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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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06 December 2012

Ein weiterer, trauriger Jahrestag

6. Dezember 2008

Gestern hörte ich in der Metro eine Ankündigung, dass die Stationen Syntagma und Panepistimio "auf Befehl der Polizei" ab 9 Uhr morgens heute geschlossen sein werden. Griechenland mag sich als Geburtsstätte der Demokratie preisen, doch die aktuelle Regierung betrachtet die Verfassung und die Rechte ihrer Bürger als nicht bindend.

Heute vor 4 Jahren erschoss ein Polizist einen 15-jährigen Schüler. Ohne Grund oder wirklichen Anlass. Danach gab es wochenlang Proteste von Jugendlichen. Wider erwarten sitzt der Polizist im Gefängnis, doch sein Kollege und Mittäter wurde trotz mehrjähriger Haftstrafe nach ein paar Monaten entlassen. Wie jedes Jahr gibt es auch dieses Jahr wieder Demonstrationen von Schülern und Studenten an diesem Tag. Die Polizei lässt in diesem Fall keinerlei Schuldbewusstsein erkennen. Statt dessen haben sich auch dieses Jahr wieder die Demonstrationen in eine Gewaltorgie entwickelt.

Posted by betabug at 19:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
09 December 2012

Train Information on Line 1

It took some time
Information panel at Metro Line 1 station

Ever since the Athens Metro Line 1 (ΗΣΑΠ / ISAP, what athenians call το τρένο, "the train") was overhauled, there were those information panels that should show the waiting times to the next train on the stations. But they were not working. Until now. I noticed some days ago that they were properly showing the waiting time now. Very convenient.

Posted by betabug at 12:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 January 2013

Wood Smog

Athens is Smoking

Athens is smoking. I'm not talking about the ban of smoking in public places which has completely disappeared (some months ago, restaurants would place small candleholders that could serve as ashtrays on the tables, now they reverted to simple ashtrays, apparently all legal fears are gone). I'm talking about people burning wood to stay warm. The thing is, there are a lot of people here who don't have money for heating oil. There aren't that many people who don't have the money, but since the heating systems work on a per-apartment-house basis, if out of 15 tenants, 2 don't have the money to pay their bill, then nobody gets to heat their apartments, money or not.

The first step was that people would light up their open fireplaces. That of course is a futile move it you want to stay warm. Open fireplaces have energy efficiencies below zero, your place gets colder if you use them. Then people started to set up small stoves that burn wood and "pellets" (which are some kind of pressed wood throwaways if I got that right). Rumours about people going into the woods to cut wood illegally made the rounds and were promptly picked up by the press, but a friend of mine with links to the WWF and forest preservation societies denies these things happening at any scale. I see a lot of turnover at places that sell bundled firewood and I see people bringing firewood from their villages.

So far the effect for me was that it was smelling of wood fires in the evenings outside some times. But yesterday, when I came home from the hackfest at, inside Omonia Metro station, I had a sensation of almost not being able to breathe freely due to smoke in the air. Inside the station, next to the tracks, I don't know how many meters under the earth. It was so strong that I was looking around, expecting to see someone who had foolishly lit up some papers or something. More likely someone had lit up a fire outside, near an air intake. Getting out of the Metro and waiting for the bus, the air wasn't much better.

This morning I heard from a couple of other people that it has been the same in other areas of Athens. It seems that Athens notoriously smog prone setting (hills all around it, except on the sea side) meets those wood fires and if the wind conditions are wrong, we get "wood smog". Also we had some cold days, so people needed to get warm more.

Posted by betabug at 22:09 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
28 January 2013

Going to Work by Bike

Well, getting there
You will not find "Paralia" on a map

We're on the 12th day of public transport strikes today. During those 12 days, either the busses or the metro or both were on strike (along with tram, trolley busses etc.). So, it wasn't easy to get to my office. For two days while only the Metro was on strike, I took the bus. It wasn't so bad, since I get on at the first stop, I had a place to sit. But it was hard to get off the overstuffed bus and the traffic jam was epic. (Sidenote: I think the strike is justified, even though I would prefer if they had another means to fight for their rights.)

On Saturday I got myself a bicycle. This morning I went to my office by bike. I tried to avoid the big roads. Result: I got lost in the small streets. It wasn't that bad, since those were quiet streets with some nice old houses from time to time. I stopped a lot to check where I was on the gps. I got lost again, more stops for the gps.

On my way I also came across the spot in the picture with those three signs. I know those signs for many years and always I wanted to stop and take a picture. With the bike it was easy. If you speak Greek, please don't read on and try first to spot what's wrong with those signs. Το βρήκες; Μπράβο! For everybody else: The Greek word Παραλία can indeed roughly be transliterated as "Paralia" (it's not pronounced the way an english speaker would pronounce that), but that makes no sense. Παραλία is no place that you will find on a map, it needs a translation, it means "beach" or "coast". So the sign say: Stay on the 2nd lane if you want to pass through to the coast.

All in all, it took me a bit more time than the trip with bus and metro would have taken. My guess is that when I find a good route (and not get lost) I can make it in 45 minutes, which would be half the time from taking public transport. Well... except, tonight it will be all uphill to get back, so I will see how I will manage that part. One option is to take the Metro for a part of the way, as today the Metro works and it's ok to take a bicycle on the Metro (it used to be possible only on line 1).

Posted by betabug at 14:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 January 2013

Biking Home at Night

Easy ride, no Metro

Yesterday's ride home wasn't so bad with the uphill as expected. For one thing, the bike seems to be quite good. The gear lever system works well. I seem to have the most important "clicks" (shift down) already in my muscle memory. I could do with a lower first gear though, I've been in first gear quite some times, so I wonder what will happen if I have to go really steep uphill somewhere.

Traffic wasn't bad. For one thing, I started around 22:30. Also I took mostly smaller roads and where I was on big roads, I took the by-lanes (παράδρομο). I must admit that in one stretch I was on the by-lane, even though it was one-way. I also drove on the sidewalk on two occasions. Once (very slowly) near a Metro station, where the traffic is a bit crazy with all the taxis in line. The other one on a looooong uphill on a road with fast traffic. Nobody was walking there anyway. Oh, and I didn't put the bike into the Metro, the ride was easy enough. IIRC the online map planner said it was 13.5km or so.

The light system of the bike seems to be good too, I sure didn't notice the dynamo doing some work. The backlight that keeps the light for some time even when the dynamo is stopped is great: I'm still visible, even when standing at a traffic light. I wasn't so happy with the front light. It needs some tightening, it was jumping all over with the slightest shake. Should be fixed with a (torx) driver in no time at all.

Posted by betabug at 09:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 February 2013

Bike navigation in Athens

Still biking on, times are getting better

So I've been biking to and from the office for one and a half weeks now. Not every day, last week I made the trip 3 times, this week not even as many yet. Still I already got totally used to it. I developed a bit of a routine procedure. I check the route before I leave on the computer (in detail in the beginning, more loosely now), sometimes making adjustments or trying out new routes. I then transfer the route to my phone (manually, the version of navigation software on my phone doesn't sync).

Neither the Nokia navigation nor google's maps navigation have a "bike mode" in Athens. So the routes that these two suggest always take the biggest roads they can find. I counter by setting strategic waypoints that force the route to more bike friendly small roads. It works ok mostly, but it's not yet totally bike friendly. For one thing the notion of uphill is totally lost on the software. Due to Athens being a maze of one way streets, the both halves of my ride take different routes, and in the one direction I end up with some lousy steep uphills to climb. I guess with time I will map around them as good as I can.

I also skip navigation for the last bit of my trip to the office, where both navigation systems insist on putting me on a big and extra aggressive piece of road. So I end the navigation route early, because at that point I know my way myself anyway. For the most part of the ride, I place the phone with voice navigation turned on to almost full volume in a sweater pocket. I don't see the display, but I get the voice instructions (and I guess it must be funny for bystanders to see this guy drive by with a voice blaring to "turn left after 200 meters"). I've been used to using the nokia maps navigation like that for driving a car too and I consider it much safer than trying to look at the display while driving. I expect that over time I'll get to know my route better, so I won't need the GPS any more for navigation.

The other thing I use the GPS phone is to track my ride and my times. I'm using a sports tracker software that shows me afterwards on the computer my times and where I rode on a map. It's interesting. It also makes me want to ride faster, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I have this tendency to wanting to ride fast on a bicycle anyway and arriving tired and sweaty isn't always the best thing. In any case, my fastest times have come down to 46 minutes, which makes it about half the time of the average that I plan for when I take the public transport. Not bad at all.

Posted by betabug at 23:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 February 2013

Bike in Rain and Metro

Come rain or shine, another bicycle post, hope you won't get bored
The bike in the Metro

This morning, after doing some work at home, I decided it would be a good day to ride the bicycle to go to the office. Sure it looked dark and cloudy outside, sure the weather report talked about rain, sure it had already rained, but... it was only some sprinkling. The bike has fenders, good brakes, lights, what could possibly go wrong? I started well enough, at first driving very carefully, until I noticed that the tires have a bit of profile and work really well in the rain. Then I pressed on some more. When I was about the distance away that makes you not wanting to turn around any more, the heavy rain started.

I went on. It started to pour more and more. I was starting to get totally soaked, except where my upper body was covered by the nylon windbreaker. I decided that I would put the bike into the Metro, to avoid a part of the trip that would take me either on big roads with cars (which will be more stuck than usual in the rain) or through small streets with multiple steap uphills. Good plan, but even up to the Metro, it was pouring on, and what's worse, large parts of the road turned into rivers. My feet were soaked by the water splashing up when I was crossing deeper ravines. It was slightly less agreeable than my previous bike rides.

Now in Athens it used to be that bikes weren't allowed in the Metro lines 2 and 3 (and there were some restrictions on line 1 too). Now you can take your bike into the Metro and put it into the first or last coach, in the outermost door. Up to two bikes per coach. No other bikes were riding with me today. A few days ago I had seen a guy with the bicycle in the Metro, taking it slowly, and I had thought: Since you gain on a big part of your trip using the Metro, this guy does it right. So I followed his example and took it easy to get in and out of the station and train. Relax.

When I came out of the station I had hoped that the rain would have let up a bit, but no such luck. I thought about waiting a bit, but then decided that I couldn't get any more soaked, so might as well go for it. When I arrived at the office, I changed into dry (and clean clothes) and warmed myself up. It wasn't the most clever idea to drive off into the rain, but having a change of clothes and a warm place at the end helps to amend things.

Posted by betabug at 22:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 February 2013

Critical Mass

Freeday Ride to Keratsini

Now that I have a bicycle, obviously it's time to finally take part in the Critical Mass ride here in Athens (where it's called "Freeday" and is held every Friday night, with the exception of August). People assemble outside the Thisio subway station at 21:30, where the route is going is announced on the evening before (on f*book, which I totally disagree with, and on the site). I was there the first time, didn't know anybody and had a great time. The ride was taking us to Keratsini, an industrial area near Piraeus.

It had rained a lot on this Friday, but the weather report had claimed that after noon the rain should stop. Ha! When I rode to the center, the rain started again, just as I had decided not to take the metro. It wasn't the full on assault as in the morning, but it made the evening's ride look suspect to me. Thing is, I don't have proper rain gear since, wtf, I live in a place where we are supposed to get more than 300 days of sunshine a year! So I was at home and expecting not to go, when the sky cleared totally around 8 in the evening. Off I was, at 9:30 in Thisio and... waiting. We left a while later and I had almost gotten cold, but it was well worth it.

We went on Piraeus Street to Omonia, rounded the square once and then drove off back in direction to Pireaus. Being in a group of about a 100 bicycles (my totally uneducated guess), going around Omonia, up Agiou Konstantinou and in the Process blocking all traffic there, it was wonderful. The streets got quiet around us. Lots of bicycle bells to be heard. I was riding about in the center of the mass, occasionally looking back just to enjoy the view of the riders. I guess this is where the name "Critical Mass" comes from. When I'm alone in traffic, it's always me stepping back. Car drivers tend to look out for me, but much more I have to look out for myself. But put 100 riders or more on the road, and the thing turns. Not only does it give us an open road for the night, but it puts up a signal too: there are cyclists even in this city.

We kept on riding at a very slow and easy pace (my gps said we had an average speed of 11.7 km/h). I felt like I was coasting all of the time, with only an occasional push on the pedal. It actually felt as if I was coasting even on the few uphills. (Upon returning home, my legs were far from being tired, but my back told me that a bicycle with a more upright position would be nice for rides like these.) Around me a lot of people knew each other well and/or were there in small groups. Lots of talking and laughing. I didn't mind riding by myself, enjoying the quiet and easy ride, leaving the route and coping with traffic to the others. It was like a sightseeing tour on bicycle. In fact I knew a lot of places from old times down there, so often I played the "guess the place" game with myself.

We made a tour of the Piraeus harbor (saying hello to the big ferry boats that I will be hopefully soon be a passenger on again), then entered even more industrial areas till we stopped for a break in a small park in Keratsini, with a view on some industrial harbor installations, oil tanks, all that nice stuff. This is still Athens, so on the back of the park there were apartment buildings with people living there. After the break we rode back, on a different route. The end point is again Thissio, but I broke off a little bit earlier to take a directer route to my place. I had ridden 3 hours (not counting the break and the ride to get to Thisio). This really was an enjoyable experience, I would suggest it to anybody who wants to see more of Athens on bicycle, without having to slalom through traffic.

Posted by betabug at 11:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 March 2013

Freeday, not Critical Mass

Yepp, I'm still here

In other news, Kosta informs me that in fact the Friday evening ride in Athens is the "FreeDay", while the Critical Mass is on the first Monday of each month and lives on

I've been slacking pretty hard on putting something on the weblog here, but I haven't been slacking in riding my bicycle. Been to the FreeDay 3 or 4 times now, went on a niiiiiice ride with a local bike group to Lagonisi on a sunny sunday morning. Also coming and going to the office about 3 times a a week.

I'm enjoying it. It took me a while to get over the traffic. It used to make me a bit aggressive, but at one point I decided that I'm having a good time, so I might as well ignore anything that annoys me, and enjoy the ride instead. Now when the light turns red just as I was passing through, I consider it as a chance for catching my breath. I'm going for speed only when the streets are empty. I'm logging speed and kilometers (got 470km so far this month), but not going to fuss about it.

Posted by betabug at 09:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
27 September 2013

Back in the city

Crowded life

So I'm back in the big city since a few days. Yesterday in a crowded subway train, I thought that I should write a few lines about the experience. I've been away for almost 3 months. While during August the island was "full", that is no comparison to how many people there are around me in Athens now. And the few last weeks, it was quiet in the little village on the island. I happened frequently that I would bring out the garbage at night and not see a single person, not even in a car passing by.

Coming back was a bit... not of a shock, but stressy. Moving around by bus and metro, in droves of people. Lots of noise. Lots of time spent going from here to there. The feeling of being in this heap of people is sometimes difficult to stomach after all that quiet. I will go back to moving around by bicycle soon (which is faster than public transport), but then it will be another contrast to riding on the quiet island streets.

On the upside, seeing friends, talking with friends face to face. Working together in a cafe. Seeing neighbors and my neighborhood. Too bad my usual lunch place is closed for some works, but hey, we're in the big city so we were able to go to a restaurant around the corner.

Posted by betabug at 14:41 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
10 November 2013

Morgens in der Stadt

Sonnenstrahlen helfen

Eigentlich habe ich die Stadt im Moment etwas über. Aber früh am morgen gefällt es mir immer noch in der Stadt zu sein. Am besten natürlich an einem sonnigen Tag, von denen haben wir ja glücklicherweise genug hier. Früh morgens aus dem Haus gehen, um eine Bougatsa zum Frühstück zu holen. Das Sonnenlicht auf den Häusern, Menschen, die zur Arbeit gehen oder im Quartier einkaufen.

Posted by betabug at 11:33 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
04 October 2014

Mini Glas-Container

Es sammelt sich
Ein Mini-Recyclingcontainer für Glas in Athen

Nachdem ich vor Jahren schon über die ersten Schritte im Recycling in Athen berichtet hatte, lief ich heute wieder mal einer interessanten, neuen Entwicklung über den Weg. Ein Container für Glas-Recycling. Mit Ôsen, mit denen der Container gleich komplett abtransportiert werden kann, aber in Mini-Ausführung. Zum Grössenvergleich der übliche "blaue" Recycling-Container daneben.

Ich denke, dass das eine gute Idee ist. Die blauen Container (Marke "der Grüne Punkt") werden nicht überall gleich qualitativ befüllt - sprich, es landet auch viel Müll drin. Die Verarbeitungskette dahinter ist meines Wissens in Griechenland unvollständig, aber ich kann mich da täuschen, ich habe schon länger nicht mehr nachgeschaut. Vor ein paar Jahren wurde das Recyclinggut getrennt und dann deponiert. Mit Glas gibt es eine klarere Recyclingstory.

Posted by betabug at 11:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 December 2014

Athens Group Ride Culture

Come and ride along
Starting to a group ride

Since restarting my cycling life early last year, I've come to appreciate some of the aspects of the group ride culture here in Athens. What I take part in has changed a lot, but I think all of these things are worth a try and can be good fun, and a way to explore Athens on a bike. Athens is not very bike friendly, so a group ride can make these things safer and more enjoyable.

I started with a commuter bike, and at first I went to the "Freeday" massive group rides on Friday evening, starting from Thisio. The first few times there were between hundred and a few hundred cyclists there, because it was winter. As soon as the weather got warmer, numbers increased, and when it got to close to a thousand, that group ride got to unwieldy and slow for me. Being in such a large group means having to stop and wait a lot. Still it's a fun experience, being in that sea of cyclists, having all the road for you (and the other thousand of you).

Next I found a little neighborhood, "casual" group ride. We're not talking about "dudes in latex on racing bikes" here. These are small groups of normal cyclists, usually on commuting bikes (city bikes, some mountain bikes, some people even on racing bikes), who make tours typically in the range of 30-40km, in an easy speed and waiting for all the members of the group. Usually there is a stop at the "endpoint", but I guess most of them don't stop at a cafe, first for economic reasons, second probably because greek coffee culture takes more time. In winter the stop probably is reduced to 10 minutes of rest.

I don't ride very often with the local group, since my schedule does not always allow it, but there are some people who are always there. On there is a calendar and a map helping you to find a group (in greek). Still I like to join in from time to time, to have an easy ride with company. There are some people who have prepared a route, and there are people who check that everybody stays together and nobody gets lost on a traffic light.

After getting a "fast bike", I started looking at more "sportive" group rides. Here there is also a range of options, but I don't know of any website listing them all (some are appearing also on the site). There are some well known "chain gangs" starting in Kalamaki at the parking space of the "Ble" club (where Alimou and Poseidonos avenues meet), and these groups usually follow the coast road in direction to Sounion. Wednesday evenings, and Saturday/Sunday mornings are typical times.

I've been about 4 times out with some of those groups. Sometimes I like it for getting an easier way to get a lot of kilometers done (drafting in a big group makes a huge difference), but other times I prefer to be out there on my own instead of having to concentrate on the wheel in front of me. I guess each thing has their advantage. One day when I was out alone on the coast road and hit a headwind on the way back, I was passed by a cycling club from Nea Ionia and was invited to sit in at the end... free shelter from the wind, getting me almost all the way home quickly!

Posted by betabug at 15:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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