Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Athens, Greece

Actual date of this event: 7-9 June

While in Athens we did more than just visit the Acropolis and "compete" in the Panathenaic Stadium. We had barely half a day and then a full day (so two nights) to do everything we wanted. A good amount of people don't spend much more time than that in Athens because there isn't a whole lot to do. That is true, but we actually could have spent more time in the city. (What we did not get to do that we would have liked to: Go up Mount Lycabettus, See the Royal Gardens, and Explore the area of Kolonaki) We were satisfied though with what we did because Athens is so dang hot!
After visiting the Acropolis on Saturday...
... we walked down passed the Ancient Agora (which we visit the next day, noted later in this post) and walked around in Plaka for a bit. Athens is what I call a very rugged city, but it is very lively and feels "real" rather than "fake" like some places we have been. We eventually settled for a cafeteria-style place to eat dinner. It was pretty tasty! We continued walking, stopping for some walking beers and ice cream, and in the process, one of us lost a cell phone. But the honest Greek-man returned it - yay! Imagine that!?? We also went to Barley Cargo, which is a great bar with tons of bottled beer, and was one of the only places I have been in Europe that felt like an American bar. Becca and I ended our night here, while Luke and Eric stayed up much later and went out for a few more drinks.

On Sunday, we were out the door around 10:45am for a full day ahead of us! We started at Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. These pillars were massive, and it was interesting how some of them were laying down as if they just fell over yesterday. It poured rain for a few minutes, so we huddled under a tree for a protection - we left our rain gear at home because the forecast said 0% chance of rain, thanks meteorologist!

When the rained died down, we went to visit the Panathenaic Stadium...
... then we walked along the National Gardens, but did not go in. Here, we saw orange trees lining the road and several Royal Guards, which was next on the list. Orange trees are all over Athens!
With perfect timing, we arrived at Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guards. These guys are very serious about their routine. Each of them gets a uniform check, and then they do their little march to switch places and pay tribute to Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is what they are guarding. Their moves are in slow motion, but the little balls on their shoes still bounce around which is the funnest part about the event.

As it was mid-day here, we were pretty hot from the sun beating down on us, so we set off for lunch. I had heard about three famous souvlaki places (Thanasis, Savvas, and Bairaktaris) so we aimed for one of those. The area these are located in is full of restaurants, and we got attacked by the servers trying to get us to eat at their place. Finally, we spotted the name Thanasis and sat down for lunch. It was pretty delicious and refreshed us enough to move on.
We walked through Monastiraki and the ancient flea market, but none of us had much interest in anything so we passed through very quickly. Next on the list was visiting the Ancient Agora. It is full of ruins, has a beautiful view of the Acropolis, and would have been much better to visit with a guide, but we just chilled... in the heat. Fortunately, there is a small museum of old stuff that allowed us to hide from the sun for a few minutes.

We really should have taken a break at this time for a refreshment, but we only grabbed some waters and then went to Kerameikos Cemetery. It seemed like such a trek, but it was really the heat that slowed us down. Again, I cant imagine what it is like to visit Athens in August... yikes! The cemetery is completely run down, so it looks like a bunch of rocks. Thankfully, we were given a small map to help us learn the important things (I forgot what those were though...). And again, we were able to hide in a small museum for a few minutes.

After the cemetery, we were desperate for a refresher, so we decided to search for a rooftop to enjoy a drink with a view. We settled on Thissio View, and even decided to make a reservation for dinner that night. We still had a few hours until dinner, so we moved along.

We had no desire to go into the Acropolis Museum as we knew it would take hours, and after already being in the heat for hours, we would not have had the strength anyway, so we walked by it to check out the ruins underneath which can be viewed thru the glass and a few open holes on the ground.
That heat is brutal, so we stopped for a drink at Athens Studio Sports Bar. I had read online that the place has a great rooftop bar, but I guess you need to be a guest at the hostel to go up. Moving along, we visited Anafiotika, which is a small area that looks like a Greek island with white homes and blue accents. I had to ask the barkeep at the hostel where it was because Google maps has its location incorrect. We walked back up the hill slightly to the north side of the Acropolis where the name of the street is actually Anafiotika. It was a very small little area but it was very quiet and secluded and actually did look pretty similar to a Greek island.

Back down and around we went back to Thissio View for dinner. We had requested the best table in the house and we got it which was pretty awesome! Service was a little slow and the food wasn't anything to brag about, but it was so relaxing to sit and eat dinner and have some drinks with a nighttime view of one of the oldest landmarks in the world. What a neat experience!

We had a super duper early flight at 6am Monday morning, so we went back to the hotel after dinner. We were ready for some beach time in Milos!

Other posts from Greece: IntroCorfuThe Acropolis in AthensPanathenaic Stadium in AthensGeneral AthensIsland of Milos (Day 1)Sarakino in MilosIsland of Milos (Day 2)Santorini SailingSantorini Wine TourTHE Santorini SunsetGeneral SantoriniWrap-Up

The tallest hill in Athens is Mount Lycabettus at 277m (almost 909ft). A funicular is available for those who do not wish to walk to the top.

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