Athens and Greece – getting from place to place

Getting Around

Travelling around Greece is straightforward. On this, my second solo trip, I flew to Athens overnight with Air Baltic (on time, efficient) from Edinburgh; walked and took the metro in the capital; and then went to Thessaloniki, Komotini in the north, and the village of Proskinites by bus to see my friends’ new born baby. There I either walked or was driven in the jeep. I returned to Thessaloníki the same way, and then flew to Paris with Transavia for 39 euros.

Morning sun on religious building
Greek Orthodox Church, Proskinites, Greece

Travel around Athens

Crossing the road: Wherever you are, beware the motorised scooters – either being driven wildly with one or more people on them, or abandoned in the middle of pavements.

Scooter on pavement
Looks tame sitting on its own like that I know, but add 1+ humans and it becomes lethal!

Like everywhere else in Europe, look left before crossing the road!

Old urns in terracotta
Museum antiquities exhibited in Acropolis Metro station

The Athens Metro

Metros are clean, cool in temperature, crowded at rush hour as anywhere in Europe, efficient, regular and all stations are announced in English as well as Greek. Ticket machines are quite easy to use and you can choose to view the screen in English. Tickets cost 2.70 euros for 2 tickets and go down in price if you buy more. You can use one anywhere within 90 minutes, which I didn’t realise and so wasted a second one on a bus connection. Make sure you register your ticket on the machine both in and out of the metro, and in (but not out) on the buses.

Ancient statuary
Reclining male nude – statue in Acropolis Metro station, Athens, Greece

Trains, buses and travel out of Athens

I took the Athens to Thessaloniki train, even though there is a lot of bad press to be found on the internet about trains in Greece. The service was clean and smooth (“better than the UK, like Italy” said my neighbour!) You can book online via the OSE website.

Station platform with book store
Athens mainline train station, Greece

Bus travel

For the rest of Greece, the bus is better, but finding information and booking by website is hard work if you don’t read Greek. The main page of the main Greek bus company website (ktelmacedonia.gr) comes up in English on my phone, but the list of places does not and anyway, even looking up the Greek spelling for the places didn’t mean that they appeared on the list although they do have buses which go there! On my laptop, the website was impossible for me to operate. If you are stuck, you could try asking a friendly waitress as they usually speak great English and can often be really helpful making calls for you.

A round tower and a metal serrated monument
Interesting juxtaposition of satellite tower and saw sculpture, Thessaloniki, Greece

I have discovered this since writing the above : Bus tickets pagebus website KTEL Macedonia – new e tickets available. I am leaving both sets of information so that you have 2 options. Please leave a comment if you find the best way and that will help others. Thank you.

You can also buy ferry tickets, and transport or store luggage through KTEL Macedonia (as above).

The police boarded the Komotini – Thessaloniki bus, looked at random people’s passports, and took 3 men off this morning who had no papers.

Green fertile countryside flashes by through train window
On the way to Thessaloniki by train

Which bus station?

It is therefore best to book at the bus station (KTEL has 2 bus stations in Athens: Kifissos and Liossion. Note that when it asks you which one you want to leave from, it also includes ‘Pireus, Athens’ which is actually half an hour away by car so you don’t want that unless you happen to be staying near there). Alternatively you can ring up: I got a very nice man on the phone who spoke manageable English and he took my name and gave me the information and advice I needed. ( When I got there a few days later and went to buy the ticket, he introduced himself to me saying it was he who I had spoken to – what service!) There is a 25 per cent discount in advance which is hard if you are making spontaneous decisions.

Rural scene with terracotta roof
The Greek countryside between Athens and Thessaloniki

Other

There is no bla bla car (online car sharing in France, Spain etc) here in Greece. There are regular tolls along the motorways – between 3-13 euros depending on the distance. See below for other people’s blogs about travelling in Greece.

Bus Athens to Thessaloniki 39 euros one way, 59 euros return (note that the English translation says ‘refund’ instead of ‘return’!

A round old stone building by the sea
The White Tower, Thessaloniki, Greece

23 euros bus Komotini to Thessaloniki (6 hours)

2 euros X1 bus Thessaloniki (dome) Macedonia bus station to airport. Every half hour. Buy ticket from kiosk by bus stop.Very crowded. 40 – 60 minutes.

1.50 euros bus Proskinites to Komotini

Here is a good Athens Guide https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/greece-travel-tips/#getaround

Proskynites

November 2018

It is all about the animals here in Proskynites, a small village located in northern Greece, in the Thrace region.

12-15 hens and cockerals
When I arrived the tabby was at home and the mother and all her kittens were at the field

A few days later the same mother, a tabby/white mix with a wonky eye, joined us at the house having made the journey herself (it took me 25 minutes to walk but maybe she knew a short cut!)

The queen, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt, but actually establishing her superiority over the resident female within a very short time
Leaving the rest behind to fight amongst themselves
And look very sweet
Playing among the bales
And always waiting to be fed and given affection
Somehow not as attractive as these turkeys who live by the petrol station

The land of Thrace also lies in Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east. The goddess of the same name was daughter of Oceanus and Parthenope, and sister of Europa. There is always a story.

Lea
Rosie and Lea play fighting

Proskynites boasts 2 cafés where you can sit all day drinking tsipouro (a sort of grapa distinct from ouzo by omission of star anise) if you fancy; an equal number of churches; an extremely well kitted out supermarket selling almost everything and with a spotless meat area out back; a community centre; and a bus stop where you can get a lift to Komotini which is the nearest big town (about half an hours ride at 2.30 euros).

Several times a week a gentleman hollers out over the village for 2 and a half hours. It is a Greek orthodox Church

Everywhere I spy saints – icons sitting with their back to the till in the supermarket or stuck up above the steering wheel of the bus.

On 2 floors, the house has a courtyard with a roof for training the vies over providing shade in the summer when temperatures reach the mid 30s
From the top of the steps I can see over the rooftops
A garden for tomatoes and sweetcorn

Here was some afternoon sunshine during my first 2 days and look!

Swarms of Autumn swallows swooping in front of me and once or twice settling on the wires in their hundreds

Our days are mapped out with twice regular visits to the field ( 10 minutes away by jeep) to feed, water and look after the horses, one of whom has a sneezy cough.

Giselle resplendent in her coat and Juli
A very necessary 4-wheel drive

Anyone who loves horses enough to do this is bound for heaven in my opinion, particularly with winds wailing from the Russian plains, temperatures of 4 degrees or torrential rain, the rest of us mere mortals would stay at home.

The dogs taunt the horses something dreadful, causing them to gallop around and kick up their hind legs

Not much further on is an abandoned village. The authorities offered them compensation in the form of land if they would vacate because it was too expensive to run electricity there. So the tale is told.

It is cotton country and at this time of year there are cotton wool balls in the hedgerows, beside the road, in transporter trucks and vestiges still in the fields.

The tracks all look the same unless you learn to identify the different hills surrounding them.

They looked dramatic as the light waned at 5pm
A flock of goats with herder and dogs cause Lea and Rosie great excitement

They took absolutely no notice of me and only came back when they were effectively seen off.

Turn left just before the disused silo

This part of Greece is so close to the border that you can almost see across to Turkey, a non-EU country.

The rain causes the clay to coagulate around our boots
And tyres

Causing it to fly off in chunky lumps when we once more gain the road.

Wild cucumbers – poisonous although made into a tincture and used sparingly the drops are good for sinusitis
Quinces fallen by the roadside.

Wrapped in foil and baked in the oven on top of the wood burner, they were delicious for breakfast.

Several spectacular sunsets before the rain came and then the full moon
Sunset, Proskynites, Greece.

Cycle route through the area

https://www.mapmyride.com/gr/komotini-east-macedonia-and-thrace/proskinites-route-139669967