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  Nr. 37 - May 2001
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Eleftherios Venizelos Airport

by Vicki Preston, May 2001
For most people the name of the new Athens airport is such a mouthful that they prefer to call it simply "Spata Airport" referring to the area in which it is located in the eastern outskirts of Athens.

When I arrived there for the first time on the easyJet overnight ("redeye") flight from the UK in April, the 658 billion drachma Spata airport had already been open for about three weeks (since 28th March). During that time there have been many reports of teething difficulties - cancelled flights, lost baggage, etc, but it seemed by the time I arrived that most of these had been ironed out. Indeed my first impression was "Are we really in Greece?" Except for the signs in Greek & English, there was absolutely nothing reminiscent of this country in the pristine, almost sterile, sleek silver and blue main airport building. I felt an immediate sense of nostalgia for the scruffy, old, yet sweetly familiar, building of the Hellenikon Airport in Glyfada (which will now be turned into a public park). My sense of somehow having landed in the wrong country by mistake was further highlighted by the quite astonishing announcement: "May we remind you that smoking is not permitted in the airport except in the designated areas" broadcast with perfect clarity throughout the building every few minutes. No smoking in a Greek airport?!!! OK - now I was sure I was in Germany (the consortium that built the airport was, in fact, led by the German firm Hochtief).

A visit to the restrooms (though they seem a little thin on the ground for such a huge terminal) revealed further surprises -they were spotless, each cubicle with a tiny silver bin and no "warning" notices. Did this really mean it's OK to put paper down the loo? Now, this is progress! Brand-new shiny trolleys were available for 350drs (the machine takes 1000 drachma notes and gives change). Get one if your case is heavy - you may have to do quite a lot of walking. I didn't see any moving walkways at all, although a map of the airport shows that they exist on the "underground link" area to the satellite terminal.

As I exited from the customs area, I found an information desk (staffed at 5am !) immediately opposite (there are six such desks located throughout the airport) where a very helpful young lady gave me all the information I needed about getting into central Athens and Pireaus. A taxi to either costs around 5,000drs (don't forget the double tariff if it's before 6am) and the journey takes between 30-40 mins. A taxi to the port of Rafina is around 2,000drs and takes about 20 minutes. There are regular buses (around every 20 mins during the day) to Piraeus (No.96), Syntagma Square (No.95) and the Metro station Ethniki Amyna/Pentagon (No.94). The Syntagma and Pireaus buses also run through the night at about 40 minute intervals. Bus tickets cost 1000drs and are valid for 24 hours for unlimited use on the bus, metro, trolleys or regular Athens buses.

I took the 96 bus from the terminal directly to Pireaus which took exactly one hour. I could hardly believe the whole process had gone so smoothly. I went to purchase my boat ticket, only to be told that there were no boats running on account of the weather. Aaah - now I knew I was home!
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