Greece, Part One: Athens
GREECE PART ONE: ATHENS
“Greeeeece!” we exclaimed, as our plane landed in Athens.
A year and a half earlier, after arriving back home from my first (non-family) overseas trip, I declared that next July I was going to the Greek Islands. I had truly been bitten by the travel bug and made this declaration with no plans, no money and no one to go with. But the Greek islands had been on top of my travel dream list as long as I had an interest in travel and since I had just experienced some other places on that list (e.g. Paris and London) I thought why stop now?
And there I was, alongside two friends (Carly and Mel) I had met on my first Euro trips, landing in Greece. My dream was a reality.
Before we jetted off to the Greek Islands, we spent some time in Athens. We caught the train to Monastiraki, where we would be staying for two nights before we hopped our way through the Greek Islands. It was around 4pm, and as we walked through Monastiraki Square an uneasy feeling started to grow inside me and I was eager to get to the hostel fast. I can’t pinpoint what exactly caused me to feel uncomfortable, certainly the shady looking people all hanging around could have been a contributing factor, but that feeling hit all three of later that evening when we hit the town for our first night out in Greece. We didn’t last five minutes searching for a place for dinner before all three of us decided we all would feel safer just having dinner at the hostel.
Despite the bad first impression Athens made, we were still keen to explore the city and were confident that the city would be friendlier in the light of day. And we were rewarded for trying again. We joined a free walking tour of the city, which meet up in Monastiraki Square. Our tour leader explained that this was the unofficial meeting spot for the people of the city, which explained why there were so many people just hanging around the area the previous night.
This was my first time doing a free walking tour of a city, and I would highly recommend it. Our leader was great, taking us to many of the main attractions and telling us the history to behind all of them. Just like when I was in Rome, I was amazed that all these key historical landmarks and buildings were just dispersed throughout this modern city. Growing up in Australia, which is still a relatively new country, it’s a totally novel thing.
One of the things we got to witness while on the tour was the changing of the guards ceremony at the President’s Palace. When I think changing of the guards, I automatically think Buckingham Palace, so was pleasantly surprised to discover a ceremony of the same nature in Athens. It wasn’t as big a spectacle, barely a crowd assembled to watch, which was nice because it meant we could relax and watch it. One of the soldiers took quite a shining to Carly, Mel and myself and came over to say that we could join him after the ceremony and he would escort us so we could take a picture with the guards. Dousing us with further flattery, he said he was letting us do this because he thought we were beautiful! So we were lucky enough to snap some pictures with the guards first. However, this wasn’t an exclusive opportunity, soon after the public were also able to do the same. Guess the soldier convinced us that the opportunity was more special than it actually was!
|The not so exclusive picture with the guard|
After the tour ended, the tour guide graciously mapped out the places we wanted to see. The three of us decided we first wanted to revisit the Olympic Stadium because during the tour we only got to walk by it. We quickly took some cheesy photos before we rushed to get to the Ancient Agora, as it shut at 2.30pm. The three of us are very challenged when it comes to a sense of direction, so of course we got lost several times trying to get to the Agora, that we thought we weren’t going to make it in time, but luck was on our side and we got to the ticket booth just before it closed.
The Agora used to be the social hub of Athens, during the Antiquity and one of the features of the Agora today, is the ancient temple of Hephaistos. After exploring the ruins in the Agora, we started to make our way to the Acropolis. The heat and constantly getting lost meant that it took us awhile, and during an uphill walk in what we were hoping was the right direction, we stopped for lunch. Our first real Greek meal (I don’t really count the moussaka I had at the hostel the night before)! For entrée, Carly and I split a fried honey feta dish. It didn’t really amaze me, and was the only time I ordered it in Greece. For my main, I had a lamb souvlaki which was delicious, but the real star of the dish was the potatoes that came with it, melted in my mouth.
After lunch, we finally made it up to the Acropolis. We must have collected a fair bit of dirt with us on the way up because our feet were covered in a layer of dust. In fact, one passer-by even pointed out to his wife how dirty we were! The Pantheon, is the highlight of the Acropolis (for me at least), watching over the city. I had admired it the night before from the roof of the hostel, light up in the night sky and seeing up close in the day was impressive.
We had a meet and greet with our Busabout leader (we were doing the Greek Isands with Busabout) and a few members of the groups that night back at the hostel. And then we settled in for an early night, in preparation for our 5.30am start the next day!
Stayed tuned for Part Two: The Greek Islands
Stayed tuned for Part Two: The Greek Islands