End of the Trip – Farewell Athens – Reflections and Costings

What a day this has been.  What a trip this has been! My stay here in Athens is almost at an end and tomorrow I head back home. The hike on Mount Hymmetus, has left me with quite an appetite and right now my mind is on food. This evening I head back into the heart of Psiri for the last meal of the trip.  Tonight I will be eating at Mavros Gatos (thank you @beadshopkardamyli for the recommendation!).

After weaving my way through the labyrinth of streets, I find it on 5 Navarchou Apostoli. I’m immediately taken by the décor of the place.  It is cosy but with a modern twist.  The offset primary colours and stencilling above the bar, conjures up the feel of a Mexican cantina and the staff are very welcoming.

I make my choice from the menu, with Mani pork to start and chicken slow-cooked in tomatoes and wine for the main meal.  It may look like a red rag to my cantankerous gallbladder, but in fact, it is things like cheese and butter that Stravros rebels violently against.  Then again he can just decide to throw a fit for the sake of it.  As this is my last night in Athens I’m going to enjoy this meal but I don’t want to tempt fate and I do leave the cream of my complimentary deconstructed cheesecake. The warm spice-infused Rakomelo (another complimentary) is more than welcome!

The only thing that could have made this evening more perfect would have been to have someone to share the experience with. I don’t want the evening to end and would love to have gone on to explore the nightclubs of Psiri, but this for me is not a solo pursuit. I love my solo travels and I love Athens but this lively and vibrant city does have a habit of highlighting how alone I am. This isn’t to be confused with feeling lonely – I don’t feel that. No other place does this to me and I guess that’s because Athens is a city and place where people go to party. I’ll save that for another time whilst travelling with company.

I return to the hotel and end the evening on the roof terrace with a Masticha in hand and a contented smile on my face. In the darkened silence I reflect upon my journey filled with bucket list items now well and truly ticked off. The plan for this trip was to experience a little bit of Greece in winter. In fact, spring had sprung when I arrived in February.

It is hard to believe that three weeks ago I was on Skyros observing Apokries or Carnival – one of the most unique events I have ever witnessed.  I had read many years ago about the incredible goat dancing but to witness it in person was just out of this world. My stay here culminated in the Clean Monday celebrations where the whole community came out in national costume to dance and drink in the square of the atmospheric Chora.  One day of my stay was written off due to a flue like virus that I assume I picked up at the airport. This was only superseded by the kindness of my host’s elderly Mama who brought delicious lemon soup to my room to aid my recovery. True Greek hospitality.

A flight back to Athens was followed by a mad dash from the airport via three different trains to Kato Acharnai – Kiato – Diakofto. After a night in Diakopto I was able to complete another bucket list wish and make my journey to Kalavryta on the rack railway through the most incredible landscape.

Staying in Kalavryta was a truly exceptional experience. Not only was I able to pay my respects at the memorial site of the massacre, but I was able to visit the ski centre and Cave of Lakes in Kastria. By the end of this stay, I had begun to feel quite ill and a visit to the hospital for a chest Xray, identifed that I had a lung infection. A hospital visit isn’t usually an enjoyable experience, but the various doctors and nurses I encountered made this a truly memorable one. My first experience of the Greek healthcare system was full of great care and lots of laughs. A bag of medication including antibiotics soon had me on the mend!

My plan was to go back to Diakopto via the rack railway and make my way to Isthmus by train. However, after the horrific train crash near Tempi, where so many young people were tragically killed and injured, a series of national strikes and protests took place. All train services were suspended over a period of several days to try and hold the government to account for not bringing safety protocols up to standard. I remember whilst waiting for my train at Kiato to take me to Diakopto, seeing crowds of young people getting off the coach from Patras. They were in high spirits and I’d guessed that they were returning from the Patras Carnival – one of the biggest in the country. They spilled up onto the train platform full of life and laughter and shortly after boarded the train back to Athens. I suspect that there were students in this group who went on to catch that ill-fated train several hours later. It still haunts me.

Alex the wonderful taxi driver that I’d befriended in Kalavryta drove me to Isthmus – it really was the only viable option. The journey by taxi took me through stunningly beautiful landscapes all the way down to the edge of the Bay of Corinth. From here we took the highway to Isthmus where I then caught the bus to Nafplio. Alex comes highly recommended if you are ever in Kalavryta.

My six days in Nafplio were truly wonderful. I had been planning to come back for some time but dratted Covid put a stop to that. I had come to test Nafplio in a way. To see if this magical town was able to pull at my heartstrings as much as it had the first time around. And it did. The landscape in the Argolis and to be honest, in the rest of the Peloponnese is the most incredible that I have seen. I can’t think of anywhere else where the beauty of a place literally takes my breath away.

To round off my trip, I headed back on the bus to Athens for 4 days. Athens is always the perfect way to end a trip and it never disappoints. This visit was filled with new and interesting places to explore – the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre and my hike on Mount Hymmetus were definite highlights. And of course, the Evzones didn’t disappoint! And that is it! Nearly time to head back home.

Here is a neat little app that I used to give an overview of the trip. Travelboast is a free app available on the App Store and Google Play. God knows what the carbon footprint of this trip has been – and I do worry about these things. I hope that being an avid recycler, composter and water harvester it goes some way to offsetting my travels.

After breakfast at the Attalos, I kill a few hours back in Psiri which has a completely different atmosphere during the day.

Shops that sell all kinds of goods and services are almost invisible at night and yet they are an integral part of this creative quarter in Athens. Once the bars and restaurants have gone to sleep, other businesses take over the daytime shift offering goods and services to locals and tourists alike.

Yes, there are parts of Psiri that are a little bit Disneyfied, but not in plastic and sterilised way. Every street, every building and around every corner, the history of Psiri and of Athens itself, is engrained into the very fabric that makes up this place. Each bit of graffiti signifies a moment in time, a thought or a feeling expressed by people I will only ever know by the marks that they leave. I can still sense the presence of the families that once lived here and who have left their legacy to the people that live here now. There is even feel the essence of the gangs of Psiri that once roamed this neighbourhood. This place is magical!

The time has come to depart.  I have a taxi transfer arranged to take me to the airport.  This is a bit of a luxury – I’d usually catch the metro but I wanted to test out the Welcome Pickups app – and it all worked beautifully.  My driver Andreas was a real gentleman and the journey to the airport is enjoyable.

To wrap up this trip here is a summary of the costings. I always try to keep note of my expenditure so that I can share the information with others. I am a budget traveller so the costings are pretty representative of a no-frills trip bar the odd unexpected bit of expenditure. You definitely don’t need high-end hotels to have a fantastic experience. It is never about the luxury of a hotel but rather the kind of hospitality that you get from your hosts – usually a given in small family-run hotels.

My methods of noting my expenditure has changed over the years, from pen and paper to a spreadsheet in Onedrive on my phone. This time I’ve been using an app called Travelspend which has been really easy to use. The costs in the app are in both Euros and in British pounds. For the purposes of the costings, it has all been converted to British pounds. The app itself breaks the costs down into categories and individual items but I’ve kept it at category level. Nobody wants to know when and how many bananas I bought on a given day.

Thank you for following me on my travels. Do subscribe to my blog and like and share my posts on Facebook. My next trip is just around the corner!

ItemCost £
Accommodation 1226.30
Accommodation 55.93
Coffee and Drinks37.63
Fees and Charges13.19

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