Athens – June 2023

Day 5 (Athens) – Athens International Airport

The answer to that is a surprising yes! As Athens is a major airport similar to London Heathrow or Gatwick, checking in an electric wheelchair seemed to be a breeze for staff making the journey to the plane go without a hitch for once (bar having to inform the baggage handlers that it’s not possible to take the whole controller off!

After a mini tour of the UK with work and a few running repairs to Superbunny (most likely caused by the amount of wheeling up and down drop kerbs that didn’t exist!), I will be travelling to Italy for the first time (even though it’s so close to the UK!) on the 26th July. During this, one will be exploring Milan and taking the high speed train to Florence!

Day 4 (Athens) – A General Wander

The noise of said dual carriageway was replaced by the sound of music emanating from the nearby Athens Concert Hall last night, what better way to fall asleep than listening to a bit of Greek music?

As mentioned yesterday, the plan for today was to head down to Piraeus (again!) on the M3 to take a stroll along the waterfront taking in the sights of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. However, you may be wondering also what is happening with the Acropolis situation? After several attempts, the hotel managed to contact said attraction last night who informed them that the elevator had been fixed but only for a few hours before braking again! The thought then crossed my mind, what if I get stuck up there with Superbunny and have to wait hours on end until it is fixed, do I really want to to take that risk? Rather not!

Anyway, the M3 was, again, successful in transporting us down to Dimotiko Theatro (which is located in Piraeus) to make a connection with the tram. This metro line has been invaluable for the past few days taking one from the airport, down to the ferry terminal and connecting with the trams. I think Athens may have given a calling as the latter two stations only opened in October 2022!

The tram stop is located adjacent to the metro station elevator and is like any other modern tram network with level access etc. Some lines go up to near the Acropolis but we decided to take a journey along the waterfront. What one thought was the stop for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center was actually the one for the Peace and Friendship Stadium, still an architectural marvel nonetheless…

It needs to be said that the area around the stadium and waterfront is a story of two tales; on one hand you have a thriving harbour dotted with restaurants offering a variety of Mediterranean cuisine (including grilled squid) and on the other you have half constructed and abandoned apartments, perhaps as a result of the Greek financial crisis? Oh and a bridge over a waterway with planks either missing or bodged with wooden boards…not for the faint hearted!!

As usual, trusty Google Maps decided to take us on a tour of Piraeus before heading back to the M3…who knew it could be so hilly…

Tomorrow we head back to old Bristol via Athens International, question is will they look after Superbunny?

(Oh and if you are in Athens, you need to try the cakes at ΑΤΤΙΚΑ Αρτοποιεία!)

Day 3 (Greece) – The Accessible Island of Aegina

In order to put the rest of this post into context, let’s begin by talking about this semi-accessible hotel. Now, on the Hotels.com website, it states that The Athinais Hotel has all the accessibility features one could ever need, this is certainly not the case!

Even before reaching ones room, the elevators have been designed for a maximum of 2 people (unsure if this was intentional) hence Superbunny can only just fit in with millimetres to spare. Once you have reached said hotel room, one is pretty sure that the majority of wheelchair users would have to rearrange the furniture to suit as there isn’t enough room to even turn around! Oh and try to sit comfortably on this toilet…

As I mentioned yesterday, the hotel is situated along a busy dual carriageway so, common sense says that some kind of sound proofing would be required…not here! As in any major city, traffic in Athens is 24/7, who needs sleep anyway!

The relentless noise of traffic and motorcycles using said road as a racetrack at 2am meant that only 2 hours of sleep was achieved by 6.30am and, regardless of the amount of sugar intake, it is impossible to function on that short amount hence the Crete idea was dismissed. When researching for things to do prior to visiting, I noted that it is possible to visit various Greek islands by car ferry from the port of Piraeus located within the city boundaries and accessible from the M3 metro. Whilst one successfully achieved a few more hours of sleep, a PA was tasked with investigating further with various ideas being produced.

As there are many companies operating to and from Piraeus, one decided to take the risk and bring Superbunny praying that one ferry would be accessible. The thought then struck me after years of travelling, if vehicles are allowed on these big ferries, surely a ramp is present regardless? After visiting the ticket office, we managed to secure tickets on a vehicle ferry to the island of Aegina which is a 75 minute journey from Piraeus…

Although slightly complex, ramps and elevators were present enabling one to reach the passenger deck…

You can then simply disembark with the vehicles, genius! One will definitely remember this method of transport for the future…

When researching the accessibility of Greek islands, the majority of posts discussed how inaccessible such places are bar the ‘main’ ones i.e. Crete. As a result, one really didn’t know what to expect, especially as the island of Aegina was chosen purely at random at the ticket office!

During the first few minutes of being on the island, it was clear that accessibility had been considered as ramps and level access into shops and restaurants were noticeable (putting Athens to shame!). Even drop kerbs are painted…

Now, this is me we are talking about and everyone knows how I like to stray away from the tourist areas and attempt to gain an insight into daily life hence a wander around the immediate neighbourhoods was necessary…

Even the local cafés/hangouts had level access, come on Athens! After sampling some Greek cuisine and wandering around more arachnology, it was time to head back to the ferry, however I would highly recommend making a trip if you find yourself in Athens. I was also told to give a shout out to Saronic Ferries for their accessibility features so there it is!

The good news is that one has managed to switch to another hotel room over the other side of the building so hopefully normal sleeping hours will resume!

Tomorrows plan is to visit the waterfront area including the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.

Day 2 (Athens) – Greek Mythology and History

Whilst temperatures are currently in the high 20Cs back in the UK, one received multiple drenchings in Athens…OK that is slightly OTT but you get the message, it was a little wet! Anyway, we headed out on our mythological quest regardless.

When I booked this semi-accessible hotel, the attraction was (in addition to said M3 metro) that it is situated along one of the main roads into the centre meaning that the majority of things are in walking distance. What one didn’t bargain for was that it is a busy dual carriageway and the drop kerbs are either in a pothole or non existent (even though a wheelchair sign is painted on the floor a metre away from a giant pavement stone…just how is that accessible?)!

The first sight that we stumbled across was the first ever stadium built for the modern Olympics. You have to pay to get in but what we didn’t realise until later is that disabled individuals and one carer receive FREE access to attractions including this and The Acropolis…

As I say, the majority of the sights are in walking distance so a short walk through the park led us to the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. There are ramps around the sites, however they could do with some work but alternative ways are available!

Now to follow the tourists to The Acropolis! However, to access the elevator up to the top, you have the additional delight of trudging up a hill only to be told that the thing is out of order and to come back another day therefore the plan is to call on Thursday and see what is occurring…

As we wound our way through the picturesque Plaka neighbourhood with it’s multiple alleyways i.e. stairways and steep roads, the clouds began to form…

Despite all our best efforts to seek an accessible restaurant for Superbunny and with the deluge showing no signs of stopping, we retreated back to the hotel.

It’s an early start tomorrow as we head back to Athens International for the 50 minute flight to Crete to explore Heraklion. Oh and Superbunny gets a day off!

Day 1 (Athens) – What is going on Bristol?

Well, round two of ones 2023 travels has begun, this time in Greece! Flying out of Bristol, it is clear that the rapid expansion is having an effect as one, now has to arrive at the airside assistance point ONE HOUR before departure to enable said individuals to provide the necessary equipment to board the plane. Despite this, we were sat on the airfield for 30 minutes in the Ambulift as someone decided to let all passengers on before muggins which is always great fun…

Anyway, 3 hours and 45 minutes of flying and circling later, one touched down at Athens International airport. For those of you who wish for a fun fact, Athens International was constructed in the early 2000s in preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games! As it is located just outside the city, it allowed space for an extensive transport network, even the suburban railway stops there in addition to the M3 metro.

Factors such as the time of our arrival (20:00) may have influenced the efficiently of the airside assistance, however, we may have just set a new world record for the time between physically landing and exiting the airport.

Of course, if there is a metro or a train from any airport in the world to the city, one just can’t resist giving it a go! The M3 runs from the airport through the city and out to the cruise terminal (quite a nifty idea!) and departs every 30 (or less) minutes. As usual, I booked a hotel a few minutes walk away from a station. One good thing about the Athens metro is that the majority of stations have elevators giving you a little more choice. As the M3 is relatively new, the majority of stations in the centre provide level access from the train to the platform. However, going out to the airport is a different story after the M3 joins the suburban railway, the gaps are very large bar at the airport station.

49 minutes later and we arrived at our semi accessible hotel…more on that tomorrow! Speaking of tomorrow, we plan to head down and take in the world famous sights such as The Acropolis, Temple of Zeus etc.

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