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Entries : Category [ athens ]
The city itself, big, fat, loud, stinking, sitting in the middle of Attica and growing. Athens, Greece, to be sure.
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21 February 2009

Métro - Public Transport on Smartphone

Nice, but limited usefulness for Athens
Exit of the Metro station Megaro Mousikis in Athens

There is a clever "little" program for PDAs and smartphones that lets you orientate yourself in the public transport networks of many cities. It's called Métro and is available for free. You install the program and then install the databases for the cities you need it for. I've installed it on my phone (Nokia e71) and played around with it. Basically it tells you how to get from point A to point B in the maze of an unknown city's public transport net.

The program itself works fine, even though some of the user interface is a bit counter intuitive to what I got used to on this Symbian phone. The Athens Public Transport information is limited to the Metro/Treno lines, the tram, the "suburban railway" (προαστιακός) and the trolley lines. Missing are all the bus lines - which constitute probably 80-90% of the public transport network in Athens.

This limitation is probably due to the stated limitation of the Métro software, which on their site is given as "when a database contains more than 80 to 120 lines, trouble is looming". This is quite understandable, since many variations of the software have to run on limited hardware.

So, is the software still useful for visitors to Athens? If you're a tourist, probably yes. Most tourists are overwhelmed with the Athenian bus system anyway (ok, the "Métro" software could well change that with bus line info) and stick to the Metro and tram lines. In that case Métro might save you some studying of line diagrams and help you plan your tours to visit the tourist spots. Or it might help you reschedule your excursions on the spot when you feel like it. If on the other hand you want to explore Athens in depth, the ΟΑΣΑ site and pdf transport maps will be a better, but much more tiresome resource.

Posted by betabug at 13:17 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
22 February 2009

Up and Down

Another Lycabettus hill visit
The church on Lycabettus hill

The last few weeks I have a tendency to go to places with wide views, preferably up. One such place is the Λυκαβηττός (Lycavitos, also transliterated as Lycabettus sometimes), a steep hill, where one has a wide view all around Athens.

View from Lycabettus

So every time I'm up there somewhere and look at the rows and rows of streets and houses, I imagine someone standing there in the streets down there. Sometimes they will be looking up and spotting the white church on the hill. But most of the times they are probably busy with whatever they are doing down there.

Athens has much more "places to look down from", compared to Paris, for example. Must be why they built the Eiffel tower in Paris, they needed a spot for a wider view.

Typical street scene in Athens

Certainly there is enough to busy oneself with in the streets. Apart from whatever task one has at hand, there is also the job to look out for the traffic (ultimate goals: survival and getting there).

Being up there and enjoying the fresh air myself, I took some pictures to stitch together for a panorama (click on image for slightly bigger view). Instead of the usual "panorama of the city from above", I looked at the backside of the church. You can see a bit of the bell tower and the Greek flag, and on the sides you still get a hint of the city from above. That church on the other hand could be anywhere in Greece, up or down.

Posted by betabug at 13:41 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
07 April 2009

No Metro Service from Athens Airport till September

Stranger, when you come to Athens
out of order info display at Athens International Airport

On the (blue) metro line that is running from and to the Athens International Airport there are currently 3 new stations being built. Due to these works, Metro service to and from the Airport is not going to be there until September 2009. You can take the airport buses instead, they're easy to find and even cheaper than the special Metro ticket from the Airport.

I had heard about this many times, the information is all over the Athens Metro system. On Sunday, when I was at the airport I noticed something different though: While there are indeed enough bus schedules to move the people (at least now, I guess in summer they will have to upgrade the bus schedules a bit), the line on the ticket booth was quite long. Not "really, really annoying long", but quite long.

As an illustration there was also a dysfunctional information monitor above the line of waiting people, showing a typical Windows desktop.

Update September 2009: Everything is back in service!

Posted by betabug at 09:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 April 2009

Orangen-Geruch der leeren Stadt
Blueten an einem Orangen-Baum

Während sich die Stadt zu Ostern eines grossen Teils ihrer Bewohner entleert, füllen sich die kleinen Seitenstrassen mit dem Duft der Orangenbäume. Viele Strässchen sind hier mit Orangen- und Olivenbäumen gesäumt und im Moment merkt mans grad wieder mal richtig, weil die Orangen blühen und dementsprechend gut riechen.

Die Saison für Orangen ist also vorbei, es gibt zwar noch Orangen zu kaufen, aber der Zenit der Qualität ist überschritten. Es ist ja auch schon Frühling, sowohl nach dem Kalender und jetzt endlich auch dem Wetter nach. Die Stadt ist übers Osterwochenende schön ruhig, viele, viele Athener fahren über die Feiertage aufs Land um dort ihr Lamm zu grillen.

Posted by betabug at 13:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
27 May 2009

9th European Jazz Festival in Athens

At the Technopolis in Gazi

It's time again for the European Jazz Festival in Athens. The 9th edition is held again at the Technopolis in Gazi. I've been there last year, found some good music and a lot of people who were there for the party, not necessarily for the music. Not that that's a bad thing, everybody was enjoying themselves.

There seems to be no official site for the event, except for one page without any real info on the Athens city website. Only real information in there: Entrance is free! Anyway, due to proceedings I don't want to mention in detail in public, I got handed a program leaflet yesterday evening, so I'll type in the program titles, click on "continue" to see it.

So there we go.. Please note that I'm typing this in from the official booklet, but if there are any changes, I won't keep this program up to date. Also you'll have to figure out what's what yourself, I'm not going to type in all the blurbs from the booklet! :-)

Wednesday 27.5.

21:00 Grand opening with the "Big Band" of the municipality of Athens

22:00 Benni Chaves (Denmark)

23:00 Ángela Tröndle & Mosaik (Austria)

Thursday 28.5.

21:00 Nordic Sounds (Estland)

22:00 Teun Verbruggen "Warped Dreamer" (Belgium)

23:00 Γιάννης Κασσέτας (Yannis Kassetas) & the funk wizards (Greece)

Friday 29.5.

21:00 Jerez-Texas (Spain)

22:00 Wired Paradise (Netherlands)

23:00 Marco di Gennaro & Luca Velotti Duo (Italy)

Saturday 30.5.

21:00 Kaisa Kulmala-Trio (Finland)

22:00 Miriam Bayle Band (Czech Republic)

23:00 Maria João Quartet (Portugal)

Sunday 31.5.

21:00 The David Kollar Band (Slovakia)

22:00 Maxime Bender Group (Luxembourg)

23:00 Eved-Fenyvesi Quarted (Hungary)

Posted by betabug at 09:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 June 2009

Greek Urban Surrealism

Ελληνικός αστικός σουρεαλισμός, as named by Panos
Workplace of the "parkadoros"

My friend Panos names these things as "ελληνικός αστικός σουρεαλισμός" (ellinikos astikos sourrealismos) - "Greek urban surrealism". Those spots of life where things go that little extra step that make them "get out of hand". We're pretty much used to these things here in Athens, we'll just look and walk by, often times not even notice or just do as much as chuckle. But quite often if you keep your eyes open and then really think about it for a moment... life and people here produce bizarre stuff really. A few posts back I already offered an example.

There used to be a time when parking lot guardians had little transistor radios. They were parking your car in front of that restaurant and then watching over the lot like a modern version shepherd. While they sat around doing that (i.e. nothing) they listened to the match on that squeaky radio. This guy here went a step further. He installed a portable LCD tv, complete with remote control and "suck on" antenna (antenna unfortunately not pictured). Coincidentally this scene was found less than 50m from and at the same time as the previous example. Maybe there is a strong surrealism force field at that spot?

Posted by betabug at 11:24 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
26 June 2009

Metro Art

An installation by George Zongolopoulos
Installation in the Athens Metro Syntagma station by George Zongolopoulos

There are many sculptures and art pieces in the Athens Metro system. Some of it I pass quite often, sometimes even daily. Some other things are more well hidden.

A few weeks ago, going a path and direction I never took before, in the Syntagma station, I came across this installation. It is by the sculptor George Zongolopoulos (Γιώργος Ζογγολόπουλος, 1903-2004).

It struck me as very beautiful, a piece of art that you can look at and loose yourself within. I would have liked it if this was in some place where I passed more often. I believe I would stop and look each time.

In case you can't make head or tails from my picture: The installation seems to be in some kind of ventilation shaft. The passengers walk right underneath it, some of them not even noticing that there is something above them. Look up though and you will notice a round window to the sky, silver coated walls and an assortment of "flying" objects. Every little move of your position will change the light, the positions of the objects, the reflections.

Posted by betabug at 13:30 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
06 July 2009

Petralona Subway Train Station Out of Service

Reworking one of the tracks
One of the tracks under construction in the Petralona Train station in Athens

On my way to work this morning I took a different route, which had me pass by the Petralona (Πετράλωνα) station of the (ΗΣΑΠ) line 1 of the Athens Metro system. As you can see, one of the tracks is being completely reconstructed. It also looks like that will still take some time to finish. I like the area around the station. It has a very laid back, relaxed mood. There are some cafes and shops, but all in a quiet way. It's a nice way to get to work.

That station is currently out of service, the line is under reconstruction (see the announcement, which gives only the start date of the works). Trains pass the station, but they don't stop there. There are also some longish delays on the line.

If you need to get to Petralona, there are at least 2 options: Either get off at Tavros station, take the special bus 012 (which starts a short walk away from the station, as usual without signs in which direction you have to walk). Or you can take the Metro to Syggrou-Fix, walk a very short walk (up Δράκου/Drakou street, till Βεϊκού/Veikou street) and take the Trolley Nr. 15.

Update September 2009: The station is back in service in the direction to Kifisia. When you come from direction Kifisia and want to get out at Petralona, get off at Tavros instead and take the waiting train back to Petralona.

Posted by betabug at 09:54 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
14 September 2009

Φωτιά στην ΕΒΓΑ

Φαίνεται από μακριά
Smoke cloud from fire at the ΕΒΓΑ milk factory in Athens, 2009-09-14

Έπιασε φωτιά το εργοστάσιο της ΕΒΓΑ στην Ιερά Οδό. Όπως φαίνεται στην φώτο, μπορώ να βλέπω τον καπνό από το παράθυρο στο γραφείο μου.

Δεν είναι και πολύ ωραίο να βλέπεις καπνό ξανά πάνω από την Αθήνα. Αυτή την στιγμή όπως γράφουν στα site τον ειδήσεων, η φωτιά δεν είναι ακόμα υπό έλεγχο.

Posted by betabug at 09:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 November 2009

Sunny November

3 degrees more than usual

People are swimming at the beaches around Athens and those who aren't going that far, still enjoy the sun. There's lots of sun, the metereologists say this November is 3 degrees warmer than usual.
I'm on a walk along the coast. Something I haven't done in a long while. It's nice to get some fresh air along with the sun, since the unnatural long streak of sunny and warm weather has let the air pollution levels rise high. Every day in the office, on the 7th floor, I can see the smog in the air.
Now I just look at the waves, hitting the shore like they always did.

Posted by betabug at 15:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
14 January 2010

Eislaufen oder nicht Eislaufen

Die grosse Mode diesen Winter in Athen

Eisbahnen scheinen diesen Winter die grosse Mode zu sein: Das Einkaufszentrum gegenüber von meinem Büro hat eine, ein anderes Einkaufszentrum hat eine, in Glyfada gibt's eine. Gestern abend bin ich nach der Arbeit über die Strasse gegangen, einmal eine Treppe runter im Einkaufszentrum, um mal kurz eine Runde Schlittschuh zu fahren, bevor ich mit Freunden zum Essen ging. Aber wie es mit den Moden so ist, manchmal kanns teuer werden. Die wollten doch tatsächlich 10 Euro haben.

Zwar kann man dann solange wie man will auf dem Eis rumkurven und ich hab auch nicht nachgefragt, ob das nun für die Schlittschuh-Miete ist oder ob es auch Eintritt kostet wenn man selber Schlittschuhe hat (hab ich nicht), aber trotzdem. 10 Euro sind mir dann doch etwas zu viel, vor allem, wenn ich gerade mal eine halbe bis allerhöchstens eine Stunde Zeit hab. Also hab ichs sein lassen. Keine Ahnung, was der Spass bei den anderen Eisbahnen kostet.

Posted by betabug at 19:13 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
07 February 2010

Monatskarte wirklich eine Monatskarte
Metro station in Athens

Die Verkehrsbetriebe im öffentlichen Verkehr in Athen mögen chaotisch sein, aber im Vergleich zu anderen Grosstädten sind sie günstig und unkompliziert. Es gibt nur eine sehr einfache Abo-Struktur und inzwischen nur noch eine "Normalfahrkarte". Ich selber bin mit der Monatskarte unterwegs, die kostet mich 35 Euro und mit der kann ich (mit dem Bus, nicht mit der Metro) selbst bis zum Flughafen fahren. Etwas spezielles hat die Monatskarte allerdings: Sie ist wirklich eine Monatskarte. Das heisst, sie kann nicht vom 15. Januar bis zum 15. Februar gelöst werden, sondern immer nur am Monatsanfang.

Wenn man zu spät dran ist (zum Beispiel eine knappe Woche in den "angebrochenen" Monat rein), dann gibt es halt keine Karten mehr. Mit etwas Glück kann es sein, dass es am Flughafen noch welche gibt (entweder weil dort Leute, die aus den Ferien zurückkommen auch noch eine Monatskarte kaufen können sollen oder eher, weil dort nicht so viele verkauft werden). Die Karten werden auch schon ein paar Tage vor Monatsanfang verkauft und wer kann, schlägt dann schon zu, um die Schlange vor dem Schalter am Monatsanfang zu umgehen.

Anfang diesen Monats (Februar) waren die Schlangen besonders lang, denn der Monatserste fiel auf einen Montag... da ham die Leute nicht schon am Tag vorher auf dem Rückweg vom Büro eine Karte lösen können. Ich habe an dem Montag das kleinere Übel gewählt, eine normale Fahrkarte gelöst (1 Euro) und gehofft, dass später am Tag weniger los ist. Weit gefehlt. Schlussendlich hab ich die Karte am 2. Februar verlängert.

Noch eine Spezialität der Monatskarte: Man kriegt sie nicht überall wo auch Tickets verkauft werden. Speziell an den Stationen der Linie 1 ("Ilektrikos" oder "Treno", die alte, grüne Linie) gibt es keine Monatskarten - ausser natürlich in den Stationen, in denen auch die Linien 2 oder 3 halten, wie zum Beispiel Omonia. Also bin ich nochmal extra eine Schleife gefahren, denn bei mir zuhause ist der "treno" am nächsten.

Posted by betabug at 17:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
10 February 2010

Lahmgelegt? Ja klar... sind stets die Kleinen...
Voller Parkplatz beim "Praktiker" gegenüber

Während die NZZ schreibt, dass Streiks das hochverschuldete Griechenland lahmlegen ist der Parkplatz des "Praktiker" Heimwerkermarktes gegenüber schon den ganzen Tag randvoll.

Tatsächlich ist es nämlich so, dass "streikende", öffentliche Angestellte den Tag wohl gerne für Einkäufe und Erledigungen nutzen. Aber auch abgesehen davon ist hier nichts "lahmgelegt" ausser einigen ausgewählten Flecken (wie dem Flughafen). Griechenland hat schon sehr lange gelernt mit Streiks zu leben. Wir haben streiktechnisch wirklich schon viel schlimmeres gesehen, z.B. eine Woche ohne Benzin.

Wunderschön ist hingegen wie in Kommentaren auf der NZZ Anschuldigungen gegen die Allgemeinheit geschleudert werden: "sollen doch diese Faulpelze in Griechenland mal lernen, was arbeiten heisst". So Kleinigkeiten wie da ein ganzes Land über den gleichen Kamm zu scheren, wen kümmert denn so was. Die grossen Beträge sind wohl kaum von der Oma auf dem Dorf verbraten worden, die im Monat 170 Euro Rente bezieht (allerdings Stand 2004, vielleicht sind's ja jetzt 50 Euro mehr seit ich sie das letzte mal gesehen habe, wer weiss). Gearbeitet hat sie sicher ihr ganzes Leben.

Vergessen wir nicht, was die "Kleinen Leute" üblicherweise mit "Finanzkrisen" zu tun haben: Sie haben sie nie verschuldet, aber sie dürfen sie immer ausbaden.

Posted by betabug at 14:42 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
20 February 2010

Athens in the Mist

Dust from Africa in the air
A small part of the Hymittos hills around Athens in the cloud of dust

It's one of those days again, like in 2005, 2006, and 2008, I get to write about a cloud of dust from Africa packing Athens into an atmosphere of mist. It seems to be whiter this time, other times I remember it to be more yellowish.

I had noticed the mist yesterday already, but missed the point of what it was. Indeed it was incredible to look at from the office in the 7th floor. Busy me (I've got tons of code to write), I didn't even take one single picture. Too bad. Instead I took this snapshot at the outskirts of Athens, near the Hymittos hills today, with the mobile phone, no less. The digicam was at home by mistake and I was in too much of a hurry to bring out the Arca Swiss (I did have the Arca with me, but even the smallest amount of hurry is too much hurry for that camera).

With the cloud of dust there's always warm weather. In fact, it's deceiving: I see the mist outside and conclude that mist == cold, so I want to put on a jacket. In fact the wind that brought the dust came from Africa, so it's a warm wind, we had 23ºC today. Apparently tomorrow the temperature will drop 7º to something like 16ºC.

Posted by betabug at 18:58 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
27 February 2010

Bus und GPS in Athen

Eine ungewohnte Kombination

Touristen in Athen meiden meiner Erfahrung nach die Athener Busse und bewegen sich im öffentlichen Verkehr lieber mit der Metro. Der Grund ist klar, das Bus-System wird als chaotisch und undurchschaubar empfunden, nur was für Insider. Ist es auch - fast!

Tatsächlich gibt es Karten mit allen Buslinien (Link z.B. hier auf dem blog) und an den Haltestellen ist die Linienführung ausgeschildert, zumindest auf griechisch. Ist eine Exkursion ins grosse Athen geplant, abseits der 3 Metro-Linien, bleibt so neben dem Blick auf die Karte häufig die Frage an Freunde und Bekannte: "Welchen Bus kann ich denn da nehmen und wo steig ich aus?" Die Buslinie(n) schreibt man sich auf einen Zettel und schon kanns losgehen.

Nur eben: Wo steig ich aus? In den Athener Bussen gibt es keine Ansage oder Anzeige der Stationen (in Metro und Tram gibt's das). Möglichkeit 1: mit der Nummer der Buslinie bekommt man eine Beschreibung: "dann kommst du an eine grosse Kreuzung mit einer Kirche und an der nächsten Station ist eine Tankstelle und dann steigst du aus." Was natürlich bedeutet, dass man ewig am rausspähen ist, um die Kreuzung mit der Kirche nicht zu verpassen. Die meisten Athener sind so unterwegs.

Manchmal fragt man den Busfahrer oder die anderen Fahrgäste: "wo muss ich aussteigen, für den xy Platz?" Das funktioniert nur, wenn man eine sprachliche Verständigungsbasis findet und auch dann ist es ein Glücksspiel - oft wissen die anderen es auch nicht und selbst der hilfreichste Busfahrer hat ja auch anderes zu tun.

Auf längeren Strecken in mir unbekannte Gegenden habe ich inzwischen eine andere Lösung: Ich zücke ganz einfach mein GPS-Gerät (in meinem Fall in Form meines Telefons). Dort kann ich verfolgen wo der Bus grad ist und ich habe eine Markierung gesetzt, wo ich hin muss. Das reduziert den Stress einer solchen Expedition erheblich.

Posted by betabug at 10:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 March 2010

Strike in Athens

24h public service strike
Traffic jam on Pireus Street due to public transport strike.

Today all the public services in Athens are on strike. That includes the public transport: No busses, trams, trolleys, metro are moving. People are taking their cars to the streets to get to work (well, those who aren't working in the public service and are on strike themselves). The result is a lot of chaos and traffic jams on the roads.

The reason for the strike are the economic measures announced by the politicians. Cuts on salaries and pensions, raised taxes. The economy will take a big hit for the worse.

Now, we've all heard the news saying "Greece has been living over its limits", "the Greeks have been spending too much" and all that. First of all, I'm tired of the generalizations. If you want to blame things on a whole group of people, try "the politicians" instead or "the speculators". Sure, there are a lot of people with "seats" in the public service who do nothing all day long. It would be nice to streamline the public service, but it's not going to happen by raising the taxes and doing random cuts on small people's salaries.

So, how about those fregates that the French government wants to sell to Greece? How about the - what was it, figher planes? helicopters? - that the German government wants to sell to Greece? Do "the Greeks" cut those?

(The picture shows Pireus Street leading to the center of Athens from the south-east. There is a traffic jam, but from this position the level of chaos on the streets isn't really perceivable.)

Posted by betabug at 10:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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