The Student Invasion


My nephew Robert turned up in Athens one summer in the company of a large group of fellow students. They did the usual sights in the city, photographed the Acropolis, ate in the Plaka and managed a day trip to Hydra where they dived off the rocks, and, some of them being Water Babies from Dover, swam for miles and generally had an agreeable time.

Back in Athens it was Saturday evening, and plans were being made for the usual Sunday lunch outing to Marathon, under Spiros’ command, with whomever wanted to come. Happily, they all did, which however posed a bit of a problem as there were over 20 of them and we had just two cars.

Robert and I were standing outside the Old Stadium, home of the early Olympic Games and home to the archery at the 2004 Olympics. We were discussing how to get 30 of us to Marathon. Obviously quite a few of them would have to take the bus. Robert then asked a perfectly natural question.

‘OK, we’ve checked on the buses, so how far is it to Marathon, anyway?’

‘Think about that question, Robert. You know the answer.’

‘Of course. Silly question.’

The day was a success although Spiros and Koula were distraught at not being able to pay for the lunch of 20 plus visitors, a natural Greek reaction. Instead they provided the after lunch fruit, and most of the drinks. Happily, the students were having a raucous, jolly time in the Marathon beach taverna, but did not sit around for long with the warm blue sea beckoning just a few metres away. Much to our bewilderment they declined the third litre of wine and went swimming again instead. One can only hope they’ll learn.

The Oldies, by their standards anyway, hung on in the taverna, sang a bit and then started out for home – I would say, off the top of my head, about 26 miles and 385 yards or 42.195 kms away. The young people followed by bus, having enjoyed a swim, a taverna lunch, and a mercifully short lecture on Greek history by Spiros.