A Weekend In Athens

My route across Greece, from Lavrio to Patras.

My route across Greece, from Lavrio to Patras.

My Alfa and I arrived in Athens on a sunny Friday afternoon after a lazy drive over the hills from Lavrio. So far my European road trip was going very well and I was eager to find a hotel for the night and settle in. Despite it being winter in Greece it was still warm and the evening was pleasant. The next morning I drove into the centre of Athens, left my car in an underground car park, and went for a walk.

Central Athens.

Central Athens.

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A rather sad looking Alfa 33, from the darker days of Alfa Romeo.

A rather sad looking Alfa 33, from the darker days of Alfa Romeo.

A cute little Mini, which looks good anywhere.

A cute little Mini, which looks good anywhere.

Walking the streets of Athens.

Walking the streets of Athens.

In the early November sunlight it was a joy to walk around the city in the cool air. I stopped for lunch in a beautiful, shady spot, and the food was great too. I made my towards the centre of the city and the Acropolis of Athens, which loomed overhead all the time.

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Reaching higher ground and looking down on the city in the sunlight.

Reaching higher ground and looking down on the city in the sunlight.

I made it up to the Acropolis along with thousands of other tourists. It was strange to be amongst tourists again. In Israel I had been amongst many religious tourists in Jerusalem, but I hadn’t really seen any proper tourists since I was in Nairobi. The recent financial trouble meant that Greece was in a very precarious position when I visited. Many of the cafés and shops seemed a little too quiet, but I was glad to see a steady flow of travellers in the city.

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I’ve seen many iconic buildings and landmarks by now, but the Parthenon in Athens really is so impressive. I an’t imagine what it must have been like in its prime, it’s stunning even now, mostly ruined. It stands atop a rocky outcrop in the middle of the city, and from a distance looks almost entirely man-made.

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I spent a good few hours on top of the Acropolis enjoying the view and the pleasant breeze. I made my way down through the city parks and the winding streets. I collected my car from its underground car park, where it had been washed as part of the parking fee, and headed back towards coast and my hotel, where I was meeting a friend of my parents for dinner.

My hotel, it turned out, was run by a Greek family that had once lived in Sudan. They saw my car in the street and saw the sticker on the windscreen for the Acropole Hotel, which they had frequented while they were in Khartoum, and they knew George too, small world.

Costa, a friend of my dad, and fellow petrolhead arrived to head out to dinner in the city, and he pulled up in a red Ferrari 16M, one of the limited run of 430 based performance convertibles, built to celebrate Ferrari’s 16th Constructor’s Title in Formula 1.

Two Italian cars on the streets Athens.

Two Italian cars on the streets Athens.

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We drove around the city for a little while with the top down, listening to the high-pitched exhaust note bounce of the buildings, it was really great. In Voula we had dinner in a stylish restaurant. It was difficult to reconcile the news of Greece I saw on television and in the papers, with this experience. We weren’t the only ones out in supercars that night, I spotted a few others in the traffic.

I always love hanging out with other car guys. I can talk cars for hours and hours and never get bored. And Costa is definitely a proper car guy. It goes down in my memory as one of my favourite dinners ever.

The next day I packed up my stuff again and headed on down the road towards Patras in the west. The road was a real challenge, and I had been warned that it was in a poor state, but I thought, hey, this is Europe, how bad can it be?

And in truth it was a breeze compared to what I had experienced before, but here is where I saw the impact of Greece’s financial troubles, in the small towns and in the incomplete infrastructure projects. After a long day on the road I arrived at the port in Patras and boarded a boat once again, this time bound for the home of the Alfisti, Italy.

 

1 Comment

  1. So thrilled that you are catching up writing about the European part of your adventure. Still wonderful to read about it, even though it must seem pretty long ago now.

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