Bosphorus cruise and Athens
26 Apr 2011
|We are up early to pack and have breakfast, then leave for a cruise on the Bosphorus Straight. We are all buggered, but the boat trip was good for most. Cynthea and a couple of others didn’t feel too flash on the boat, and we are hoping it is seasickness! We got to see some impressive palaces and fortresses. At one part of the channel the current is very strong, and we see the boat in front of us is struggling to make headway against the current, and realise we are doing the same. There are hundreds, make that thousands!, of jelly fish in the water.
Back at the hotel we check out and share a taxi to the airport with Marty and Vanessa. It is a bit of a squash getting four of us and all our luggage in, but we get there. Only TYL11 per couple so it is a cheap ride. Marty had been sick after the boat trip, and Cynthea still isn’t feeling much better. We go through scanners and try in vain to find a luggage trolley. We are too early for the 4pm flight, we would have thought that an international flight would be open by now (2pm). Finally the counter opens and we are sorted, but it is still hot and muggy in the airport. While Tony is looking for currency exchange Cynthea is sick, so she goes off to clean up when he gets back. There is a long queue at passport control, and Tony is worried they will be delayed. Thankfully the queue moves very quickly, and they make the gate just as it opens for boarding.
The flight is delayed about 20 minutes, but no great drama, and we are soon away. The flight lasts a bit over an hour, and Tony scoffs Cynthea's feed as she doesn’t think she should eat. By 6pm we are in Athens, wondering where our luggage is as many on the plane have left with theirs. The luggage belt stops, and about 30 people have that “oh shit, where are our bags” look. We figure that they cannot lose that much in one flight and ten minutes later we are still thinking "surely they haven’t". The conveyor belt starts up again, and all our luggage is finally delivered.
Passport control was a non-event, and we were quickly through. At boarder control we head for the red zone, goods to declare (Cynthea's pharmacy again), but the customs officer walks off as we approach, so once again we walk through.
It is hot and muggy in the terminal, and we are really shattered. The bloody WiFi won’t connect, so we cannot check the hotel details. The travel agents at the airport have some “good deals” starting at EUR80/$150 a night, so we give that a miss. There is a free internet service so we go to use that but it times out after 15 minutes. Cynthea finds a business centre that offers to set up our computer to get a free hour of internet, but it still won’t work. We go back to trying to use the free 15 minute service, but it is frustrating to use. Resetting every 15 minutes wipes all the information, including the history, which is a good security measure, but a nuisance just now. Because we can’t search with our computer we have to google search what we want, but it is all Greek to us, and we have trouble sorting through it. Tired, hot, and grumpy, we have had enough. We will not leave finding accommodation this late in the day again. In fact we will not arrive in a new place, (or country!), without arranging at least the first nights accommodation. That was a mistake we will not repeat again.
We find a place on the youth hostel site, and try to book, but they want a deposit which Tony won’t do on a public computer. He goes to use his phone, but the call wont go through, so Cynthea buys a phone card for EUR4 ($7.50). We got to the phone booth and find someone has left a card in the phone, it has nearly EUR4 on it, great, but BUGGER!
We call the hotel and make sure we have the right directions, and that a room will be held for us. We are told not to take a taxi into the city (EUR55/$100!!!), instead we are to take a bus the 20km into town. At the terminal in Syntagma Sq we were to take the metro to Omonia, and from there we can walk. Not bloody likely with all this, it looks a fair hike on the map, and we are really shattered. We check the bus timetable, we have 10 minutes to get to the bus station. Tickets are EUR5 ($9 each), much cheaper than a taxi.
We leave the bus at the Square and see where people are hailing taxis along the road, so head there, figuring it is easier than getting to the metro, and also that it wont be much difference in price. It is persisting down with rain, and they are very busy. But for some reason the first few taxis tell Tony “wrong way” and drive off. What the…?
After over an hour in the rain we finally get someone to take us (Tony got in the taxi first and then told him the destination). The driver explains we should have been on the other side of the Square because the traffic here is one way, and the hostel is in the opposite direction. The driver wasn’t sure where to go and used the GPS, we also had a map to double check his direction. It was a short drive, he points out Omonia Station for us, and the hotel is indeed just a couple of streets away. The fare was only EUR4 ($7) so we are pleased. We find out later the ticket from the airport could also have been used on the metro, but that is ok, the only hassle we had being to get a taxi in the first place.
We arrive at Lozanni hotel about 9.30, it is very, very basic, but the chap on reception is very friendly. We had been quoted EUR40 ($74) a night for a room only. Shower and dunny down the hall, breakfast extra. He looked at us, tired and wet, and heavy packs, and put us in a four bunk room with ensuite, breakfast included, for the same price, on the first floor (there are no lifts in the hostel). We are worried that there will be others sharing, and he says they are not that busy so no one will be sharing. The room isn’t flash, the shower head is no longer attached to wall, there are no seats in the room and no power points, but we will cope. We are not sure if we will get used to tossing shitty toilet paper into a rubbish bin though. There are no tea/coffee making in the room, nor is there a kitchen to do our own. The lounge bar is locked, but another couple have also arrived, so we are given hot water to make our drinks (using our own tea and coffee), and the others grab food from across the road.
They can’t be too strict on enforcing the BIG red sign that says don’t buy food and drink outside and expect to sit and eat it in our bar. The price list for food and drink is expensive, EU4 for a cup of bloody Nescafe, a beer is double what we paid in Turkey, but still cheap by hotel standards. We are left in the bar on our own and asked to let reception know when we leave so they can lock up again. Guess they had security cameras to check that we didn’t help ourselves to anything we shouldn’t when we went behind the bar to use the jug.
We don’t stay too long, and on the way to our room Cynthea has a few minutes on the internet in the hallway. We soon crash, and sleep well despite the constant traffic noise and hard beds.