Travelling During Covid Times and the Good, Bad and Ugly of Athens
I’m not going to lie – I was very nervous about travelling during these strange times. Once I put on my big girl pants and pressed that book button there was no turning back.
The paperwork isn’t so bad – as long as you approach it methodically.
Book first 2 accommodations for the PLF for (it only has room for 2 despite asking for first 14 days travel) Obvs not thinking of us island hoppers!)
Complete PLF form
Pre pay for Day 2 Covid Test – it arrived before I left – I used Randox – Easyjet have a code to get a few quid knocked of the cost
Download Covid Certificate from the NHS App
Have a desperate attempt at seeing what summer clothes will fit me – and believe me it wasn’t a lot!
Buy a couple of dresses that will fit me
Tell husband I’m going away!
All more of less in that order!
Manchester airport was busy – very busy. Checking in and passing through security was all fine. Quite a few of the catering units in Terminal 1 were closed but I didn’t plan to eat there anyway. The food court up the escalators was very busy but it was really easy to find a quiet corner away from the crowds.
The plane was packed with only the odd spare seat. I don’t think I’ve been in such close proximity to people for years. The staff repeated messages of keeping masks on and only removing them to eat or drink refreshments. Mostly this was observed but there are always a faction who think that dangling their nose over the top of their masks is acceptable.
Clearing passport control at Athens was fine – firstly there are a couple of guards checking vaccine certificates and then you proceed to passport control. Onto luggage reclaim – my suitcase is broken and the handle is now stuck in the up position – not very convenient! Everyone is wearing masks at the airport.
I then headed outside the terminal building and before ascending the escalators to the metro I took a moment to breath in the air (sans mask) and OMG that smell of heat on baked earth mixed in with ripening fig trees. I couldn’t see any fig trees and it probably wasn’t fig trees but I’m sure you know the smell I mean – it is unique to Greece in summer.
I bought my ticket for the metro to Monastiraki and made my way down into the metro station. The metro station was busy with a few tourists and a lot of Greeks who I suspect work at the airport. Every other seat on the metro is marked with a card to say leave vacant. In effect out of every group of 4 seats only 2 would or should be in operation. Err – no. The seats were filled to capacity. However, there was a high percentage of mask wearing.
When I arrived at Monastiraki I got my bearings and headed up Mitropolios. I know I had to look for Ciel bar which is a rooftop bar above the apartment I am staying in. The apartment – Enattica Monastiraki Living is just off Mitropolios and everything is self service. The entry door is open as it is also the entry to the roof bar. I get the elevator to the first floor, I had been given a key code to get into the corridor where there are 5 apartments and a key code to get into my apartment.
The apartment is sizeable – bigger than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. It’s clean, modern, basic, well priced but absolutely fantastically located! I’d say the only thing missing as a tea drinker is a kettle.
I hit the hay as soon as I was unpacked. I was shattered.
The following day I had no particular plan in mind. I went for breakfast at a fabulous little place called Gypsy Jungle. They have a fab range of breakfast items and chose Greek Yoghurt with honey, spoons sweets, flax seeds and a whole heap of stuff I can’t remember! You’ll find them here: Aiolou 27, Athina 105 60
After this nourishing breakfast I remembered that I needed to go and buy a new suitcase and I knew that Athinas Street (where the fish market is just up from Monastiraki Square) was a good place to get something cheap. Just a few shops down from Gypsy Jungle I stumbled across a little shop called Mad Cat selling cotton and linen dresses for 15 euros each – yes thank you I’ll have two of those please. The man in the shop told me that his family had had the shop for 60 years and is the only shop in Athens to sell only 100% cotton and linen products. I’m not sure that bit is true but I’m happy with my 2 dresses. I told him that I needed to buy a suitcase and he told me of a particular shop on Athinas Street. “Go and tell the fat man in this shop what you want and he will have it for you – very cheap!”
I found said “fat man” and I was able to get a suitcase for 45 euros. I’d rather have spent the money on retsina but what the heck – needs must!
I dumped the new suitcase back at the apartment and then decided to head up to Anafiotika. I have been previously on several occasions but I just love the views from there and it is often quiet and away from the crowds. Anafiotika is a settlement on Acropolis Hill built by the Anafiots (Jeni Say) who were brought over from the island of Anafi to help rebuild Athens after the Ottoman rule. The Anafiots were renowned builders and brought to Athens for their highly valued skills.
Anafiotika is a bit like a village in a city. The stone houses are built very close together and several sets of narrow stones steps will take you up until you feel like your in touching distance of the Parthenon itself. Once at the top of the village you can even see huge lumps of rock between the houses. You have the most perfect view of Mount Lycabettus from here. Just head up to Plaka and ask for directions from there.
I went up one set of steps but there was a wedding party just ahead of me having photographs taken in various points along the way. Rather than push through I took another set of steps up to the top where I stopped to take photographs of Mount Lycabettus. There were only a few other tourist up there. Now this is the bad and the ugly bit.
When I was photographing Mount Lycabettus a woman and 2 young men – I’d say teenagers stopped to take photo’s also. They were saying “Bellisimo” and when they moved past me they said “Andiamo”. For some reason I didn’t think they were Italian. I kept my distance from them because of Covid protocols but also felt there was something a bit weird about them. I felt like they were following me – wherever I moved they moved. The woman and one of the young men weren’t too close to me but the other one was a couple of yards away. I decided to go down the set of steps to get away from them. They did the same. When I got to the top of the steps I indicated for them to go ahead of me. I gave it a few minutes but then they came back up the steps and the woman said “finished” as if to indicate it was a dead end. I knew it wasn’t a dead end because I’d seen a couple of tourists come up that way. They hovered by another very narrow set of steps as if to wait for me to follow – which I didn’t. Shortly after a Greek lady with two children walked down the set of steps that were allegedly leading to a dead end so I followed her. I didn’t want to put myself in a position to be halfway down a set of steps on my own with these people.
Just a bit further on at the bottom of the steps there was a taverna where I stopped for a cold drink – I was hot – partly from the midday sun and partly because of what I’d just experienced. I’d had my rucksack on my right shoulder – not on my back but when I put it down I noticed that the zips to the two main compartments were open. Frantically I searched for my purse which thankfully I’d stuffed deep into the bag next to the camera case. The purse was there but the other compartment was empty. Now I don’t take a lot of stuff out with me so I had to rack my brains as to what was missing. I realised what it was – 2 zipped bags – one with masks including all my homemade cotton masks and in another small bag my first aid kit – plasters, indigestion and diarrhoea tablets etc. I won’t repeat what words I was calling them but thank God they didn’t get my purse!
Now here’s the thing. I was conscious of them being near me at one point but I moved away as soon as I noticed them. I didn’t hear or feel the zips of the bag being opened and I didn’t even sense them getting that close to me to be able to do that. These scumbags are professional thieves and they move among us like evil spirits. I only go into this detail as a word of warning.
As soon as I got back to the apartment to recover I headed straight back to the “fat man” at the suitcase shop on Athinas Street to buy an over the shoulder security bag where I could keep all of my valuables in front.
This isn’t scaremongering but just a word of warning that even the travel savvy can fall prey to these crooks. A woman on her own like me are a prime target but by no means a sole target for their ‘endeavours’. Don’t be put off. I’m not – but lesson learned – keep all your belongings in front and keep all the ****ers away from you.
The rest of the afternoon was not quite so adventurous as I was feeling rather frazzled. I popped into the Benizelous Mansion – also known as the House of St Philothei and the oldest house in Athens. It has very interesting Ottoman architecture including the loggia. You’ll find it at 96 Adrianou Street. It’s worth a visit for the cost of a donation.
The rest of the day involved a lot of aimless wandering. I had already decided that this stay in Athens wasn’t going to be the ‘crazy running around trying to see as much as possible’ visit as I’d usually do. Besides, I needed to keep some energy in reserve to Walk with Amal!
We’ve just done Naxos , Koufonissia and Anti Paros , already booked our flights for next year and are hoping to do Ikaria and Fourni, so will be interested to hear what you say.
You’ve chosen some fantastic islands for your travels Mike. Antiparos will always be one of my favourite Islands having visited it nearly 30 years ago and have been back several times since. I can’t help thinking how popular it has become since Tom Hanks bought a property there though :-)! I’m going back to ikaria at the end of the week for a second time to discover the northern side of the island which I didn’t get a chance to last time primarily because the island is divided in half buy a mountain and I’m waiting to chicken to drive in Greece – I only did it once on kythera where I had no choice! Fourni is a real Gem and you’ll see my previous posts and photographs of when I was there 2 years ago. It is one of the nearest islands you will get to being still authentic where people meet you off the ferries with photographs of their rooms just like they did on other islands back in the day! Do tell me all about it when you go!