After boarding our Turkish flight on Sunday night, we sat back and enjoyed the long journey to Istanbul. Interestingly, the children slept most of the way, rather unusual for them. I really enjoyed the little kit that Turkish passed out for all passengers, it meant good ear plugs, eye masks, warm feet and good sleep. The plane was a relatively new one and had good in-flight entertainment.
Istanbul airport was busy! Crowded to the hilt with people and passengers! Like the country it’s located in, it seemed to be a melting pot for all ethnicities and continents. Once we were transported in buses from the tarmac to the airport buildings, we sought to freshen up and grab a bite to eat and savor some strong coffee. Then we set out to find our way to the correct terminal for our connecting flight to Athens. The signs said it would be a 20 minute walk. And so we wound past what looked like a Turkish bazaar with shops and catchy lights and music. There was a vivacity to the airport that I have never seen elsewhere.
Eventually, we made it to an entirely different section of the airport and awaited our next flight. It was fascinating to watch the screen displaying a vast array of flights leaving, it seemed, every 3-4 minutes to a different part of Asia, Europe or Africa. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to work as an air traffic controller in such mega airports.
The connecting flight left on time and we finally made it to Athens on Monday night, just before 9 pm, Athens time. After clearing immigration, we headed to baggage claim, a little uncertain of what we would find. To our great joy, we were able to collect all our luggage and headed past customs onto the arrivals hall.
Our apartment owner had promised to send a taxi for our ride from the airport that night to the apartment in Athens. The driver told us that it had rained that day off and on about 5 times. Apparently, this was something that did not happen often during summer in Athens. The temperature had dropped from the mid 40s to the 20s that day. He promised that the weather would be cool during our stay that week and perfect for outdoor activities like visiting the Parthenon.
The drive to the apartment took about 45 minutes. Close to Syntagma Square (which was the closest location to the rental), he pointed out the signposts where we could buy tickets for Hop On, Hop Off buses the following day. He also pointed out little kiosks that sold basic items like milk, newspapers, etc.
Once we reached the rental, he helped us unload, gave us the key to the apartment and left. There were four stories to the building with a small and narrow elevator. However, for the life of us, we couldn’t figure out which floor our rental was on! Eventually, we called the owner and she told us to get to the third floor. Mr. JJ took the luggage in the elevator while the rest of us walked up the stairs to the rental. The front door of the rental unit opened into a large living room. The right side wall of the small foyer has a door that opens onto the elevator and is convenient to transport luggage. The living space had a sofa cum bed and a TV. At the far end was a small breakfast bar that opened onto the kitchen. There was a range for cooking with a small fridge next to it and a washer below. To the right side, the living area opened onto a nook with a dining table and four chairs. There was a glass double door leading to a small balcony overlooking the street. The area behind the elevator at the front of the living room led into an elongated bedroom that was mostly occupied by a bed and a narrow area by closet. Off the kitchen was a bathroom with a shower and toilet and sink.
Overall, I loved the location of the rental unit. It was a short walk from all the major attractions. The area appeared to be safe and we walked back many nights after 10 pm and felt no danger. There was a grocery store right next door that came in very handy for milk, yogurt, bread, vegetables, and fruits. The rental itself was very comfortable for four. The wall mounted A/C unit functioned well and we even had to shut it off couple of nights as the room got quite cold. We made good use of the balcony with its clothes drying rack and the Aegean sun. The doors to the balcony muffled the sounds well enough and we were able to sleep without noise from the street.
The kitchen was small and had only the most basic of utensils. It would have been nice to have some bigger vessels to cook with, but it was manageable. What I did not appreciate, however, was the fact that the bathroom led right off the kitchen. I would much rather have had it situated off the bedroom than the kitchen. In Greece, as in Peru, the toilet paper has to be cast into the trash can and not flushed down the toilet. Now that took a bit of getting used to in Peru and again here in Greece. Somehow that knowledge made me cringe each time I walked into the bathroom. But every country is different and part of the fun in traveling is in learning to adjust. Hot water was available but the control switch had to be switched on for about 10-15 minutes before using the shower.
After unpacking a bit and freshening up, we had a light dinner cooked in the apartment with food from home and settled down for the night! Our plan was to get an early start and make a trip through the city in the morning and then venture out again in the evening to the Acropolis and the Parthenon, thus beating the heat and the crowds.