Today I’m launching what will be a sporadic series of posts called Travelling in the 90s. I’ll be extracting segments of a very elaborate travel diary I wrote by hand (and transcribed some years later) when backpacking with a friend after we finished our University degrees. I think it’s fun to reflect on:
- The naivete — and also the wonder — of our 22-year-old selves
- How dramatically travelling has changed in the past 20 years
- How little I have really changed at heart
Gee, we had such a fabulous time.
We began our trip in Greece, flying directly from Australia to Athens. This was not a conventional beginning — most Australian backpackers back in 1993 started in London. Us? No… So our first international experience was arriving at 6am on a November morning in one of the most ancient cities on the planet… Where very few people spoke English.
Here’s part 1 — Athens.
[Sun 28 November, 1993] It’s currently 3:00 pm local time and I can honestly say: “What a day!” I am footsore and absolutely exhausted. Things that have particularly struck me about Athens:
- There are hundreds of stray cats who slink around and beg for food — many of them look very much like Emerald.
- All the taxis are yellow regardless of make.
- All the ruins have ‘police’ in blue parkas who blow their whistles.
- It’s cold….
[Mon 29 November, 1993] We are doing very well and I’m so proud of us! We have not caught a taxi yet, and made it to the bus depot from where we caught this very bumpy bus to Delphi. Part of our independence is owed to this wonderful map of Athens given to us through the tourist window at the National Bank of Greece (thankfully open on Sundays). All the streets are marked on this map and hence our walking tour of yesterday was successful (discounting getting mildly lost in the national garden). The latter route took us through a street we firmly resolved never to enter again.
It still all feels rather unreal. I know that I’m in Greece and that I’ve seen the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus, but it’s so hard to really comprehend. I see three months of incredible bliss stretching out before me — no study, no work — and wonder whether it’s real. Of course it is, and this very bumpy bus on which I’m currently sitting reminds me of it.
The Acropolis was amazing. Unfortunately we were not allowed on the Parthenon (ref blue-parkered police) but just to see it there, looming up before me was wonderful. Even the heavy scaffolding and the crane in the centre could not wholly detract. In fact, we could not touch any of the wonders on that lump of rock but it was invigorating just to be there.
All sights of the Acropolis from around Athens are tinged with the same wonder and amazement. They just loom up out of nowhere in the midst of everything! As do all the other ruins around. Especially the Temple of Olympian Zeus — these great pillars were the first ‘old’ things I saw as we entered Athens on the bus from the airport. They are majestic! I cannot write enough of the wonder I really do feel at seeing such ancient things.
Other sights of yesterday included the ‘changing of the guards’ at the parliament house. They are really very silly dressed in their white dresses and red shoes with pom-poms!
Today it is raining and really quite horrible. Nevertheless we got up and ate breakfast, which consisted of four slices of packet toast with peach jam, a glass of OJ and some very sweet coffee. We found the bus that took us to the bus station, and found the bus for Delphi. We haven’t paid yet either – I asked twice about tickets. The first time we were told “yes this is the bus for Delphi – stay here” (or words to that effect) and the second time “no ticket? get on, get on”. So we did.
Greek men seem to be constantly feeling sorry for us. One, early yesterday morning, beckoned us over to warn us about thieves and to ask us where we were going because we looked lost and probably dishevelled, because the bus driver (from the airport) dumped us. Another today seemed to think we were standing in the wrong place to catch the bus into the city. Of course we were because we didn’t want to go there. When I said Delphi he said “Oh!” and gave me a pat on the shoulder and pointed the way we were going…
Next stop Delphi!
Anyone else got memories of visiting Athens — or landing early in a city where you didn’t know the language? I’d love to hear your travel tales.
* This is a photo of a photo — because, you know, there was no such thing as digital cameras back then (and I don’t have a scanner — yet). Sorry about the quality.