From Plaka to Vikaki
"AN APHRODITE FOR ME !"
The sky of Athens was clear this early morning as I was wandering in Syntagma and Plaka looking for an inexpensive hotel, having just arrived from Ioannina… There was not a trace of cloud… Fine! I thought… But then again what was that flashes? Maybe some tourists taking pictures ? But at 7 pm would that be possible? As I walked in Athens biggest pedestrian street, Ermou, the mystery solved… It was not flashlight, it was lightnings!….Yes, although the sky was clear, in the far background, just above the parliament building appeared the weird shape of an small dark-purple mushroom-like cloud, in the middle of which tens of lightnings was dancing!…. It was an unusual and impressive spectacle, since there was not trace of sound just light!
The answer of the hotel owners tend to become stereotype: -"We are full-booked, I am sorry"!
-"How it comes" I asked a hotel receptionist : "is that normal by this season, mid of September to be all hotels full booked?!" -"Yes, its pretty normal, usually during Sept/Oct it's impossible to found a room in Plaka!" he answered…. Despite the discouraging signs, I kept asking and after 10 or more hotels, it came a positive answer… It was in Apollonos street, next to the full-booked "Hermes" hotel, while I was desperated and 100% sure that I was going to hear once again the answer "I am sorry", surprisingly I heard : -"Yes, there is a room available"!… And the receptionist of "Aphrodite Hotel" added: "35 Euro's, breakfast included, and in 10 minutes will be available"! No more than 20 minutes later, I was returning to the hotel … "I am back" I said, and the receptionist added "you couldn't do otherwise!" giving to me the key of the "608" room. It was in the last floor, the 6th. The room was rather small, but likeable, the WC with shower fine…. But the best surprise was came as I removed the window's curtain: Voila! From there I was able to admire one of the best views of Akropolis I ever show! And plus a panoramic sight of Athen's most beautiful district, the picturesque Plaka !
"PLAKA: IN HEPHAESTUS ALLEYS"
It was saturday morning and in a couple of hours, just a few blocks nearby, in Monastiraki, Greece's most famous flea-market was going to take place! Needless to say that I have spent the whole morning and noon in Monastiraki , exploring antique and book stores! Next morning, Sunday, I went to the also nearby (2 blocks!) Cathedral of Athens. There were a lot of people there, priests and even the Archibishop of Athens and Greece, Hristodulos himself! …. My old pal Andreas called me and we met eachother later on Monastiraki, under heavy rain. On Sundays it's the official day of the Monastiraki flea-market but I always prefer going there on Saturdays because there is fewer people on the latter day. On Sunday's there is a such big crowd that hardly you can walk, pick-pokers paradise!
Next morning, I left Plaka, having only positive impressions from "Aphrodite: Hotel (The breakfast was also OK too !). I needed to be closer to the Omonia square (the heart of Athens) from where I was going to catch the urban bus leading to the extra-urban coach station to return to Ioannina. In Omonia, the hotels, unlike those of Plaka, had plenty of rooms available. And the hotels are also cheaper here. Imagine that there was a room in a decent hotel for just 15 Euro per night! But I have not liked the place. I preferred the better looking hotel "Achillion" in Agiou Konstandinou street. The price was also 35 Euro's but without breakfast. Here the room was spacious (also 2-bedded!), with full air-conditioning and a color TV! I got room nr. 618, also in the 6th floor, but no great view here, since however I have asked for a room with no face to the main (and noisy!) street!…
It was monday and with much surprise I noticed that there was no need to use a ticket in the Metro! I have asked somebody who told me that today was the "european day of public transportations" or something like that… He also told me that on this day, the Metro and urban busses are for free! No need to buy a ticket!…. Nice surprise!
"A MAD MOTORCYCLE !"
However, later I had an unfortunate incident that hopefully ended without any harm (for me). I was walking in a 5-meter wide street-side pavement, in the center of Athens, while ringed my handy phone. I was trying to hear who was talking, when I felt a pain in my hand and a push like if I was pushed by some hurried pedestrian, from the back. In the same time I heard a noise, and turning back I 've seen a motorcycle along its rider, to lie down to the pavement!… The man cried: -"Somebody take that moto from me please"!… I noticed that his leg was trapped under the fallen motorcycle and with the help of another person we rised the motorcycle.
-"Are you O.K."?! I asked the man, but I could not understand what he was saying. He took off his boot and sock, and bare-foot he gamboled in the pavement! In the meantime the shop-owners that have heard the noise, came out of their shops. The man told me : -"You, come here!". He had a bass and strange voice. He was dark,tall, athletic and worn dark sun-glasses. The shop owners was making me some strange and discreet "signals" to me nodding and moving they heads and hands as if saying "go away". I could not understand why! Some instances later the man was trying to say something, but his pronunciation was difficult to be understood. I started to realize that the man was not OK, and not because of the fall of the moto!…It seemed that he was or drunk or drug-addicted ! There was not other explanation.
-"Give me 50 Euro's" he said… I was angry and surprised! The shop -owners who heard this laughed: -"You was driving your motorcycle ON the street-side pavement (where only pedestrians are allowed to walk) and you ask for money!?! Ha-ha!"… The shop-owners keep telling me to leave as soon as I could. "Perhaps they knew something about this man that I didn't knew", I thought. Perhaps he was dangerous, member of a local mafia, or most possible a junkie if not a drug dealer! … Or perhaps he was doing that on purpose, to pretend hitting people and then asking money!…Having all that in mind, I decided that it was wiser to …escape, and so I did, leaving the peculiar motorcycle rider together with his moto and the shop-owners!
I returned to the hotel shocked. Because it was not something that could happened everyday! A motorcycle hitting me in my back, without harming me except a small scratch in my hand, in a 5-meter wide street-side pavement!!!
Any way I decided to abbreviate my stay in Athens. The same afternoon I met my old friend Athina and we had dinner in a nearby Italian restaurant.
"THE CALL OF NATURE!"
Next morning I received a call for Christos Lampris the owner of "Trekking Hellas" ecotourist office in Ioannina, who have also been my trainer in the "M..M." (Middle Mountain) Guide school past Spring….
-"Are you available on Wednesday?" he asked me.
-"Do you know where I am"?! …: in Athens!"…
-"We have some people who want to cross Vikaki" said Lampris ,"do you know this itinerary?"
-"No, unfortunatelly, I have never been there before" I said, "although , I have heard and read many interesting description of the place!"…
-"OK, I will found somebody else", Lampris answered, "but it would be good to go together with them, in order to learn the way!"….
So, here I am on Vikaki, together with Philippos, a young man from Athens who's studying "landscape design" in the nearby city Arta (1,1/2 hrs southern of Ioannina, by car) and a a French couple, a young man and woman. We met them in Perama and drove to Kipi village, in central Zagori. There (see letter "B" on map) we left one of the cars and with the other car we drove till Rogovo monastery (letter "A" in the map), That was our walking start point. After a brief way down we arrived in the river bed.
-"Usually, it is supposed that on this time of the year, the river-bed must be dry" , Philippos said, and added: "but because of the lots of rainfalls this summer, there must be lot of water now"! And so it was! After wearing our life-vests and rafting suits, we started our "adventure"!
See the photos and virtually join us in this adventure!
It took us about three hours to cross the canyon. Vikaki (means the "small Vikos") it is a secondary canyon that ends off course to the impressive Vikos Canyon. The part we explored starts from Rogovo monastery and ends in Kipi village.
It was a great experience. The waters had a temperature about 10oC but we had no problem because we were wearing the rafting suits. I had an "single-use" underwater camera with me. Unfortunately, I did not managed to found an underwater camera WITH flashlight in Ioannina… I knew that in the canyon it was going to be shady, that's why I needed the flash. I only managed to found a 400 ASA camera. As a result of that, most of the pictures were, alas, too dark !
However here you can see some of them, and I hope that they will help you to "virtually" participate in our small white- water adventure in Vikaki !.....
You can see the pictures I took during the Vikaki adventure in the following website: http://www.geocities.com/nikodangel/vikaki.html