Arrival in Athens, Hotel Disasters
Met up with Jon in the London airport, after a bit of worry that he wouldn’t make our connecting flight due to the delay of his flight from Boston. Fortunately for us he got to the gate just in time and our 3-hour flight to Athens arrived right on time. Customs here must be pretty lax, as this is the first time I have ever entered a foreign country without being asked any questions… just a stamp in the passport and we were on our way.
We tried to follow the directions Hostel Aphrodite sent to us in the confirmation email for our reservation, and at least managed to get on the correct bus to Syntagma Square and find the metro to get to Larissa Station (but only after a cab driver tried to tell us that we couldn’t walk to the hostel from there, hoping to rip us off on overpriced cab fare no doubt). The directions from Larissa left something to be desired, and we spent about half an hour trying to find the hostel, luggage in tow in what should have been a 5-minute walk. Lucky for us the locals we asked were able to point us the right way.
This is where everything started to go wrong.
Despite having a confirmation email from Hostel Aphrodite (which I booked nearly 2 months in advance), they did not have our name on the book at reception and had no more available rooms. The guy working the counter was very apologetic, and quickly arranged another room for us at a hostel closer to the city center and paid for our cab fare to get there. Now, Hostel Aphrodite is highly recommended in just about every travel book you can find. The place they sent us, Hotel Zeus, is not actually listed in any of the travel books, and it’s rating on hostelworld and other review sites is rather poor. We quickly found out why.
During our cab ride, our driver informed us that we should avoid going to some of the neighboring areas around our hostel (not-so-trustworthy immigrant population, crime, etc.). We ended up in a top-floor room (no elevator, heavy luggage up 5 flights of stairs, not fun) that was directly across from the bar. The doors might well have been made of paper. By this time, it was after 9pm, and we were exhausted, but there was no chance we were going to have any level of comfort or quiet until the bar closed at 1am. Feeling rather defeated, we asked the friendly English gentleman at reception (note – this was the ONLY friendly person who worked there as far as we could tell) to suggest somewhere we could go for dinner that would not involve walking through any neighborhood that might threaten our safety. He suggested looking into the restaurants near the Acropolis past Monastiraki Square.
Bless the Greeks for their love of late-night dining. After passing through the peddlers of knock-off handbags and cheap trinkets in Monastiraki Square, we had no problem finding a place that looked good with a beautiful view of the Acropolis. After a satisfying meal of Pastitsio (“Greek lasagna”), lamb chops, and wine we were in a much better mood. I think the name of the place we went was “Expatis” or something like that, but the food wasn’t so good that I’d make the effort to recommend it above others (but the service was very friendly).
Back at the hostel, it was quite hot (we couldn’t figure out how to work the air conditioning unit) so we slept with the window open and had a fairly restless night trying to sleep through the street noise.