Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 10: Athens, Greece

The last leg of my journey in the summer of 2016 was to Athens, Greece. Just shy of midnight, on Friday the 19th of August, I boarded a night-train from Sofia, Bulgaria to Thessaloniki. I had a compartment to myself. This seemed great at first but then I found myself a bit more concerned by something happening than if I’d been sharing with people. Though nothing happened other than one passport check at 3am.

Arrived in Thessaloniki on time at 6:30am, despite leaving Sofia, Bulgaria late. I was travelling his whole time with an interrail ticket.

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So I hopped on the next train to Athens which turned out to be at 7:04am. It was very sunny and warm so I slept most of the way.

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However, I discovered reservations, after tickets, are mandatory on trains in Greece. I should’ve checked this out before but the ticket-checker was obviously used to this. They said they’d come back around after a while to get €20 off me – which turned out to be the reservation fee and not a fine!

I found out later upon waking up again that I was in fact sat in someone else’s seat; no need for reservation signs if EVERYONE reserves.

Arrived in Athens shortly after 1:30pm and hard time figuring out the Metro. Eventually got the Metro to Omonia and walked a bit through a rough looking area to a nice looking hotel.

I’d managed to save some money while travelling and had decided to stay in a hotel for my last stop. But in actuality this hotel was not much nicer than any hostel I’d stayed in. I also ended up being a bit bored and lonely. All the activities advertised in the hotel were for people who travelled with a lot more money than me. A good lesson though!

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That said, balcony views are always nice.

The next day I took the tram to the coast – which was definitely where I should’ve stayed instead! I found a beach bar. I’d forgotten my swim wear but it was nice to sit and watch the water in the shade, eat pasta for breakfast and see cats.

I then visited the Sea-Turtle Centre.

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It’s nice to see sea-turtles! But also sad as they’re all injured and sick, and mostly on purpose by people. My tour guide did tell me that most of them make a full recovery and get released back into the wild.

My tour guide, upon finding out I was ravelling alone, invited me to come swimming with a group on them that evening. I ended up taking the wrong tram and being totally delayed, but I did luckily get to find them the next day!

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Monday, I visited the flea market and bought some gifts to bring home, before meeting up with the sea-turtle tour guide.

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They took me for a drive around Athens, up the mountains and to a coffee shop. We then picked up another volunteer from the Sea-Turtle Centre and drove out to Poseidon’s Temple. It was crazy hot, between 35-40 degrees Celsius all day. The road out was also very windy, but it was worth it!

On the way back we stopped in a different beach bar. It was a bit postcard-like.

The evening I packed and prepared all my stuff to fly back to Ireland the next day.

The bus to the airport from Syntagma was a nice journey. It was nice to see the landscape and mountains again.

‘Lights, Circus, Action’- the Galway Community Circus Cabaret show – 21.05.2014

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Walking into the main hall of St Joseph’s Community Centre would never be considered boring. Being perpetually rigged with aerial equipment and the weekly timetable nearly completely monopolized by the circus at this point, you’ll usually end up walking into a circus class at any time of day.

But last Wednesday was an especially good time for people wandering into the hall. The walls were decorated on opposite sides with circus’ tent walls, all seats were lined up ready-and-waiting, and a beautiful bake sale arranged.

Being best known for it’s eclectic collection of aerialists, the show unsurprisingly had a lot of trapeze acts – static, singles, doubles and triple – as well as silk and hoop. But if that wasn’t top of your wishlist to see, have no fear, because the manipulators are here! With plate spinning, hula hoop, gymnastics, juggling, and of course the grand acrobatic finale, there was something to satiate all tastes.

The unfortunate thing about circus shows is that it can be hard to fully appreciate how difficult it is to replicate what you’re seeing. Thankfully your circus-experienced reviewer is here to tell you that this show in fact had mad skills.

When you watch a circus performer, the piece you see is merely a minute glimpse into the months and years of training it’s taken to get to this point. The strength, flexibility, coordination and creativity are never gained in few days. But that’s the most impressive thing about it; they make it look easy.

I didn’t feel the time go by, as I intently watched jugglers manipulate objects or raised my gaze to the aerialists, before we came to the interval. Take your pick of sweet treats before you sit to watch the second act. Once again the time passes by without my noticing before we come to the finale. Death-defying heights were achieved in this acrobatic quintet, as two people crouch down, one person standing on either’s back, and the fifth person balanced on top. They even had a quintessential example of a simple story-line, four policemen chasing down a robber, which tied the act together.

If any mistakes were made they were revealed only by a performer’s own evident annoyance with themselves; something I trust to improve with time. Overall the evening was very enjoyable and the show was impressive, to say the least. If you can find any evening half as entertaining for just €5, I’ll eat my unicycle (no mean feat – trust me on that)!

‘Word Becomes Flesh’ by the Living Word Project

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First performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph in 2003, Word Becomes Flesh took the Main Stage in the Redfern Arts Centre, Keene State College, New Hampshire early October 2013. The performance combines elements of dance, hip-hop, live music and spoken-word poetry. It gives an insight into the world of pregnancy from the point of view of a young black man.

The play was devised from the Joseph’s own experiences; getting his girlfriend pregnant, his absent father, and simply existing as a black man in America. Redone with five performers, they deliver the majority of the show by performing letters to the unborn son. It conveys true anger and frustration at the historical atrocities and myriad of injustices stacked against the black male before he is even born. Joseph evokes in his audience the anger he feels at this, as well as the sad empathy he feels for his unborn son.

He is by no means overly proud. Looking at himself critically he also admits the flaws in his character, admitting to contemplating leaving, as his father did to him, and even his darkest thoughts involving the mother losing the child.

While the theme may seem over-specific to be appreciated by a wide audience, it tackles a number of issues particular to a wide range of people. They discuss in detail how the pregnancy came about, the relationships they have with the women involved, relationships with their own fathers, and the world they expect their sons to inherit. The play also touches on abortion, domestic violence, slavery, infidelity and also the father-daughter relationship. Common fears are related such as “Will I make a good parent? How can I change to lead a better example? Will my child make the same mistakes I did?”

At 80-minutes the performance is an impressive show of strength and stamina on the actor-dancer-poets’ parts, but is never boring or tedious. The almost empty stage lent itself greatly to the atmospheres and ideas being conveyed. As only chairs are ever brought on, nothing detracted from the back lighting of the wall. Scenes were set mostly by the live-music playing at the time, which ran through a range of genres to suitably set each scene.

The performance, funny but mature, was very well received by everyone in attendance. It could heard cropping up in casual discussion on campus for days following, which think says a lot.

‘A Tender Thing’

So, last Saturday I traveled up to Dublin to see ‘A Tender Thing’ in the Project Arts Centre. It was a matinée and the light atmosphere entering the theatre did not in the least bit prepare me for what I would watch.

After walking into the already crowded auditorium we took our seats in the second row and sat in awe momentarily gazing at the spotless set, decorated in shades of Royal Blue, perfectly depicting a tastefully laid-out bedroom with a door leading out on my left, and a bathroom to my right. A double bed, chair, dressing table and wardrobe sat on stage.

Before it started my theatre companions filled me in on it a bit; written by Ben Power, it’s based on Romeo and Juliet, as if they hadn’t died at the end. It has two rather famous actors; Owen Roe playing Romeo and Olwen Fouéré playing Juliet.

I should mention, I have never cried at a play before (and I do not cry very often as is). Nothing could have prepared me for the way I  would sob uncontrollably during that play.

Romeo comes on stage: “Give me the light”. The lights come up for the first time of many in a visually stunning way.

The play opens with explaining, if a bit cryptically, what is to come. Juliet is bound to die, by her own [husband’s] hand, after falling fatally ill. It starts rightly with them proclaiming love for each other. Early on Juliet reveals she’s quite sick. After this scene a few sniffs and subtle wiping of eyes could be observed. Later on when Juliet fails to slide off the bed and suffers incontinence, Romeo finds her on the floor crying and shouting “I sicken love!”. I completely broke down and would have left, if I hadn’t had about a dozen people blocking my exit.

I was glad I stayed though. It had some very striking moments you rarely see on stage, which brought to it a very real and raw beauty. I was also slightly wowed by the mechanics of the stage, including the slide away bed and secret hidden entrances.

After a wondrous dance piece at the end I left the auditorium a feeling a bit shook but also uplifted.