Athens & Greece

Greece Panorama

AthensWelcome to Cane & Able’s Greece.

The capital, Athens, is crowded, noisy, polluted, chaotic and wonderful.

I’ve been to Athens a few times and would love to live there. It has an enticing rhythm and sense of self.  It is alive!

Ignore the economy. Petty crime may have increased but the people are just as fabulous and a lack of dollars can’t change atmosphere and history.

The photo on the right is Athens city from the Akropolis, looking across to Lycabettus Hill…

Lesbos postieNow, I have only visited Greece as an ‘able’ traveller – so I wasn’t keeping an eye out for disabled access and facilities BUT I have had the good fortune of becoming friends with a lass by the name of Roz who has MS and calls Greece home.

Originally from Scunthorpe, Roz lives on the island of Lesbos with her kids and visits Athens regularly.  The boxed bits with info and tips on getting around with a disability are from Roz…  Ekfaristoh Ronski! (Thank you, Roz!).  Occasionally she sends me photos just to make me quietly jealous.  On second thoughts, loudly jealous.  Dammit.  The chap on the donkey is her mailman doing his daily delivery…

Over to Roz…

Lift to the AcropolisThe mountain in the top photo of Athens is Lycabettus Hill (aka St George) – it is made of limestone and has a wee white church on top (Agios Georgios). 

It is a hell of a hike up even for the ‘abled’ even though there are resting spots on the way. Far better for all without the mountain goat gene to take the 2 minute funicular up the south-east flank – the view is rewarding and there is a bar/café/restaurant.

I am heading to Athens shortly to check out disabled access and facilities for visitors – being a ‘local’ I just go about my way, expecting hurdles and frustrations. And my expectations are always rewarded. That’s just Greece! 

One good thing to come out of the 2004 Olympics was a wheelchair/disabled lift up to the Acropolis (guess that would have been part of qualifying for the Paralympics?)… I am going to seek this lift out next trip to the city and will report back.  Apparently it is around the ‘back end’ and not highly advertised.  Looks like a bit of a thrill ride in itself though!

plakaAthens is a city rich in history, proud and determined with a joie de vivre that outstrips the French. I don’t know what ‘joie de vivre’ is in Greek, I can only say hello, order two beers and inquire as to the cost of a room with a bath.

I particularly love the Plaka. Yes, it caters to the tourist, but you can absorb the centuries and, with little imagination, become ‘Greek’. Settle in to the backdrop of wicker chairs, loping cats and bold geraniums.  Drink ouzo (with a wee dash of water) and play backgammon with the locals, slamming the dice and moving the pieces with flair. You can take a siesta and return in the evening for dolmades, mousaka, kalamaris, bouzoukis and dancing.  Those siestas mean the night is young until late.  Yassou!

Roz is checking out Plaka access and will update soon!

ErechtheumAbove the Plaka is the Akropolis (yes, Acropolis is also fine for spelling, but using the ‘k’ makes me feel more ‘Greek).

I studied the Parthenon and the other outer buildings in both Ancient History and Art. My favourite is the delightful Erechtheum (right). Specifically these are the caryatids (columns sculptured in the form of a draped female) on the south porch.  I can still recite the dates they were built, not because of rote learning but because of my interest in the era.

I think it is, quite simply, the world’s best tourist attraction. To date anyway.

Roz is also checking Acropolis accessibility out and will update soon!

Herod Atticus TheatreThe amphitheatre of Herod Atticus (right) sits below the Akropolis. On one visit Annie and I took a picnic and wine, sat on the ancient steps and enjoyed a performance by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra with the well-lit Parthenon above us. There are moments that make travel so worthwhile. There are lots of things to do and see in Athens and I have enjoyed things Greek not far away like the Daphne Wine Festival (twice), the Corinth Canal, Cape Sounion and a visit to the lovely town of Naphlion to experience The Clouds by Aristophanes in an ancient amphitheatre (and in Greek, of course)… but the Greek Islands are ‘Greece’ for me…

MykonosI particularly love the arid but raw beauty of the Cyclades Islands – the whitewash, windmills and wild bougainvillea of Mykonos… the little churches, tethered donkeys and olive trees on the party island of Ios… the butterflies and the beaches on Paros… and the rugged, eerie beauty of Santorini… from the fishing nets to the squid drying on the line… from sunsets to the smashing of plates…

Right that’s it!  I have just convinced myself that it is time to pack the cane and re-explore this beguiling, seductive, fascinating, frustrating, sensational destination!

For now I will sign off with one more panoramic pictorial hit of Santorini… and leave you with Roz talking about the wonderful frustrations of her island, Lesbos…

Santorini Panorama

 

I’d like to take you on a journey down a street in my neighbourhood. It’s spotted with interesting neoclassical houses.

You know, it has that fading elegance of a bygone era that tourists love. Take a look at the top photo for example.

Ooo! What’s that I see in the distance? At the end of the road…

Another gorgeous piece of architecture? Yes!

Let’s hop down the road to investigate.

Can you see it? The building at the bottom of the street?

But wait, what’s this obstacle course I meet? Examine the pavement.

Hmmm..to begin with, there’s a twiglet planted in the middle of it. No worries I can skip round that. And the moped. (What’s that doing up here?)

Now stop.

What the heck are these huge mutilated tree trunks doing in the middle of the pavement gobbling up my walkway? And more importantly… who planted them here? For what purpose? What’s a mother with a stroller supposed to do?

Am I supposed to side-step and squeeze pass the railings + get my rucksack hooked? Or divert down into the street and risk getting swept away by one of the kamikaze moped riders? Decisions, decisions….

Oh and what’s that I see in the distance?…..it’s a blue sign, kinda familiar-looking.

I think I’ve seen those before in Europe. Let’s take a closer look.

Of course!! It’s a disability sign. That universal white + blue wheelchair sign.

And its placement here? Would mean….? Exactly what?

“HALT! Mr. Wheelchair Person! What are you doing here? I am a wheelchair sign and I have been placed smack-bang centre in your path. I even have a grassy pedestal to snag your wheels on. Ha ha. You can’t get passed me. Actually you can’t even get up on the pavement for the lack of curb cuts. Unless you’re Nadia Comeneci on wheels. But you’re not. So tough. Really Mr Wheelchair Person, what on earth are you doing here in this assault course of trees, vehicles and local council dumpsters? Wait a minute… what am I doing here? I have been here for 15 years already and nobody seems to need me.”

You may ask, ‘Why is a disability sign stuck in the middle of this obstacle course?’ I asked just the same thing myself.

Ah, yes. The answer is right behind the disability sign. Take another look. That other familiar sign. The one that warns you of the upcoming bend. The bend you will soon be going around because Greek pavements drive you round the bend. Greece drives you round the bend. Often. There is no logic to the madness of putting signposts in the middle of pavements. But they are everywhere. In every town, city and village. That, of course, is if there is even a pavement to be found.

But that’s a story for another day.