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September 15, 2008

Athens (Slight Return) - for Byzantine stuff, obviously...

Arranging flights from Chania to Macau was a bit of a nightmare, with a lot of the routes offered taking over 24 hours to make the journey. We eventually settled on Qatar Air via Doha, but that meant having a six hour wait in Athens. Having just visited it a few weeks before, we decided that rather than hang around the airport, we would head into Athens on the Metro whilst waiting for our connecting flights.

It was a bit of a risky plan - what if we got stuck in town? And we nearly abandoned the whole idea, because a couple of days before we were due to fly the train drivers of the Athens Metro started staging strikes. In the end though it all worked out fine. Although it is on one of the three main lines, trains from the Metro only depart from the airport every half-hour, and take about 40 minutes to get to the centre of town, so we didn't have a great deal of time for sight-seeing.

We left our baggage in their airport at a 'left luggage' counter that was a wonderfully Greek affair. There were about 5 guys behind the counter, but only one actually serving people. The pricing was done by one of the guys lifting the bags up, and guesstimating the weight (although, to be fair, he was absolutely spot on to the kilogram with our two bags). And there was just one long, long, long, queue, regardless of whether you were doing the lengthy process of checking a bag in, or just trying to quickly collect your bag before your flight departed...

We decided to head straight for lunch, and so went back to one of the restaurants we had visited on our previous trip. Although we often like trying new places, with such a short amount of time to spare we didn't want to waste any hanging around trying to chose a place to eat.

Ευχαρις is in a very touristy area near to the Acropolis and Monstiraki Square, but they seem to go the extra mile in preparing and presenting their food, and, for central Athens, it is reasonably priced. They also have another big attraction - very efficient air conditioning.


After lunch we popped back on the Metro for two stops to visit the Byzantine & Christian Museum. Now, you might think you can have too many Byzantine Icons, but as far as I'm concerned, there can never be enough!


The Museum looks rather small and unimpressive from outside, but turned out to be one of the best exhibitions I've seen in Greece. Not only do they have some great artifacts and preserved wall paintings, but they have an amazing room full of double-sided icons dating back to the 13th century, all beautifully displayed so that you can walk around them to get the full effect.


I was also pleased with another thing - there were a couple of displays with fragments of marble which attempted to recreate what Byzantine Christian Basilicas would have been like. For the backdrops they used several photographs of the Churches that I dragged poor Claire around in Ravenna. At least it proved I had been right when I was explaining to her just how unique and important that umpteenth Church mosaic was!



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your worries about coming in and out of athens airport reflect mine when i was in london. we stayed at earls' court and relied on the tube for all our commuting. on monday afternoon, we didn't hear it running all night (we could hear it from our hotel room). the next day (our departure day) there was an apology notice stating the reasons why the line to heathrow wasn't running. we were flying back to athens via heathrow, so i was thankful we had booked to depart on tuesday and not on monday!

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