Culture for the Uncultured - Acropolis and All

Posted by Olly on October 5, 2004, 03:17:03 PM

The journey to sunny Athens was fairly straightforward.  Having looked at flying to Italy and getting a ferry, or driving through Europe we decided on a direct flight to Athens.  Landing at the new airport the day before the game, we jump on the tube to the centre of town, and eventually find our hostel.  We check in with the receptionist.  His name is Mr B.O. and he stinks.

Opening the door to our room, we are pleasantly surprised to find three small beds tightly packed into a room the size of Chelsea’s trophy cabinet. And we have a bathroom – which is so small that we can’t actually open the door properly as the toilet gets in the way.  The toilet seat won’t lift up properly as the wall is in the way.  You get the idea.  We open the window as its boiling hot to find ourselves staring at a grey brick wall about 3 feet away.  Nice view. Perched on the ledge is the biggest scariest pigeon we’ve ever seen, and he takes an instant disliking to Jim.  The window needs to stay open due to the incredible heat, and so Alan decides that putting his smelly trainers on the window sill will act as a suitable deterrent, preventing the pigeons from shitting everywhere.

With Richie and Dave in tow we head towards the old town for some food.  What with this being the last day of the Paralympics there are a load of athletes wandering round the town showing off their medals, but what we notice almost immediately is the incredible breast to waist ratio of all the girls wandering round.  One girl just defies belief.  She’s got the biggest pair of breasts I’ve seen in some time and the tiniest waist.  Richie and I are just sat there, mouths wide open as she bounces past.  Brilliant.

We find a place to eat, and tuck into a load of Greek salad and bread.  Jim decides he wants another salad as his meal but somehow he manages to order a massive plate of meat. Loads of it.  Lee, Ali and Brenda join us and we chat about the city and football before heading to a few other bars.  Lee decides to buy everyone ouzo, and for anyone who hasn’t tried it I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s horrible stuff.  We get steadily more drunk as the night goes on, and while Alan is learning all about ancient Greek philosophy from a few lads on the table next to us, I inform everyone that the last time I was sick was in the first year of university.

After a few more beers, the lads have other plans.  Jim and I can’t be bothered with it, as we simply want another beer and so wander off in the vague direction of our hostel trying to find somewhere open.   A small café comes to our rescue, and we sit at the bar drinking a couple of beers.  All of a sudden I feel kind of queasy, decide we have to leave and as we are walking out I manage to throw up all over the front door of the café and my shorts.  How attractive.  Must have been something I ate.

Match day and we meet up with John, Nick and Carl who have checked themselves in to our luxury hostel.  Leaving Aidan and Richie to sleep off last nights over indulgence we head to a large square for a couple of beers in the sun.  Due to the 30 degree heat, and the fact that John’s baldy head is looking decidedly pink, we wander down a side street where we come across a small protest outside a rug shop.  There had to be two tooled up riot police for every one protester, and quite what they were angry about is beyond me.  Perhaps rugs have suddenly become extremely expensive.

After a tasty breakfast, we decide to pay the ground a visit.  Its about 10 miles out of the city centre and brand new, but as with most of these new grounds it looked fairly poor from the outside – a cross between Stoke City’s ground and the toxic Riverside.  We have to wait half an hour for John to finish his shopping and when he does appear he’s carrying a home shirt for his eldest lad (amazingly he got the right size this time) and an Olympiacos Lion for his youngest!  It’s like going to the match with yer mum!

We head to Piraeus, a large port, in the hope of finding some liquid refreshment.  To be honest, this place is a bit of a dump and after half an hour of trying to find a boozer we end up at a restaurant happy to serve us.  Outside the entrance is a parrot in a cage and standing by it are two reds attempting to teach it to whistle “A Burning Ring of Fire”!  We put the banner up, and settle down to discuss what sort of team we’ll see tonight with a few beers.  Peter, Jon, Mark and Bungle turn up, and eventually lazy-arsed Dave and Richie make an appearance having just woken up.  To thank us for drinking in his restaurant, the owner gives us a free bottle of ouzo.  As nice a gesture as this is, I’d have preferred a beer, but not wanting to offend we each have a couple of shots of the devils drink.

We have no problem getting in the ground, and find a spec for our banner at the back of our section. Inside, the ground looks very impressive, with red everywhere, and banners all round the outside of the pitch.  We’ve brought no more than 900 fans with us, and most seem a little worse for wear.  As the teams come out, the ground erupts with flares going off all over the place, creating a fantastic atmosphere before an extremely dull game.  I’m not going to go into details about the match, save to say that it was terrible.  Our support was dreadful, one of the worst for a long time, with most of our fans sat silently throughout the game, while the Greeks were going mental.  As the ground emptied, two Olympiacos fans ran across the pitch to us with a large banner with the words “96 + 21 Gone but not Forgotten”. What a superb gesture, and one that was appreciated by every single one of us.

The old Karaiskaki Stadium is unfortunately marked by the worst tragedy ever to hit Greek sport.  On the 8th of February 1981, Olympiacos beat AEK Athens 6 – 0, and the final whistle saw thousands of fans rushing to the exits, trying to get to the stadium's main entrance and celebrate with the players.  The stairs of Gate 7 became a death trap.  The doors were almost closed and the turnstiles still in place, making exit almost impossible.  Unaware of what was happening below them, fans continued to come down from the stands, crushing those in front.  The fatal accident left tens of fans seriously injured and 21 young people dead, most by asphyxiation.  As a mark of respect Olympiacos’ new ground now has 21 seats in a group, with the names of those who passed away on them.  These seats will forever remain empty.

As it’s midnight very few places are open after the game, and so I jump in a taxi with Jon and Mark and head slightly out of town to find a watering hole.  Fifteen minutes later and our driver pulls up outside a club – with a slightly strange looking “woman” sitting outside.  It suddenly dawns on us that we have been driven to a drag club (totally against our wishes – honest!), and so quickly jump back in the taxi and order him to take us back to the city.  A couple more hours on the beer, and it’s time for me to head home.  I recognise the large square from earlier in the day, and using my drunk radar attempt to walk back to my hostel.  Twenty minutes later, and hopelessly lost, I jump in a taxi.  Now I can’t remember the name of the hostel, or the street it’s on.  All I can remember is that its about 5 minutes walk from Omonias Square, and if I can just get there I’ll be fine.

Me: “Heya mate, can you take me to Omonias Square please?”
Taxi man: “Sorry, where?”
Me: “Omonias Square please mate?”
Taxi man: “I don’t understand. Sorry”
Me: “Look mate. I’m lost. I really need to get to O M O N I A S Square”
Taxi man: “But you are here. This is Omonias Square.”

I take a quick look around and he’s right! Thanking him I run off down the road and find my hostel no problem, before promptly passing out fully clothed on my bed.  Somewhere around 5.30 in the morning I wake up really needing a shit and so squeeze through the door into the bathroom.  I pull down my kecks and sit down on the toilet in relief.  Some time later I wake up to find myself still sat on the toilet. Its 8.30 in the morning. I have somehow managed to fall asleep for three whole hours on the shitter!

A few hours later we round up the troops and leave our luxurious residence.  My thighs are really really sore after a night spent asleep in a squat position, and so to sort them out we decide to walk up the hill to the Parthenon and see the Acropolis.  What a place.  For those of you interested in ancient Greek architecture this is the place for you.  And the view was incredible.  After looking round, we decide to unfurl the banner for a quick photo in front of the Acropolis.  Suddenly all hell breaks loose, as we hear loud whistles being blown all around us.  Looking to our left, a Zola Bud look-a-like is running over in our direction faster than a Greek sprinter on steroids.  She skids to a halt, and starts to grab the banner off us as we look on in shock.  Suddenly I cotton on to what is going on, and start wrestling her for it, as she blabbers on in Greek.  Eventually with peace restored another, more helpful, lady politely explains to us that symbols of any kind are not allowed at the Parthanon as it is a sacred site.  We apologise and explain that we did not mean any harm, and with our banner and Greek-Liverpool relations intact head off down the hill, leaving Zola Bud to recover from her 100m dash.

After a bit more scran, during which we are offered a variety of mahogany horse statues and lace table cloths, we head off to the tube to get back to the airport.  Having not bought a ticket for 3 days, we decide against the 10 euro fare, and hop on for free.  Twenty minutes down the line, and up ahead we see two ticket inspectors checking tickets.  Between the eight of us we are looking at a fine of 240 euro.  As they reach a group of other reds they get out a pad and start writing out fines.  Seeing this as a signal to disappear we all grab our bags and scarper to the back of the train. The ticket inspectors start to speed up as we near the airport, and so cue 8 lads all huddled at the extreme back of the train willing the driver to put his foot down.  Just as the inspectors reach our carriage, we pull in to the platform, the doors open and we all pile out and rush up the stairs to freedom.  Lovely.

Next stop – A Coruna.

© Olly 2004

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