Sunday, Aug 19 — Athens
My Emirates Airlines Boeing 777-200 flight 105 arrives to ATH Athens International Airport around 12:30pm. After clearing immigration and customs, I take Line 3 of the Athens Metro to Σύνταγμα Syntagma station where I walk to the Student & Travellers Inn, in the historical neighborhood of Plaka.
After check-in, I walk around Athens. At one point, I randomly find the Komatas Tours Euro Interlines office, at Diligiannis Theodore 19, in the Metaksurgio neighborhood. I buy a ticket for the all-night bus to Tirana for €25, leaving the next evening.
I walk around the base of the Acropolis hill as the sun sets. Many locals and tourists alike are also walking around, enjoying the wonderful weather. Thinking the circuit around Acropolis hill is further than I estimate, I walk passed my starting point and get disoriented part way through the second loop. I backtrack until I find my way again. I highly suggest this walk to anyone with the time.
After many miles walking, hunger calls, but I make the unfortunate impulsive mistake of choosing a touristy outdoor cafe. The impatient waiter leads me to an aluminum table and hurriedly take my order. He is middle-aged with partially balding black and gray hair that sits atop a shiny dome; a bushy mustache partially hides his plump, reddish face. When the waiter speaks, his portly frame causes his white shirt to bulge at the buttons.
I decide to order my first Greek salad. Rather than fetching a fresh salad from the kitchen, the waiter immediately walks over to a glass door refrigerator that advertises Coca-Cola on the side. Instead of bottles of cold soda, there are plates with salad. He grabs one and places it front of me with a basket of dry bread.
The salad is sub-par at best; the tomatoes are partially green, the feta cheese tastes like dried-out curd, the lettuce is browned at the edges, and the olives are of the generic kind that come from a can. I mix my own dressing from a bottle of cheap olive oil and warm vinegar that sit on table. I suppress my disappointment.
When the bill comes, I am charged €2 extra for the stale bread which I did not order. As my dinner was no good, I decide to make a fuss about the stale bread. The grumpy waiter counters with several hand waves and some undetectable blurb in Greek, probably a rant about clueless tourists. Nonetheless, I win the argument and only pay for the salad. I don’t leave a tip. I decide to avoid tourist eateries at all cost from this point forward.
I return to my wonderful walk around Plaka, enjoying the beautiful Athens night life until well passed midnight.
Monday, Aug 20 — All-night bus
After breakfast, I visit the Acropolis. The Parthenon is under construction but I enjoy the contrast of ancient Greece with modern restorative techniques. I then visit the Temple of Hephaestus and Museum Ancient Agora. The preserved buildings and statues are impressive.
At 8:00pm I board my Komatas Tours Euro Interlines bus and take seat 28. Most of the fellow passengers on board are Albanian. We drive north for a few hours and stop for a late dinner near Ktismata, Greece. We then exit Greece at the Kakavia border and continue on to Tirana, Albania.