what I was seeing, which your average tourist wouldn’t know about. As we walked through Kolonaki (Athens’ answer to Chelsea), he tapped me on the arm and said “I think that man on the scooter is Yanis Varoufakis. I can tell by the eyes.” Well, reader, judge for yourself. Is this the legendary leftie?
It felt rude to get any closer.
This is him in real life – and to be fair, he does like motorcycles.
I’m really not convinced you can tell just from the eyes, but I will take it, since Varoufakis is a legend. Politician-spotting in Athens got even better, when we strolled past an ex-finance minister outside Athens University, apparently. I walked down Whitehall the other day and saw nobody, but that was probably a good thing for them because if I had I would have thrown some serious shade their way.
As we waited for Konstantinos’ lovely girlfriend to arrive, the heavens opened, and for the first time since June it rained and poured in Athens. Well, people of Greece, I promised to bring the weather with me – so here you are.
We won’t let the weather dampen our spirits (or falafel, which was INCREDIBLE).
More food shots: I’m really happy I got to try loukoumades, which are a traditional Greek dessert. The man in the shop said I looked like a video game character, so that’s a win too, I guess.
Rooftop bars are one of my favourite things to do in Athens, but sadly, they are usually packed out of an evening. Well, who doesn’t want a reasonably priced cocktail with a view of the Acropolis? We certainly did. I even ordered a drink in Greek, and felt super proud of myself for this minute task. However, the vibe was ruined when some Brits sat down next to us, though to be fair they had waited a while, so I couldn’t begrudge them. I did, however, spend the entire night ignoring them, because Brits are the most antisocial people in the world and we prefer to avoid our fellow citizens whenever possible.
This is not I view I tire of easily. I can spend hours just staring at it in complete wonderment.
Sadly, though the night was young, I had to leave my Greek friends to catch the stupid o’clock ferry this morning to Agistri, a beautiful island in the Saronic Gulf.
I had heard about this little-known paradise from a friend of mine in Bristol, who has spent much of her life in Greece. She went there last week and sent me some amazing pictures of crystalline blue waters and pine tree-lined beaches. This sort of place was my heaven, so we rushed to the port and hopped on the first boat we could.
Having researched the place on the internet, I knew the transport situation was bad, but I wasn’t fully briefed on how dire it would be. The bus was waiting for us at the port, and it had our destination – Aponisos – on the front. Great, I thought, this is going really well. I asked the driver for our tickets in Greek, only for him to respond that he was only going to the town next door, and not to the beach. He gestured to the info board and said ‘taxi’, so I got his gist.
This is all well and good, but there’s literally one taxi on the whole island. Maybe two, but this guy was the only one available. We said our destination and off we went, as he waved to everyone out and about on the island (I assume he knows everybody since only about 4 people live on Agistri), driving a little precariously for my liking. We arrived at the beach, 6km away from the town, and it was indeed beautiful:
Perfect for snorkelling, right?
But there was a problem. It was quiet – too quiet. Workmen were disassembling umbrellas, and the gate was padlocked shut. We worked out it must have shut for the season only a few days before. How unlucky! Out in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal, we had no choice but to hike uphill back to the port, with no food and very little water to get us by.
Say what you like about impromptu hikes, you do get some stunning views.
For hours we trudged in the brilliant sunshine, the sparkling Mediterranean taunting us, just slightly out of reach. Smug gits on scooters whizzed past us regularly. A Greek Orthodox Priest also wished us a good day, which was quite nice, probably because we are the epitome of ‘weary travellers’.
By the time we reached a beach I could swim at, I was too hungry to stop there, and I was conscious of time as we decided to take an earlier ferry home. Pressing on into town, we felt we had a good taste of this Greek island paradise, unbeknownst to most foreign tourists. The only thing missing was the beach, sadly. On reflection I probably could have snorkelled where I took the picture earlier, but it felt a bit weird as the only people around were workmen staring at the two lost tourists. You live and learn.
The face of a hungry person about to get food. Also, bougainvillea.
Flouting the rule of ‘never go to the supermarket hungry’, we bought far too many croissants to manage, and hurried back to the boat. These hydrofoils (or boats on jet skis as I’d call them) are incredibly fast, and very comfortable too, as long as the sea is flat as a pancake. I imagine with any sort of waves they would bounce around like nobody’s business. But still, just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Piraeus is the serenity of Agistri – a Greek island truly unlike any other.
Despite the many inefficiencies of how Greece operates, I still love it to pieces. In my view, nowhere else can compete with its beauty, culture, or people. I always feel so at home when I come here, and I always leave feeling like there is so much more to see. Parting is always painful, but that it what I must do tomorrow. Not before I visit my favourite bakery, though…