This Time Last Year – Part 4: A Day in Athens

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

24 April 2016 – Athens

I wake up in Greece. It’s a glorious day. The Marina Alimos Apartments where I am staying are very close to the Commonwealth Graves Commission cemetery at Phaleron where Anzac Day services will be held the next day. I get dressed and walk 200 metres along the much-in-need-of-repair footpath and I’m there. Like all CWGC cemeteries, it’s immaculate. And it’s huge.

Phaleron Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Athens, Greece

Phaleron Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Athens, Greece

I need food. There are a couple of shops not too far from the apartments. I find the Greek equivalent of a local dairy back home. I buy yoghurt and fruit for breakfast.

Later I catch the tram into Syntagma right in the heart of Athens. I didn’t go to the Military Museum on my last visit as it was closed the day we were there. I wonder what I would learn about the Battle Of Greece? Sadly nothing. The arrival of the Allies in March 1941 and the events that happened after April 6th 1941 when Germany declared war on Greece; the formation of the second ANZAC Corps on April 12th 1941 and the chaotic retreat and final evacuation of the Allied Troops just over 2 weeks later - with almost 10,000 Prisoners of War taken including 1856 Kiwis - have been buried in the shadows of the Battle of Crete.

I walk back to Syntagma via the Botanic Gardens first having to skirt around a protest rally. The trees are lined with orange trees bright with fruit. Why don’t people eat them? Outside the Presidential Palace a guard in traditional ‘Evzone’ uniform stands by his sentry booth.

Guard outside the Presidential Palace

Walking through the gardens I hear this haunting music. It is an electric guitarist playing ‘Cavatina’. I stop in my tracks. It is the music I chose for Neil’s funeral. It’s like a message saying he is there and looking after me.

I head to Monastiraki Square, a vibrant and colourful tourist mecca in the daytime and the vibrant and hip place to be at night. In 2013 we stayed at the A for Athens hotel with a balcony room overlooking the square and had a ringside seat to the entertainment.

I catch the train to the stop before Piraeus then the tram back to Alimos. I am meeting Tom Phillips a Kiwi living in London, and his partner Rowena. Both our Dad’s become POWs in Kalamata. We will travel there together.

I walk to Tom & Rowena’s more upmarket hotel on the other side of the cemetery. We go to the roof top bar. They ask me if I would like to order the wine. I choose Sigalis Assyrtiko 2015 from the island of Santorini. I’ve had it before and believe it to be one of the best. I am not disappointed and Rowena and Tom are impressed.

Santinori Sigalis Assyrtiko

We dine across the tramlines at Edem Bar on the beach. The sun sets over the Peloponnese where we will be heading tomorrow after lunch. But first we will attend Anzac Day services.

Sunset from Edem Bar, Athens

Sunset from Edem Bar, Athens

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