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Visiting Athens

Page history last edited by Philip 14 years ago

What about Athens?


"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" Tertullian famously asked. Others ask: "How can I fly all the way to Greece and not see the Parthenon?" If you are one of this latter group, we can offer a few words of advice on Athens here.


Looking for a place to stay? Go with the Attalos Hotel or Student and Travellers Inn.


Train schedules for Athens and Thessaloniki are online and are at present sort of available in English. (Click on the "Station List" links to set your stations, which are listed in Greek. The Athens station is "ΣΤ.ΑΘΗΝΩΝ" and is listed under "A," and the Thessaloniki station is listed under "Θ" and called "ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΗ.") The trains travel at three different speeds: regular (7 hours, 15 euro), InterCity (5 hours, 35 euro), and InterCity Express (4.5 hours, 50 euro). Let us recommend the middle way, the InterCity (ICity). The regular train is not as cheap as it is just because of the extra two hours: it's much older, has no air-conditioning, and so on. It's an okay option only if you take it at night and purchase a sleeping berth (which should total about 24 euro).


The Athens subway (metro) system is quite good—don't be afraid to use it! You can even take it from the airport into the center (a distance of 27 km) for about 6 euro (per person) instead of the 30 euro that a taxi will cost. A standard metro ticket will cost 80 cents and is good for 90 minutes. You can also buy a day's pass for 3 euro.


(Be certain you have the right tickets for your journey — you can check at the station's ticket-windows. There are no turnstiles on one's way in and out of the train stations. Rather, from time to time, subway-system employees appear on trains to see that everyone is carrying an appropriate ticket. If you’re not, the fines are tremendous — one traveler recently ended up paying 50 euro.)


Most of us have found that, beyond the Acropolis and surrounding area and the major museums (the National Archaeological Museum, the Benaki Museum, and the Byzantine Museum), there isn't a whole lot to recommend Athens, so we wouldn't plan on spending too much time there. It's really the least Greek part of Greece; and if you are looking for Western Europe, you will find far superior manifestations of it in, well, Western Europe. The cost of staying long in the city also tends to be prohibitive, and there is quite a lot to see as you travel north (if that is what you are doing); for example, Meteora.


If you have spare time in the Athens area, you might consider a day-trip to the island of Aegina, home of Saint Nectarios of Pentopolis. (If you go, and you like seafood, get something to eat at Mezedopoleio To Steki, a hole-in-the-wall place behind the fish-market on the harbor.) You can also pay to take day-tours of other areas convenient to Athens, such as the ancient site at Mycenae.


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