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10 January 2005

Greek and Athens Public Transport and Its Mysteries

It's better than it was, but there are still strange rules in the game

The system in public transport here is that passengers have to know how things work. When riding the bus you are expected to know when to get out. Bus stations are not announced. You are also mostly expected to guess that the bus to take is Nr. 117, where to get your ticket (in the bus, at the station, at the vending machine), and when taking the ticket at the vending machine which ticket you need. But things have improved, so read on for some hints...


What's bad?

Until a few years ago, all you got in Athens was that the busses had numbers and they were labeled with their destination, like "108 Kalamaki". But you had no idea if the bus was headed for the centre of Athens or for Kalamaki. Sometimes the label "Kalamaki" was missing too, and usually you would have to guess where the city endpoint of the line was. But what was and still is more problematic: You have to know which bus to take at all, there is no map that tells you for going from Athens to Nikaia which choices you might have. The OASA organization used to have such a map to mail to you, but they sold out. And don't expect something like that on public display.

The long distance busses "KTEL" have the similar problems, have to get out at a station midway? You better know when to get out yourself. Announcements when to switch the bus are often done without the microphone system and difficult to understand for foreigners. Going to Patras I was surprised by the ticket control guy, whose function I was barely able to guess from the reactions of surrounding passengers. Gotta know what this is.

In the Intercity train from Athens to Thessaloniki the station announcements where in Greek only and even knowing Greek most often not comprehensible. Stations are poorly labeled, so good luck if you don't want to go all the distance.

Things got better

So what improved? Lots of things: Athens bus stations are labeled much better, giving a list of the stations, including the direction you're currently facing and the endpoints. You get the approximate frequency, and the first and last scheduled departures from the start point. A lot of the trolley busses have displays that announce the next station (in greek letters, so you have to know at least these). In the Tram the situation is even better, computer screens inform you about the next 5 stops in latin and greek characters, and lately I have heard recorded announcements. On another interesting sidenote, few of my friends were able to tell me the name of their bus station. I guess they have the "have to know" system learned deep already.

The Metro (Subway) sports fancy announcements in Greek and English, plus it has Metro maps so you can see where to switch trains. Small problems arise in inter-category switching: The tram has one station as "SEF" (which is "Stadio Eirinis kai Filias", the old Olympic Stadium), while the Metro has it as "Neo Faliro" with a pictogram of the Stadium. Also getting out of the tram at that station you just follow the flock of passengers to know where the Metro is, don't expect any meaningful signs.

Look it up on the web

There is a website (OASA) where you can look up connections in the Athens area, but in some tries I did not have much success with it. Either the database had some problems, or else you would have to be able to guess how to formulate queries -- which would go with the general philosophy of public transport in Greece. The long distance busses have their website too (KTEL) but I haven't tried it, I don't think they would have had the bus schedules I needed on Limnos Island.

Tipps when coming for a visit

So what could you do when you come here for a visit and want to use public transports to go to a friends house?

Posted by betabug at 16:50 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
21 February 2005

Internet for Visitors in Greece

So you come here and you want to connect to the *Internet*?

When you come to Greece for a visit and you want to connect to the Internet, there might be a few usefull informations I could share. This is not yet a country of cheap and readily available Internet connections, not to mention broadcast. Getting some hints may get you ahead though...


Updated: As of 2008/2009, a lot of information in this article is outdated. Please read the Update: Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009 too!

Come here with your own laptop computer? Your options are basically to connect with a modem over the landline phone system, use GPRS over your mobile phone, or leech a wifi connection somewhere. Don't count on an easy quest.

Getting a cable to the world

For the landline you will need access to some telephone jack. These are standard RJ-11 connectors most of the times, but there are older jacks with two contacts. Adapters are available at electricians outlets, most of the times you can get by with yanking the cable out of a standard phone device. So much for the hardware connection.

Dial in

If your "ISP from home" does not offer some international dial-in partner ISP here in Greece, you will also need an ISP login. No need to get something with monthly payments: At normal phone shops (and at the post office) you can buy "cards" for 5, 10, or 20 hours of Internet access. Examples are the "Forthnet Netkey", "Smile & Web", "UrNet" carads. On top of that cost (would be around 5 to 10 Euro depending on "size") you will also be charged connection cost on the phone bill. These are quite low, even lower than a local phone call, but the dual system makes it difficult for guests to take all the cost on themselves. There are also some numbers for "no advance cost" internet access. You don't have to pay for a card or monthly connection there, but the connection cost on the phone bill is quite high (something like 1.20 Euro per hour). This may be an option if you really want to connect just once. Hellas On Line is an example of a provider offering such a dial in number.

GPRS: Mobile, expensive and available

The next option is using your mobile phone, your providers Roaming plan, and a lot of money. Find out how your provider sets you up for GPRS access, find out how you hook up your Laptop and your mobile phone, and off you go. Charges are often high. But it's a connection that will work without having to get help from anyone, without borrowing someones connection. This may be the right thing if you really, really need to check mails and you are in your far out cabin on a far out island (like I was on Limnos in the Summer of 2004). Proper setup to keep download size low suggested. BTW: My initial thought was to get a "card phone" prepaid number in Greece to do this. Forget it. None of the Greek mobile providers offeres GPRS on their prepaid numbers.

Wifi and broadband?

As for leeching a broadband connection: My initial journey was trying to find an internet cafe that would let me get access to an Ethernet connector. No luck so far. Those kids don't have a clue, so they are affraid that you are doing some harm. Next I tryed to find an "open" hotspot. Again, no luck. At least at the time of this writing technology is way behind in Greece, so since the kids don't have broadband and wireless routers to leave open. You may get a chance for broadband if you come here to study at some university, or if you come here to work at a company. At least in Athens you have another option: Starbucks has started to conquer Greece and (at least some) of their Coffeeshops offer wifi access, charging 3 Euro for 2 hours.

Internet Cafes

Which compares somehow with a typical Internet cafe. These ask around 2-3 Euro per hour, and you can't work in the comfort of your own machine. But it's the option you have when you come to Greece with or without a laptop. For bringing stuff over to my laptop I carry a USB stick and a CD-RW rewritable CD. Some Internet Cafes have really crappy Windoze 98 machines, no USB of course. Sometimes there are CD writers though. For logging in to my server I use putty and S/key one-time passwords. You might consider packing a short list of S/key passwords, even if you don't plan on using Internet cafe connections.

Internet Cafes in Athens are not everywhere. There are some hidden close to the central Syntagma square, but most are nearer to Akadimia, Omonia and Patision Street (where the Polytechnicum and some Universities are). Outside Athens the Internet Cafes are found reliably in Tourist locations. I spent many an hour in Myrina on Limnos in a regular Cafe that had 2 hours of free Internet Access with buying 2 beverages.

Operating systems and things that look like them

Now, once you have gotten your own laptop almost ready to connect somewhere, don't expect any help, especially when you run anything but Windoze. Greeks might have heard that Linux exists, they might have heard someone mention that there is a company called Apple (but both possibilities are unlikely outside their user bases). OpenBSD is unheard off for sure. This is a country of Windoze and stolen software. Since not even Windows administrators actually know their own OS, this means that you are pretty much out of luck if you need help. Have fun, this might be a chance to learn some new skill!

Update 2007-03-06: See also Greece on Wireless: Come In We're Open

Updated: As of 2008/2009, a lot of information in this article is outdated. Please read the Update: Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009 too!

Posted by betabug at 21:06 | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (3)
20 May 2005

Die beste Jahreszeit um Athen zu besuchen

Der Frühling ist hier
flowers in the park 'pedio tou ares'

Jetzt ist die beste Jahreszeit, um Athen zu besuchen. Im Park "Pedio tou Ares" blühen die Blumen (Bild), es ist angenehm warm, ohne zu heiss zu werden. Die hohe Luftfeuchtigkeit der letzten Tage ist weg, so dass es morgens und abends angenehm kühl wird. Die Hitze des Sommers kündigt sich bereits an, aber sie gibt uns noch eine Gnadenfrist. Am Wochenende veranstaltet die Stadt Athen im Nationalgarten (beim Zappeio) ein Spektakel mit Jongleuren, Puppentheater, Kunst auf der Strasse.


Posted by betabug at 10:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 June 2005

Athens Archaeological Museum

Cool museum visit on a hot weekend
Zeus or Poseidon at the Athens Archaeological Museum

This was a hot weekend. So for Sunday we decided to go to a Museum. If you didn't know, Museums are airconditioned. Nice to calm down and cool down. The choice of the day was the Archaeological Museum on Patission street. A nice museum, but very big.

Too much to view all in one go, actually. After half an hour I am unable to read any more little information blurps. Also one of my gripes with this museum is that in some of the exhibits, the labelling is really confusing and not very informative. So I see this interesting, spoon-like thing behind the glass. What might that be? It's labelled No. 80713. Now the search starts, because the descriptions are not in numerical order. They are in groups depending on donours, places where stuff was found etc. And when I finally find it, all it tells me is "Spoon-like object, found at..., dated ca. ...". Right.

Solution: Just enjoy the nice sculptures. Don't forget to visit the garden. The cafeteria actually has normal prices. The museum shop is much cheaper than the one in the Museum Benaki (a cup for 19 Euro anyone?), but still museum-grade prices (cup for 10 Euro). The picture shows a statue where the authorities are not quite agreeing if it shows Zeus or Poseidon. A powerfull god anyway.


Posted by betabug at 22:56 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
30 June 2005

Afternoon in Athens

And what to do in Athens when you visit from 16:00 to 23:00

Monday evening my friend Reuven visited me with his son Oren for a very short visit. They came by boat from Naxos and had to be at the airport at midnight. Oren had never been to Athens, so besides scheduling time for catching up talking, we made a little sightseeing program. So find out what we got together...


Since I was still working in the afternoon, I told Reuven to get to the Metro station in Pireus (which is in itself worth a sightseeing, it is a historical building). Greeks refer to that particular line as "treno" not "metro", but for us foreigners it's all the same. From there they could ride to "Thissio". Outside Thissio they found a large area closed to traffic, with lots of cafes. The road leads upwards to the Acropolis, it has green areas on both sides, and a view over Athens.

Reuven took Oren to the Parthenon, because yes, you have to see that, if you haven't already. They spent some time up there, when it probably was still hot. Then they sat in the shade under an olive tree. That's where I found them, arriving from work. Big welcome, I had last met Reuven in Summer 2002 and never met Oren before.

Passing through the ancient Agora, we went to a Cafe on the road (closed from traffic again) between the stations of Monastiraki and Thission. Choice of cafe is open, there are a lot of nice ones. If you come to visit here, remember that prices in greek cafes are very high. They might be even a bit higher in such a touristy area, but it's not like they cheat you when they want 4 Euro for a fresh orange juice. Or actually they might be cheating, but not just you, they cheat everyone.

From the cafe we walked by Monastiraki towards Syntagma. We followed some of the small streets in the general direction and ended up on Ermou street. Ermou is the shopping street de jour in Athens. It ends at Syntagma square and when you walk up there, you walk up to a view of the greek parliament. Late in the afternoon it was nicely colored up by the sun. We crossed Syntagma square without being run down by one of the amateur race car drivers going by. We went to see the Evzone guards at the grave of the unkown solider, Oren had his picture taken with one of the guards. While we were still standing there, they did their marching procedure.

It was almost time to eat now, but Syntagma is not the best area for good restaurants. So I went on a smal march with my friends (I hope I tired them not too much). We went down Panepistimiou street, passed by the University and went into Exarchia. Exarchia is not really a tourist area. Rather it is notorious for being an anarchist area (and on some places an area with drug addicts). My friend Michalis told me, that a couple of years ago he had an insurance on his car that stated "not valid when car is parked in Exarchia". Certified Anarchy, I guess.

What I was looking for was a restaurant with cooked food that I remembered. We found it after some searching and asking in a beautyfull cafe. We had a relaxed dinner. The souzoukakia smirneika were spicey and refined. Very good. I never remember the name, but the place is in a neoclassical building, big open doors all around on two sides of the corner building. The street is called Emmilianou Benaki, so if you can find it, cosider this a recommendation :-). After dinner I accompanied my friends to the Panepistimiou Metro station. We took the train to Syntagma, where they catched the train to the Airport (where the last train to the Airport leaves at about 22:50, look for the schedule that hangs out at the ticket offices in the stations).

Conclusion: In just a few hours in Athens, you can see the Parthenon, walk through the ancient Agora, relax in a Cafe, see the presidential guard (Evzones) at Syntagma square, the University, and enjoy a special meal in an anarchist area. The last one is probably harder if you don't know the city. We had a lot of walking involved, but overall it was a really good time.

Posted by betabug at 09:37 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
08 July 2005

Ferry Schedules to Greek Islands

Time for vacations coming closer

As my August vacation is drawing closer I am looking out for the ferry boat schedules. Also friends want to visit me in the litte house on Limnos. So more timetables to look up. Conclusion one: Limnos is hard to get to and come from. Conclusion two: There are multiple websites for ferry tickets and ferry reservation. They all work with the same database backend from forth-crs. Most of them have ugly sites with big graphics, large pages in bad html. One of them constantly crashed FireFox with a Java applet.

Today I finally found the "mother" of those sites, from the company that runs the database. So my recommendation for ferryboat timetables for Greece and Greek islands is openseas.gr. I especially like the ability to do a search "from [ALL] to [LIMNOS]", so I get a display with ships coming from Pireus *or* Lavrio and going to my destination. On the other sites this is usually a two or three step process. The display of overnight trips is a bit confusing at first, but I was able to get used to it, since it is short and not very explicit, but the correct way (27/7/2005 01:00 - 13:40 is a boat leaving July 27th, 1AM in the night, while 28/8/2005 19:00 - 7:45 is a boat leaving July 28th 7PM and arriving the next morning 7:45). I also had a small problem testing the Trip search function with lynx, it seems that the "To" popup-menu is implemented with JavaScript, without a Noscript alternative. That's a pitty.

I haven't tryed any of the booking functions. The data of the timetibles is as accurate as it is on the other sites of that kind, they all operate with the same database in the backend.


Posted by betabug at 13:27 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
29 August 2005

How To Get To Limnos

A short travel guide

Now that I'm back in Athens, I'm reflecting a bit about this trip I took. Limnos (or Lemnos as the English speaking sometimes write it), had a lot of tourism this year, almost more than the island is prepared for. 97% booked out hotels, 100% booked out planes (waiting lists closed because of overbooking) and ferry boats. Tourism may increase as people get to know and like the island. Up to now this tourism is mostly Greek tourism, but soon the foreigners may get to know Limnos as a non-typical Greek island too.

But transport to and from the island is still a problem: It's hard to travel to Limnos and even harder to come back. I had recommended the island to a few friends, but only the very interested ones persist enough to actually get there. This August, nobody had visited me, mainly for this reason. Some thoughts about getting to Limnos:...


Plane

Olympic Airways will fly you in and out of Limnos to Athens, Thessaloniki and Mytilini (maybe others too, I'm not that up-to-date on the planes). Provided that you get a ticket of course: In summer and sometimes on other occasions getting a seat can be a real problem. The plane is of course more expensive compared to the ferry boat, but travel time from Athens (Eleftherios Venizelos Airport) is less than an hour. There are roughly 2 flights a day to and from Limnos to Athens. I've been told that a ticket one way costs around 90 Euro, but I can't confirm that really. (Nor do I know about airport taxes.)

If you fly in from outside Greece, you will have to change planes in Athens. Flights with the Greek airline Olympic are timed to give you a short waiting time for connections to the islands, while with other airlines you will unfortunately (in my experience) have to hang around the transit area for something like 5 hours sometimes. There are bound to be charter flights too, but I don't know anything about these, besides that I have known someone who got a ticket on one of them.

Ferry boat

Still that may be faster and less tiresome than the ferry boat. Ferry boats reach Limnos from the ports of Pireus, Thessaloniki, Lavrio, Kymi, Kavala, Moudania. Plus the islands, where the ferry boat stops, e.g. Samothraki, Mytilini (Lesvos), Agios Efstratios, etc.. Check out the schedules and timetables at openseas.gr.

There are some hypermodern ships that are fast and expensive (the ones going to Limnos are named after the Greek sprinter-ex-star Kenteris, the one who is under thick suspicion of having been doped, so you can consider those ships to run like on steroids). Downside: The seats are numbered and you can't get out. The price is almost as much as for the plane (I've heard about 70 Euro to Pireus and I've been quoted 48 Euro to Thessaloniki). Personally I avoid these and prefer the old-fashioned, cheaper boats, where you can take in a bit of sun and sea breeze, and roll out your sleeping bag to doze in a corner. No matter which you prefer, you will have to check them out in advance, there is not bound to be a boat every day for each of these destinations.

Getting to the port

All ports have bus connections to and from the big cities. Traveling to and from Thessaloniki, you will look at the ports of Thessaloniki itself, Moudania, and Kavala. For Athens you want Pireus (but keep a good look at ship travel times, because the "steamer" has to take all the way around Attika), Kymi, but most common currently Lavrio. Ships to and from Lavrio typically take 9 hours. Busses from Athens to Lavrio are stationed at the "Pedio tou Ares", you can take the Metro to the station "Victoria", then walk 3 minutes to the bus station. Calculate at least 1.5 hours bus travel time and be early enough because busses leave about each half hour, but you can't rely on all this. Last time I took that bus, the ticket was 3.60 Euro. You pay your ticket in the bus, after the bus started the cashier comes around. It's good but not absolutely necessary if you have change.

(Public) Transport on the island

Obviously if you have your own car, you can bring it with the ferry boat. The roads on Limnos are fine, the drivers are not too crazy or dangerous. If you want to go to special places or to the beach with the car, be prepared to drive a few kilometers on dirt roads. On the island, public transport consists of overland busses (in Myrina from the "Platia ton KTEL", the "KTEL-bus plaza" so to speak, on the upper end of the "agora", the market street). About once a day each destination is serviced.

Then there are overland taxis, in Myrina either waiting at the port when a ship comes in, or else at their own "platia" in the upper part of the "agora". Taxis (but no busses) are also waiting at the airport when a flight comes in. Prices: For example the 42km to Panagia (at the far end of the island) cost me 3.40 Euro by bus and 25 Euro by taxi. I can recommend Manolis from Moudros (697 2008388) and Giorgos from Panagia (693 7632372), just in case there is noone there when you arrive at the airport and you have to go in that direction (of course none speaks anything but Greek). In general, Limnos taxi drivers are nice people.

Car rental

The airport is located in the center of the island, about 20km from the capital and port Myrina. You can rent a car in Myrina or at the airport. Cost is about 30 Euro a day, plus 10 Euro for full insurance. In the main season be sure to book your car well in advance. Out of season it might be a good idea to arrange for a car especially at the airport, because noone might be at the booth if they don't know you are coming. I recommend Europcar, Mr. Hatzoglou (694 5495104, 22540 23777), I've had a couple of times good experiences with him when I rented cars for a few days.

Important: Price information

Prices are approximate and current as of about August 2005, sometimes even older. I don't plan to keep them updated.

Posted by betabug at 18:01 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)
12 September 2005

Athens Public Transport Maps (Detailed)

Download them as PDF from the ΟΑΣΑ site now
cutout from public transport map

Behind my back(!) ΟΑΣΑ (OASA, the Athens public transport organization) has added a new service to their website this spring: You can download PDF maps of Athens, with the routes of busses, trolleys, trams and subways outlined.

The maps are a bit complicated to get a grip on, but when you have to find a connection across town, they are much more usefull than the site's search engine. The bus line search engine does not allow for two point from-X-to-Y searches. But with the maps you can see which busses pass by your starting point and in combination with the seach engine you can look up route details. This gives a huge improvement in usefullness of the OASA site.

Not all PDFs are available (yet?). They are pretty big, around 6 to 10MB, mainly because this city is pretty big. Probably too big to load onto my phone and view with the scaled down PDF viewer. Most maps are available only with Greek lettering. If you travel to Athens with a laptop it might be interesting to get these maps. You can also order paper copies of these maps for free from the same site, though the form looks like you will have to send it in again and again for each map you want.

Update 2007-10-20: Fixed the link to the maps page.


Posted by betabug at 16:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
31 October 2005

Karagiosis - Greek Shadow Theater in the Plaka

For kids older than 3



It has gone colder here in Athens, so for Sunday afternoon we decided on some indoor activity. We went to the Plaka for a show of traditional Greek shadow theater. The genre is named after the protagonist Karagiosis. He is a poor man with three hungry children and a wife who is constantly telling him to get a job. Which he is trying to do, especially in the play we had seen this Sunday. He was trying his luck shining shoes, selling ice, pistachios, and milk, working as a photographer. Whatever he tried, it did not work out. Sounds sad? It isn't, because whatever his fortune is, he takes it with a laugh and a loose mouth. He is famous for his pointed remarks on everything. Classical quote: "We ate, we drank, and then we went to bed hungry!"

In the picture we see Karagiosis on the left side, Stavrakas buying pistachios on the right. "Shadow theater" means that the stage is made of a white textile (linen?). Figures and a bit of scenery are made out of thin materials and due to the backlighted stage show up as shadows with a few colours. The figures are held on sticks of about 40-50cm, so the figure players don't show up as shadows on the "stage".

The theater is a small basement in some of the small roads that are less filled with tourist shops in the Plaka [1]. We arrived a bit early, which was a good idea as the place got crowded. The front rows filled up with children. The theater advertises "for children over 3 years old". The back rows held us grown ups (slightly above that age). The figures look nice even if you don't understand the words, but in case you understand the words, you'll laugh your butt off. The kids giggled, shouted and chimed in talking with the figures. In some parts I laughted till my belly hurt. We had seen a play of Karagiosis some weeks ago on Hydra, but we didn't like that show. What we saw now in the Plaka was far better, no comparison.

[1]: Θέατρο σκιών Τάσου Κώνστα (Theatro Skion of Tasos Konsta), Tripodon 30, Plaka, Tel. 210 3227 507 (very close to the Metro station Akropolis, I don't think they have a web page), shows every Sunday at 11AM and 5PM.

Update: A page with more descriptions of Karagiosis and


Posted by betabug at 23:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
01 March 2006

Current Weather in Greece on Weblog

Let you see what spring is like

Commemorating the fine weather (like spring on the first of march, sunny 13 Celsius in the morning), I've installed two little weather applets in the lower right corner of the main weblog page. They show the current temperature and via the picture the weather condition for Athens and Limnos, courtesy of Weather Underground.


Posted by betabug at 10:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 June 2006

A View at Kerameikos

My beloved ancient site in Athens
Panorama of Kerameikos ancient site

Ever since I was hanging out in a motorcycle repair shop next door to it, the archaeological site of Kerameikos was my beloved ancient place in Athens. It's not just old stones, it's a garden in itself. Like the very best of the ancient places, it has a special atmosphere to it.

Last Sunday I had planned to visit it again. Somewhere in my memory I had stored that entrance to archeological sites in Athens is free on Sundays. Well, it is, but only in the winter season. Right now it's the full 12 Euro - a bit hefty, even if you consider that the ticket is valid for many archeological sites all over Athens. So I was cheap and didn't go, I had a walk around Acropolis instead (which led to me discovering the parrot on my way home through the national garden, another story).

Back to Kerameikos, on Tuesday I passed by it, and I snapped a few pictures from the outside through the fence. Here is one result of them, also available in medium size and huge size.


Posted by betabug at 20:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 September 2006

Familien-Besuch

Wo geht man denn da hin...
Besuch auf der Akropolis

Mein Onkel Heinz ist gestern mit zwei Freunden zu einem Besuch in Athen angekommen. Heute morgen haben wir ihn und seine Freunde getroffen und sind schon mal die Stadt anschauen gegangen. Den Fleischmarkt in der Athinas-Strasse hatten sie schon vor uns entdeckt. Zusammen haben wir uns Thision, Monastiraki (mit den letzten Resten des samstäglichen Flohmarkts) angeschaut, dann sind wir im Fleischmarkt essen gegangen.

Nach einer Siesta sind wir dann mit Onkel Heinz auf die Akropolis, im Familienfoto sind Ελένη (Helene) und Heinz auf den Stufen zur Akropolis. Danach gings noch nach Thision zum Kaffee trinken und nach Exarchia zum Essen. Bis jetzt ein interessanter Familienbesuch, Fortsetzung folgt...


Posted by betabug at 23:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 September 2006

Akropolis am Abend, Aegina am Sonntag

...und weitere Abenteuer mit Onkel Heinz

Letztes Wochenende war bekanntlich mein Onkel hier zu Besuch mit seinen Freunden. Am Samstag abend waren wir mit ihnen auf der Akropolis, wo ich einige Aufnahmen gemacht habe, von denen ich eine zu einem netten Panorama zusammengesetzt habe. Parthenon im Abendlicht. Am Sonntag standen wir früh auf, nahmen den "Ilektriko" (den "Elektrischen", von den Athenern auch einfach als "den Zug" bezeichnet, gemeint ist die alte U-Bahnlinie von Kifisia nach Piräus). Von Piräus aus gings per guter alter Fähre weiter auf die Insel Aegina...


Acropolis, Parthenon im Abendlicht

Als Alternative hätte es noch ein Tragflügelboot gegeben. Doch das ist nicht nur teuerer, es geht auch schneller und man kann das Meer nicht wirklich geniessen. Wenn man nur auf einem Tagesausflug ist, dann ist es schön, wenn man die eine Stunde auf dem Schiff als Reise geniessen kann. In der Sonne sitzen, auf die Wellen schauen, mit etwas Glück sieht man Delphine. Nie war der Ausspruch "Der Weg ist das Ziel" wahrer.

Tempel der Aphaia auf Aegina

In Aegina angekommen machten wir uns auf die Suche. Zuerst mal suchten wir nach dem Bus nach Agia Marina (auf der anderen Seite der Insel gelegen) und dann, weil der Bus schon voll war und wir auf den nächsten warteten, nach etwas zu essen. Wir fanden eine Bäckerei und unsere Gäste hatten die Wahl zwische Tiropita, Spanakopita, Peïnirli, Bougatsa, ... (Käsekuchen, Spinatkuchen, einer Art Pizzabrot, Blätterteigkuchen mit Crèmefüllung). Versehen mit solchen Backwaren und Getränken machten wir am Strand ein Picknick.

Strandcafe in Agia Marina, Aegina

Der Bus fuhr uns quer durch die Insel, vorbei am Tempel der Aphaia. Dort stiegen wir nicht aus, denn der nächste Bus wäre erst zwei Stunden später weiter gefahren. Aber vom Fensterplatz aus sah der Tempel auch ganz nett aus. Die Insel allgemein ist im Innneren sehr schön, mit vielen Oliven- und Pistazien-Bäumen. Agia Marina ist ein touristischer Ort, aber zumindest Anfang September ertragbar. Wir quartierten uns in einer Ouzerie/Café am Strand ein. Erstmal Café trinken (griechisches "Frappé" ausprobieren), danach gingen wir jungen auch noch Baden. Das Wasser war herrlich klar, aber der Wind kühlte uns aus. Also besser im Wasser bleiben!

Abends ging es den ganzen Weg gemütlich zurück. Wieder in Aegina gaben wir uns einen kleinen Ouzo mit Häppchen bis unser Schiff kam. Unsere Gäste sahen sich auf dem Schiff den Sonnenuntergang an und bis wir in Piräus ankamen war es ganz dunkel. Mit einem kleinen Umtrunk im Hotel verabschiedeten wir uns von unsern Gästen. Alles in allem ein schönes Wochenend-Programm!

Posted by betabug at 19:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 September 2006

See Athens, Take the Bus!

Trying out the Athens Sightseeing Bus Line 400

Update 2010: The sightseeing busline 400 was stopped on 2010-06-01, due to "lack of demand". Sorry to see it go.

Yesterday evening we had some spare hours between buying a new fill for my rotring pen and meeting with Lorena and Kostis for Ouzo and Meze. We were near the Athens Archeological Museum and trying out the sightseeing bus line 400 from OASA (the Athens public transport) was on our to do list for some time now. So we hopped in. It was an interesting experience, though we should have handled things a bit different...


First of all, even though it's public transport, the line 400 is very special. It's not just your average bus line. There is someone selling you your ticket right on the bus (can be bought only on the bus) and answering any questions you might have. She spoke English and had to adjust to speaking Greek with us every time she talked to us, as she was so used to speaking to foreigners. Most of the tour she was chatting with the driver, but that was fine. There are recorded messages announcing some of the sites you can see. Mind that the messages are not announcing everything you can see, that's not their point.

Stop and see

The sightseeing tour is not so much meant for you to see things from the bus (you can do that some of the times). Rather it's a means of transport to do your sightseeing. The ticket is valid for 24 for hours from your first start. So you prepare yourself with a good guide book for Athens and the map of where the 400 bus goes. Then you - more or less - plan which sites you want to see. The recorded voice warns you in advance when you should get down. That's its job, it announces stops, not the scenery. When you want to see for example the national gallery, you step down from the bus and take the next one, maybe half an hour later, maybe one or two hours later. Same thing you can do for Monastiraki or my beloved ancient site, the Kerameikos.

That way you can see all the modern or ancient sites of Athens in your own time schedule. You don't have to find out where to get from ancient point A to ancient point B with the public bus lines. But you are neither tugged to a classic sightseeing plan, where you might want to linger on at some place when the rest of the group has to move on. All in all a very good idea and - judging from our little test - well implemented. It might not be the right thing for you if you want everything to be well prepared and to be served to you in a professionally guided tour.

More information

Information is available online at the OASA site. The ticket is 5 Euro per person. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, for the bus 400 and for the other public transport lines in Athens. So you can take the metro back to your hotel after the sightseeing without having to buy another ticket.

Posted by betabug at 12:45 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
11 October 2006

Mobile Internet in Greece

Some thoughts on getting online with a GSM phone

Updated: As of 2008/2009, the information in this article is outdated. Please read the Update: Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009 instead!

I have written before about Internet in Greece, ADSL-Preise in Griechenland (in German) and SMTP on the Go with CosmOTE, and the result is that sometimes people email me with further questions. Dave from England wrote me asking about getting online from a mobile phone:


I'm in the UK now but planning to spend a lot of time sailing in Greece over the next couple of years. I want a Greek prepaid SIM, with good coverage on the Islands near Turkey, that allows GPRS internet access...
...at which point I stopped him cold. No Internet on prepaid mobile phones.

That's a political decision, not a technicality. As you can buy a prepaid card everywhere in Greece completely anonymous (sometimes they are given away for free to students), if they would offer Internet access, you could be on the Internet completely *anonymous*. What would happen to the children? What if the terrorists started to use that? [insert scare of the day] - so the cops and the politicians can of course not let that happen.

If you really want to get access to the Internet over a GSM phone (or a GSM PCMCIA card in a laptop, same thing), then you need a real subscription, paid on a monthly basis. Some providers (e.g. CosmOTE) will let you switch on a service called "GPRS", but that's a fake, it's meant to provide WAP over GPRS. And as they say in Greek, "not even its mother knows what WAP is..." For a full, monthly paid CosmOTE account for example, the name of the real GPRS/Internet service is "Wireless Internet Easy".

To get a full subscription mobile phone account is another story. It involves a lot of paperwork, amongst which you will have to deliver the form "E9" from the Greek tax office, which proves that you are paying taxes. Obviously you get that form only after you've been working in Greece for a while, not really practicable for visitors.

The alternatives aren't always so good looking: Many foreigners use GPRS through their "home" provider and roaming, which may come a bit pricey. In some areas (like Athens) you might get by with hunting down a wireless connection (like on Syntagma square) or even setting up with something like the Athens Metropolitan Wireless Network. No play like that in the Aegean though. There isn't much else I can suggest right now, ideas welcome.

Updated: As of 2008/2009, the information in this article is outdated. Please read the Update: Mobile Internet for Visitors in Greece 2009 instead!

Posted by betabug at 23:30 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)
12 July 2007

Acropolis closed due to Strike

6 days in July

The news site in.gr reports (in Greek) that due to a strike of the archaeological guards the Acropolis will be closed on 6 days: July 14th and 15th, and then again from the 21st to the 24th of July. in.gr doesn't list up what the demands of the workers are. There should be a chance that the differences get sorted out and the strike canceled or postponed, but if you are planning a visit, you might want to investigate in alternative schedules.


Posted by betabug at 12:11 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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