My wife and I, in our 60‘s, recently traveled to Athens, Greece for a convention - first overseas trip since 2000. A lot has changed. On our last trip we had a film camera. This time, we had a tablet computer, digital cameras, cell phone, GPS and all the chargers, batteries, cords, memory cards, adapters. The comments below are more a hodge-podge of observations than a trip report.
Electronics. We had free wi-fi in all 3 hotels and were able to send e-mails and post pictures via Instagram. We also had a $20 LG phone with a One-Rate sim card from Telestial. It worked well everywhere we went in Greece - even remote areas. We could call anywhere for $.39/min. (I'll post a driving-in-Greece-with-a-GPS report separately).
Pickpockets and the Metro. I recommend taking the X95 bus between the airport and Syntagma. We used the Metro five times and had hands in our bags twice. First, my wife was hanging on to her suitcase and a woman tried to “help” her. Second time, I was surrounded in a crowded car by three men who refused to let me move. One of them tried to get into my bag - a PacSafe anti-theft bag. Both times, they got into “snapped” zippers. We didn’t lose anything because we resisted. (And really valuable stuff was in our moneybelts.) But the men were very aggressive. Be aware - older tourists are a magnet for these guys. The X95 bus costs more for seniors, (5 E vs 4E reduced fare on the Metro) but is safer, I think.
Athens. Our schedule kept us in Athens 8 nights. We saw all the ancient sites, museums, Ermou Street, the Plaka, had evening coffees sitting in Syntagma Square, and spent time just walking in residential areas accessible by tram. I have mixed feelings. The first impression - graffiti, homely buildings and garbage - was not good. But we also saw lots of tree-lined streets and cozy neighborhood parks with families hanging out. We shopped at a local grocery, had dinner at small tavernas around our hotel (Intercontinental Athens). The atmosphere was friendly and comfortable. The city has potential. But I fear that some good stuff is missed by most.
Ermioni. We weren’t interested in the typical island tour and wanted to get away from the crowds for a few days. We chose Ermioni. There’s a lot online about Nafplio - Rick recommends it. But Ermioni is smaller, off the beaten path, and close to Hydra and Spetses via water taxi. There’s very little info on-line, so it seemed like a gamble. But we enjoyed our time there.
We rented a small apartment at Zoe Pension with a big private balcony overlooking the harbor. There was a clothesline on the balcony, so we caught up on our daily washing. And it was fun just to watch the rhythm of the place. Yachts and Flying Dolphins from Pireaus (90 minutes) come and go all day. Locals chat with neighbors each evening as it begins to cool off - conversations we couldn‘t understand but enjoyed anyway. The waterfront has a good selection of shops, markets, and tavernas. The town is hilly and streets are narrow, but you can walk the perimeter in an hour or less. Thursday - market day - is very entertaining even if you’re not buying.
We didn’t meet another American for five days. English is spoken less than in Athens, and fewer signs are in English. But “Kalimera” and a smile go a long way. We explored Nafplio briefly on our way to Mycenae. It’s much larger and busier. We’re happy with our choice.
One very small gripe: The senior rate for sites like Corinth, Epidavros, Tiryns, and Mycenae is only available to seniors from the EU - maybe a perk for the bailout?