Athens – Kindness of Strangers

A five-day public transport in Athens costs €9 to use the metro, bus, trolleybuses and tram in the city. Which is excellent value. So I wanted one.

This morning, I walked to the nearest metro station and excitedly got ready to buy my first public transport pass in the city. Perhaps excited is an exaggeration, but I was pleased to see a ticket machine. I queued up to use a machine and was again pleased to discover that it was available in numerous languages, including English. Not wishing to practice my Greek, which to be fair isn’t substantial, I opted for the English instructions.

I went for the five-day pass and opt to pay by card, as I don’t have many euros with me and want to save the ones that I have. Other than the card just doesn’t register and the ticket machine produces an error before I’ve tried to insert the card. So, I swear inwardly and decide to abandon this project.

However, a Greek man (I assume he was Greek) asked me something in a foreign language (I guess it was Greek). I tell him I’m English, at which point he seemed sympathetic. He assumes I’m an idiot and helpfully takes me back to the machine to show me how to use it. It wasn’t an entirely useful lesson for me to be able to repeat as he used the machine in Greek, but it was a very nice thought. He managed to produce the same error as me, so he tries another machine instead and the other people in the growing queue behind me seemed remarkably tolerant of this situation. This second machine doesn’t even pretend to take cards, the option is greyed out.

At this point he asks another local person why the machine isn’t working. This was a slightly pay it forwards scenario as before long we have four local people on the case. At which point they collectively decide that the machines are broken, which I had actually established earlier. But, it’s the thought that counts and it was very kind of everyone to help.

The kind man then asks me if I’m stuck and offers to buy me a ticket to get to the city centre to go to a station with a ticket desk. I’m very glad that he did this, not because I accepted or because it gave me something to write about, but because it was just a generous gesture. In reality I just walked the ten minutes to another metro station, and the machines there were working, but as this was one of the my first experiences of Greece it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling towards the country.

And so I felt very welcome in Greece  🙂