How to beg, borrow and steal your way out of Athens during a riot...

 Lack of money while travelling can put anyone in amusing, difficult, or sometimes just exhausting situations, and our final day in Greece this summer proved to be all three of these things. Casually cooking pancakes on the morning of our flight, we overheard a boy moaning about having to walk into the Acropolis from our hostel. Having done this in about half an hour the day before, we asked him what the problem was and took his reports of a capital-wide strike with a pinch of salt, casually continuing our pancake feast until a computer was free for Googling the situation. At this point, our plans crumpled around us: not only were there no trains, trams, buses or metro, but the taxi drivers had chosen that day to rebel against the government's plans to liberalise the taxi sector too and there was even a strike at the airport. Maybe we could walk? A quick Googlemap later and that option wasn't looking hopeful. The airport was 30km out of the city, along a motorway, and hitching in a riot didn't seem like the best plan either. It was the first time when our motto of, "Everything works out in the end" seemed to be mocking us.

Still fairly calm at this point, we decided to go wandering around the city asking for help. Following a few tip-offs, we trekked through the steadily increasing numbers of protesters for several hours, looking like woodlice on their hind legs with our bags. It was quite an effort in the midday sun, and it got to the point where even the creepy topless man with the bashed up car, who popped his head out the window suggesting “Taxi?” seemed like a possible option. Eventually, we found a Greek man who was also trying to get to the airport. As we were waiting with him at a bus-stop, hoping for the best, we heard the protest approaching. In the distance, it sounded like a battalion of Orcs, but as it got closer we could see that they were peaceful students rather than angry rioters. Our main problem with the protesters was that they had caused the road we were waiting at to be cordoned off. How would the bus get down? Even if it was on its way, it couldn’t have got to us as we sat on our island bus-stop in the sea of protesters.

Thankfully, as has always happened to me so far, we had found a knight in shining armour in the Greek man. After half an hour or so of talking rapidly into his phone, he eventually beckoned for us to follow him on another sweaty hike through the city, to yet another bus stop, where to our relief we saw not only one, but many buses. Our saviour probably missed his flight, but we got there with hours to spare before our delayed plane was ready for boarding. There was even a free McDonalds for our inconvenience. Our guilty secret, a lack of travel insurance, could have resulted in serious problems that day, possibly a rather extended stay in Athens as my overdraft was maxed and there is no way I could have bought a new flight. But somehow, it was fine, as always, so far...

I originally wrote this article for Exploration-Online...

 

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