‘It’s all Greek to me.’
This saying really hit home after travelling in Greece, the land of the gods. Gods who certainly had a different idea of common sense than I do.
I’ve travelled all over Europe, but this was my first time in a country where I wasn’t only unable to speak the language – I couldn’t even read it!
Staying in Athens, it was all I could do to remember my stop to get off the metro – the one with the two upside-down ‘y’s and the funny ‘O’ – Kallithea (Καλλιθέα).
For everything else, I relied on instinct, sounding it out (not knowing Greek at all – I was only memorising a few key letters) and making up words. Or, asking someone. Assuming I found someone who knew the answer and could speak English.
But it’s not just the language that was completely foreign to me in Greece. The bus system in Athens is utterly confusing.
While it does make sense in some way, it wasn’t the way I expected.
There are different bus stations depending on which direction you are headed, but there are no hard and fast rules deciding which destinations are serviced by which station.
If you’re travelling to the Peloponnese Peninsula in southwest Greece or Thessaloniki in northeastern Greece, you should go to the Kifissou Street Station. Probably.
Headed to central Greece or to the northwest? Maybe the Liosson Street Station is the one you’re after.
Most destinations south of Athens (in the Attica region) can be reached from the Mavromateon terminal.
Of course, be sure to check before you head off in search of any station. Then, good luck getting there.
But figuring out the bus system isn’t as important when the buses go on strike, as they did for me on my last day in Athens, along with about half of the public services in the country. Of course, we knew it was coming and planned a bit, but my friend’s flight home was rescheduled because of the strike.
Luckily, I was travelling with a friend who had hosted me through CouchSurfing a few months earlier in Switzerland. Having someone else to help navigate the streets, transportation and menus was much more relaxing than if I had been by myself.
We were hosted by an American who had lived in Athens for several years. The planning was much easier, too, having a fellow foreigner as a host to explain the Greek madness to us in terms we understood and could relate to.
He understood what was different from we would expect and could prepare us ahead of time or at least recognise and accept our many faux pas.
Greece is certainly a foreign country. But also a completely foreign language, culture and transportation system.
It was an adventure travelling in Greece to say the least.
It’s certainly a beautiful and interesting country, but honestly, I had an odd feeling of comfort leaving Greece and arriving in a new country where I could at least read the writing.
See more of my adventures in Greece here.