After our bicycles have made the long journey home, we are now dependent on other means of transport. The destination is Thessaloniki and we have heard that it is easily accessible by train from Piraeus. As we are used to in Switzerland, we book the tickets online so that we don't have to worry about anything the next morning.
We arrive early at the station, where we are kindly shown which track the train will take. We look in vain for signs here. The first train comes and goes, ours leaves a little later. Time passes and no train is to be seen. People gather on the platform, but everyone looks relaxed, so we don't worry. Until suddenly a railway employee appears and shouts something in Greek to the crowd, whereupon a small commotion breaks out. When we ask her if she could say it in English, she answers with "no" and turns away. Fortunately, other travellers immediately jump into the breach and explain to us that the train to Athens, where we have to change trains, is cancelled. There would be no replacement train either, so we would have to look for alternatives ourselves. But before we can even think about the best way to do this, a stressed young man asks us if we want to share a taxi with him. There are about 15 minutes until the departure of the connecting train, so we agree and hurry outside. We quickly find a taxi, which immediately sets off on the not too far journey. While we were still able to comfortably pass the lines of cars on our bikes, we are now standing in the middle of Athens' morning traffic. Of course, we don't make it to the Athens train station at nearly the right time, much to the annoyance of our companion.
At least we are now at the right place, the main station of Athens. That means a small station building and eight tracks, three of which are still in use (see cover picture). Everything looks run down. The railway seems to be more of a niche product in Greece, which doesn't exactly surprise us after our experience. Now we have to exchange the ticket we have already bought for a new one. At least we have enough time, because the train to Thessaloniki only runs every three hours. One is almost willing to say "fortunately", because this process takes what feels like an eternity. After about 15 minutes, during which the lady in the ticket office really maltreated the keyboard, we hold the new tickets in our hands. Now we have to wait again.
Luckily, the second train runs on time and we arrive in Thessaloniki after all. It is hardly necessary to mention that this station is in even worse condition than the one in Athens. The best days of this means of transport are probably a while ago and we can't help but think a little wistfully of the Swiss Federal Railways. How much we have been annoyed by a few minutes' delay in the past. A smile flits across our faces.