08.07.1966 - 09.07.1966
Our first real day, and the first in Greece - Thessaloniki. We began the morning by trudging from the hotel to the central bus station to buy a ticket to Athens, and then trudged back in the same way, past the hotel to the railway station, from where the bus was to leave. The temperature outside must have been above the century, as it was 84F in the shade and that felt mighty cool. The bus departed for Athens at 1.45 pm and it was a 7 hour journey. Ade spent most of the time giving a fellow passenger, a Greek naval engineer, an English lesson - a nice chap. The countryside on the way down reminded me very much at times of the burnt grass and parched earth of Australia. The blue Aegean seemed translucent and inviting and there was a magnificent sunset just before we reached Athens. We arrived about 10.30 pm and then trudged what seemed like 10 miles, but was only 2 kms, uphill to find the Youth Hostel, which turned out to be this incredible place - 200 beds, but packed full, and the first night we had to sleep on the roof terrace, which was like an outdoor dormitory. Since it was a very warm night it was really the spot to be and I didn’t have to get into my sleeping bag until about 3 am. There is an open air picture theatre next door, and each night of our stay here the roof and the balconies of the hostel have been crowded with people enjoying a free show - ‘Moll Flanders’, starring Kim Novak. The place seems very lax as regards rules, so it is not at all difficult to live in - a welcome change from our past experience with youth hostels.
We have decided to spend two days in Athens, then take a bus back to Thessaloniki and a train on to Turkey on Monday. We bought the return tickets to Salonica this morning in the city. We have also decided not to visit Delphi and Corinth as the cost of living here is rather high. That is some sacrifice, but I will have to be satisfied to see the major ancient sites of Athens quite fully; that is the best we can hope to do. We saw the central city area this morning, then the national park and the old and new royal palaces, the latter with its fantastically dressed guards. We then walked on to the second class ruins of the Olympeian and up the hill towards the Acropolis. But we did not venture onto the Acropolis today, although most of the afternoon we had it in view; we climbed the hill of the Muses instead, and saw from there what must be one of the best views in the world.
The Acropolis stood in all its incredible magnificence and beauty, dominating the city and everything for miles around. We sat up there until sunset, drinking it all in. One mishap of the day was when we discovered the film in the camera was not going through, and we had to go back and retake all the photos we thought we had already taken.
As the light faded we caught the 16 bus back to the Y.H. (Xenon Neotitos) and after washing the dirt off our feet went out for a good dinner in a Greek garden restaurant. The evenings here are really wonderful. The Greeks seem to eat very late and the life goes on in the streets until well after midnight. There are eating places and sidewalk cafes everywhere. It is very pleasant to sit out in the warm evenings eating, drinking and lapping up the atmosphere. I really love Greece, and especially Athens. I have learnt the Greek alphabet already and have been able to make sense of a surprising number of things, signs etc.. I would love to spend a month or so here. I have started to pick up a suntan and am not in the least missing London. Still I have done nothing constructive yet and have simply been feeling ‘on holiday’. I must get going pretty quickly. I have to watch the money closely too, I’m overspending.
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