Today Amal says farewell to Greece and the city of Piraeus bid her a bon voyage as she heads to Italy. At 11.00am, crowds begin to gather in the square in front of the Metropolitan Theatre. I arrive early and catch some of the practice sessions by the group of singers that are going to accompany her.
I knew from the previous evening that Amal arrives and departs at the back of the Municipal Theatre and I can see a small crowd gathering down the alleyway so I head down there to see Amal having a photo opportunity with the press. We follow her to the square in front of the Municipal Theatre where words of support are spoken by the Mayor of Piraeus Yannis Moralis, and a musical performance wishing Amal Kalo Taxidi takes place. 1000 origami birds are distributed to children and adults alike.
Led by the group of singers, Amal makes her way down Leoforos Vasileos Georgiou A. We follow, all walking in solidarity with little Amal.
As we arrive at Port Gate number E9 a brass band awaits her arrival and play to her until she on board the symbolic boat. I say symbolic because I know by following The Walk closely that they will drive over to Patras and catch the ferry to Bari, Italy from there. (I hope I haven’t shattered an illusion!)
This amazing representation of a 9 year old Syrian girl has touched the hearts of many. The beautifully crafted puppet made by Handspring Puppet Company – the world famous creators of War Horse came alive through her expressions and gestures and prompted a united coming together of people full of hope and love for refugees and displaced people. I give due credit to the team at Good Chance Theatre who with their international partners have created this amazing project. Despite being met with attempts to cause disruption hundreds of people turned out in force to ensure that we could all walk with Amal.
Farewell Amal. I hope to see you at your journey’s end in Manchester.
Amal’s departure left me feeling a little empty. Sentimentality gets the better of me at times.
That aside, I have a ferry to catch. Several ferries a day go to Syros from Piraeus but I chose the 17.30 one so that I could attend the farewell event. There’s a bit of hanging around to do but I kill a bit of time in Hotel Anemoni’s reception area downloading photo’s and video’s etc.
After an hour or two I can see on Marine Traffic that the Blue Star Patmos is about to arrive into port so head off down to gate 7 where she awaits. It’s hot and there is a bit of a queue and they haven’t yet started checking documentation so I find a little wall to sit on.
Eventually the checks begin to take place and people are allowed on board. I am asked for my vaccination certificate and passport so that the two can be cross referenced. It is given some thorough scrutiny but for that I am truly thankful.
The suitcase is chucked into the section reserved for Syros and I head up to the lower deck where I grab a table and chair. The journey is just less than four hours but oh my word it is worth it to be back in Greece!
As I depart from Athens and Piraeus I want to make an observation about mask wearing. Using my finger in the air to see what way the wind is blowing/Stephanie’s radar and a bit of ‘guestimation’ it feels like 90% of Greeks are wearing masks. Not only wearing masks in the shops, metro wherever but also wearing masks in the street. This I have rarely seen at home. It’s very reassuring and just a shame that other tourists don’t feel obliged to show the same courtesy. Anyway, here Covid is being taken seriously.
It’s time to depart. Leaving Athens after a couple of days is a bit of an about face for me as I like to add a few days in Athens onto the end of the trip and not the beginning. This is because Athens is a great distraction when the time comes to leave the islands. I’m not complaining – this Athens trip has been one of a kind!