Monday, April 16, 2007

A Field Trip to the Temple of Poseidon

Finally, the weather, Fantastic Man, and myself all decided to cooperate (or so we thought in the way of the weather) on the same day and enable us to go on the much talked about but continuously postponed "field trip" down the coast to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. The weather in Athens is HOT, feels great. FM and I spend the morning sitting around the house and veranda (where he actually went inside as he was too warm), so we figure we're good.

My guide book (Lonely Planet) gives very little information about what to expect, but we expect a 1 1/2 hour bus ride, some old rocks, someplace to eat and drink, and a bus ride back. We leave late afternoon, as we heard this is "the best spot" to catch a sunset in mainland Greece, and we want to be there.

I have seen this particular tour advertised widely throughout Athens, and the going cost is 38 Euro/person. I thought this seemed inordinately high, as round trip the bus costs 10,80/person and the Temple admission is 4 Euro, so for approximately 30 Euro, not withstanding food and drink, we could do it on our own, right? Right. . . .

Take the subway to designated pick-up spot for bus and meet up with Herb, as he's decided to brave the trip with us. We walk a couple blocks to where the bus stop is supposed to be. Completely unmarked. Have to ask two different people for directions and finally figure we are at the right spot, as we are surrounded by white-haired English speaking tourists all yelling at each other, "It's right here Wilma/Bertha/George," whoever else is on the trip. Bus arrives, and after a delay of about 10 minutes while they are scrubbing it with a bucket and brush (?), we pull out at about 3:40 PM. And then circle Athens picking up other people at other bus stops much closer to home. And, easier to find. And more clearly marked. Okay, live and learn.

Off we go, on the same path as the tram took us to the coast a month ago. And then we are into unchartered territory, clipping along the coastal road at a pretty good pace. It is pretty, if not a bit stark, and the sea looks gorgeous. See lots of people along the way sunbathing, swimming (I think it's a bit early and a bit cold for this, however), fishing and enjoying themselves along the rocky seaside.

After 90 minutes we still don't see anything that looks like the end of the road. The Temple of Poseidon is built up on top of a large cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea, and supposedly can be seen for miles from the ocean. These Greeks liked to build things high up. So, another 30 minutes on the bus (which was comfortable enough, climate wise and seat wise, so okay), the Temple finally comes into view. It looks big. And high. And we hope the bus is going to drive us all the way up the hill.

We were planning on arriving around 5, but it's now 5:45. The bus does take us directly to the entrance, where there is a kiosk selling drinks and snacks, a gift store and a cafe/restaurant underneath the Temple. I ask the money taker dude on the bus when the busses go back to Athens, and he tells me on the hour. The last bus is at 8 PM. Barely enough time to catch the sunset, see the Temple and have something to eat. As we are really there for the sunset, we decide to have some sustenance first.

Go and have a seat in the restaurant. Wait 15 minutes for someone to come to our table (not unusual in these touristy spots), order a beer and ask for a menu. We are told, "We have no food." This seems odd, as it IS a restaurant, there is a sign declaring this fact, but we figure maybe it's off-season and they aren't serving food. About halfway through our beers we see plates of FOOD going to other tables. Now, we're mad. Our last meal was at noon. Okay, whatever, not like we've never been slightly hungry before, but knowing we will have to wait until we return to Athens to eat is somewhat bothersome.

Instead of making a scene regarding the blatant lie we were told, we decide to go look at the Temple, watch the sunset, then grab some snacks from the kiosk for the ride back and have dinner in Athens.

Climb to the top, and my goodness, it is COLD! The wind blowing in off the sea is biting. FM didn't wear a jacket (see above where he was too warm to sit on the balcony at our house), and I had on capris and a hoodie, and I was freezing, too. Managed to stay up top about 40 minutes, decided to come back down, skip the sunset, grab some snacks and get ourselves on the 7 PM bus.
FM and Herb go to hit the bathroom before the ride back and I walk down to the kiosk to get some snackies. Except it's closed! Arggh. I'm hungry, and cold, and getting a little grumpy (as I do when I need to eat!). But, we are leaving an hour earlier than planned, so food is in our near future. We plan on jumping off the bus at Syntagma, about a 20 minute shorter ride than on the way there, and going to this restaurant we've been scoping out but never been to for dinner. Figure by 9ish we'll be dining.

On the bus, FM and I take a seat in front of a youngish Greek couple (possibly late 20's, early 30's) and they never shut up. And, not in "indoor" voices either. They are loud and giggling, and kissing. Plus, the dude keeps throwing either wads of gum or hard candy into his mouth and is making noises which would shame a cow. It's disgusting. Not to mention he keeps ramming my seatback with his knees.

His girlyfriend disembarks after about 45 minutes, and another innocent gal takes the seat next to him, and off they go with another loud conversation, more lip smacking, and more kicking of my seat.

And, his phone rings incessantly at a completely unnecessary volume with a most irritating ringtone, and he refuses to answer it, so it just rings and rings (it's probably his wife and he seems to be chatting this girl up pretty hard).

Of course, this all may have been more interesting if they were speaking English, as at least I could have eavesdropped then, but no, alas, they are speaking Greek. FINALLY, they shut up and he quits smacking his candy, and he goes to sleep. Ah, peace and quiet.
But now we are two hours into our return trip and no where near Athens. Seems the thought of incoming traffic to Athens from the seaside on a Sunday night completely escaped us. We are CRAWLING!

Finally, we are on the road to Athens, and the traffic patterns pick up a bit. Reach Syntagma about 9:30 (!), walk two blocks to the restaurant, and it's CLOSED! WHHAAAH. But, across the streets blinks the neon sign of the "Golden Chopsticks" restaurant.

Looks like we're having Chinese. I would have probably ate anything at this point, but the food was good, better than our basement Chinese restaurant, but not quite as convenient. Even had a Tsing-Tao beer to complement the flavor!

Home around 11:30.

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