Sunday, June 24, 2012


Woke up this morning in Piraeus, the port city a short distance from Athens. We are now well and truly in the middle of tourist season in the middle of the Med! Cruise ships were docked all around us – local and international – arriving and departing. We’ll see what things look like at the other ports of call but this certainly supports Greece’s major source of revenue – from tourism.

Had a few choices to make – could take a ship’s tour to Athens and see the sights, spending a short while in the Plaka on our own and do a bit of shopping (in fact that was our original intent). We could alternately take a ‘hop-on hop-off’ bus ride to Athens and do the same. We are only here till 1.30pm so it would be a fairly rapid look see – I’ve been here before and done that so we decided to spend the day exploring Piraeus instead.

The port services work extremely efficiently here. As you disembark from the ship shuttle buses await to whisk you to the terminal which offers duty free and local shopping opportunities (as well as the usual pro-forma security and ID check).

From a bit of a distance the port looks very attractive. Buildings up the slopes along the coast, beautiful blue ocean and sky and lovely ships and motor yachts sailing around or at anchor. Closer scrutiny shows the impact of the economic downturn here, sadly. Walking the streets you could see shopfront after shopfront shuttered and closed

Buildings half-constructed and shuttered and completed buildings partly full but falling apart.

Also many people on the street in very poor shape.

Despite this obvious evidence of things being at a low ebb here; goods in the stores are not cheap – prices in Euros but at a seeming premium. We did a bit of shopping for everyday stuff – magazines at sidewalk news stands, wine and supermarket stuff at Carrefours.

One bizarre feature was an entire street of shoe shops!?!

There was this wonderful street market selling everything the mind can conceive.

The food area was wonderful – Olives, Cheeses, fish and seafood, lovely fruits and veggies.

The meat stands displayed cuts and bits-and-bobs that left a lot to the imagination!!!!!

As a port city, Piraeus clearly caters for the industry. A maritime company had the most exquisite headquarters building.

Bookshops stocked magazines and textbooks focused on marine subjects – logistics, navigation and other esoteric subjects. Clothing stores selling uniforms for officers and staff.

On our way back to the ship, about midday, it was sunny and hot. So we sat at one of the innumerable sidewalk cafes for a drink and some munchies.

An observation: every café fully occupied with men (predominantly) sitting drinking, chatting and smoking

Interesting observation – everyone smokes. If you are averse to the smell of cigarette smoke you cant really sit at a café or enter a store (even the food stores)

Uneducated thought – are these folks living on retirement income? They are clearly not working normal hours (it was Friday). Are they out of work? Perhaps its just southern Med way of life.

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