Thursday night I boarded an overnight flight on Lufthansa from JFK to Frankfurt where I would be changing planes to begin my Greek adventure. I have flown other foreign airlines and I have to say, they are really a no frills carrier. The seats are rather cramped, and the food was just not very good at all. It might come a shock, but yes, I like airline food, well, some of it anyways. The lentil and wheat-berry salad on Air France is divine! But food on my flight was rather disappointing and tiny portions. (Why do I only get a quarter of a brownie and half a strawberry? Such a tease!) Well, it didn’t matter much, because eating at midnight with your eyes falling shut is not so much fun anyways.
During my rather lengthy lay over, I discovered the most amazing thing at the Frankfurt airport- the SHOWER room. That’s right! For a mere 6 euros you can have an entire hot shower room all to yourself with towels, shampoo, body wash, and even a blow dryer! It was the best 6 euros I have ever spent! Thankfully I had packed a change of clothes in my carry-on so I didn’t even have to put back on the grimy, smelly clothes I took off. They went in the front pocket of my laptop bag to be dealt with later. This, as it turns out, was a saving grace…(more on that in a minute!)
So I boarded my flight to Athens, an hour late, exhausted, unsure of exactly what time or what day it was. I felt completely disheveled, but happy to be clean. And of course, terrified. (I really hate flying and exhaustion just exasperates it to the nth degree!) My seat mates were really awesome though! I always sit on the aisle and in the middle was a delightful Swedish woman and by the window a charming young Canadian man. We spoke the entire way here. It was really great to hit it off and have so much in common with people you just met. But better still, they kept me sane during my silent panic attacks and I owe them a tremendous lot of gratitude!
I left them both at the baggage claim and went in search of the metro. Knowing that I have limited funds, the thought of taking a taxi, although incredibly appealing, was just not in the budget. They are very, very expensive here! Any cash I have needs to be spent on FOOD! (and snow globes for the kids.) The metro is brand new, clean and gets you everywhere in the city. Plus it’s really cheap!
I figured out how to work the kiosk and got my ticket. It was quite simple. Then I actually saw the young man from the plane and we interpreted the metro map and determined that we were traveling in the same direction for most of the trip. Near the end, we would split off and take the same train line but in opposite directions. It was great to have a travel buddy for my first metro experience. Especially since I had a few large bags with me which screams “tourist”!
The ride on the metro from the airport to the center of Athens is about 25 minutes and costs just 8 euros. Its a real bargain versus the taxi charge.
We changed trains at Syntagma station. It seems this station is the hub for several of the lines. It is also the one to be the most careful and prudent at. No sooner did I leave my new friend, and attempt to board the metro with bags in tow, did I turn to see a man with his arm in the front pocket of my laptop bag that was atop my large duffel bag that I was dragging onto the train! He had a jacket covering his arm, but it was elbow deep in my bag with my dirty clothes beginning to spew out from it! It happened so very, very fast and then he was gone! And sadly, so was my dirty underwear. I am not sure if they fell out or if he took them by mistake thinking they were my wallet. Whatever the case- Welcome to Athens!
Today’s travel tip #1– You should learn the language of the airlines you are flying. The attendants will go on for 20 minutes in their native tongues, but when it comes time for the translation to English, it will be all of 2 minutes. I am missing out on something there! I am sure the native speakers are having warm chocolate chip cookies and milk somewhere in the back, while if I’m lucky, I’ll be told what channel the in-flight entertainment is on.
Today’s travel tip #2– Divide and conquer! Never keep all of your money together. Divide it up into several different spots that are the least likely to be found. Of course, you’ll have to remember that you slid that 20 euro into your toothbrush holder before you put your wet toothbrush back.