Greece - Athens

May 27, 2011

Aphrodite- the goddess of love, Apollo- the god of music, Dionysus- the god of wine, Hermes- the god of travel, Poseidon- the god of sea or perhaps Zeus- the king of all gods, who wouldn’t have read stories of these ancient Greek mythological figures? Yes, it was time to pack our bags and head to Greece, a home to all these and to many more! The next couple of days we would be soaking up as much Greek history as possible in one of the oldest and most historic cities in the world: Athens

We had come up with the plan to go to Greece somewhere between the planning for Iceland and waiting for the flights there to be affordable. That’s right, once again we had to postpone the Nordic adventure due to its quickly mounting airfares, and we needed a brand new plan. As Iceland left us with only cold chills, we looked somewhere south. Greece was on everyone’s list of places to see and we thought we could combine the cultural Athens with cruising the islands- and we were all sold! Now we were off to an exciting adventure with our Greek crew of five crazies (us, Rachael ‘n Christian and Christina (later known as Dirty Smit!)).

The rendez-vous was at the Athens airport and we touched down around 11pm. The rest of our crew was already waiting for us and we were all ready to get going. The shuttle bus for Athens downtown was just about to leave and we thought to ourselves how nice and smooth this would be. Well it was until it wasn’t: we got dropped off somewhere before downtown on an endlessly long boulevard and the bus driver wouldn’t budge a single meter. It was only us five and another Dutch traveler, who obviously was infuriated by the situation as well. Without a word in English, the driver kicked us out letting us understand that this ride was over. After exchanging a few not so nice words with him, the cops came and said it was due to the demonstrations on the downtown plaza. It was late and we couldn’t believe that we were left with one choice only: walking. We dragged our luggage and ourselves on the nocturnal streets of Athens towards (?!) our hotel.  It was already about 2am when we finally arrived...

OK, not that ideal start to our hopefully still ideal holiday. We were hoping that a good night’s sleep and good breakfast would fix all that, and that Athens would welcome us again the next morning. The first thing we wanted to do was to get to the Acropolis and take our time there. We made our way through the old historic neighborhood Plaka (alias Neighborhood of the Gods) that is located on the hills of Acropolis. We got lost on its narrow little streets that were full of small restaurants built on the sloping alleys. As we arrived to the Acropolis it was pretty crowded (as expected) but probably not as packed as during the peak season.

The Acropolis itself was impressive (UNESCO world heritage site), although under some restoration and construction. We wandered around the site admiring all the archaeological wonders: the Erechtheion (an ancient Greek temple), the Porch of the Caryatids (the porch of the maidens), the temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea (the grand entrance to Acropolis) and the Parthenon (the temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena), a significant representative of Greek history. We were also captivated by all the ancient stone theaters; the theater of Dionysos or the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, where they still organize concerts and other musical events.

To get some perspective to how exactly widespread the city is, we wanted to walk up the Mount Lycabettus. Since there was so much to see, we choose to get there by foot, passing marvelous sights on the way, such as the temple of Olympian Zeus (colossal ruined temple) and the beautiful National Gardens. 

Multiple stops and steps later we got to the top of the hill Mt Lycabettus and a whole new view opened for us. For the first time we could actually see how enormous Athens is, and how far we had walked. Not only does it offer the magnificent views but also couple of other things namely a chapel of St. George and an open-air theater that hosts a number of concerts on international level.

Exhausted and a lot wiser about Greek history, we got back to our hotel that was located between Psiri and Plaka. The hotel had a rooftop terrace overlooking the Acropolis so we decided to wait till the dusk to get a glance at the lit up Acropolis, especially the Parthenon- and it was so worth it!

Tummies screaming for food, we headed out for our first real dinner in Greece and strolled around the streets of Psiri, the area known for bars and restaurants, to look for a nice place to eat. With a bottle of Ouzo we cheered the first night of our Greek adventure!

The next day we had still the entire Agora to explore. The ancient Agora of Athens (also knows as Forum of Athens) is in the heart of the town and used to serve as a gathering place for almost any sort of event. The columns and remains of Roman Forum, and numerous other structures on site were basically radiating ancient history. One of the most beautiful buildings on the site though was the temple of Hephaestus, which still stands pretty much in its original shape and form to date. 

As fascinating as it all had been, it was time for a little upgrade of fascination: The Island hopping! We grabbed our luggage from the hotel and headed to Piraeus harbor to catch our boat towards the Cyclades! We ended up having few extra minutes at the harbor, and so we filled up our bags with fresh cherries, strawberries, Souvlaki (!) and bunch of party drinks! As we were the early birds at the boat, we took over the best spot on the entire boat- the back deck's corner table!  Now we were truly ready to go...;).

                                                 Adieu Athens & hello islands!

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