As we traveled from Zakynthos to Athens, we saw so many ancient cities that I’ve only read about in my world history classes. Corinth was the biggest one. I was excited because in Sophocles’s Oedipus, Oedipus is raised by his adoptive parents (who happens to be the king and queen) in Corinth. Giant nerd alert. It was one of those moments where you are finally getting to see the actual setting of an amazing book and it just becomes so real.
We got to Athens and I used Trip Advisor to find (what else?!) a Mexican restaurant. Don’t blame me, it’s been MONTHS since I’ve had Mexican. Anyway, I got the fish tacos and they were amazing. NO RAGRETS.
I also had a margarita (8 euro). As I was basically pouring it down my throat, I realized that Athens is expensive. A pitcher of margaritas was over 20 euro. That’s way more than you would pay in Atlanta. Too bad, because I wanted like ten more margaritas. Alas…
We found a little studio apartment on VRBO that let us rent two nights. It was tiny and hot (because like Romania, places in Greece don’t really have air conditioning) and we were on the ground level, so we couldn’t sleep with the windows open. But, we got to stay in Plaka, and we got to stay there for cheap.
There was this cool street art right outside of our front door…
…and a genuine butcher a few doors down. I enjoyed watching them bring in their meat harvest.
We loved our free walking tour of Sophia so much that we decided to go on one in Athens. And truly, if you are traveling and don’t have much time to see a city – do a free walking tour! Our guide was a local Greek who had the most interesting story. He was born in Greece, grew up in Australia, forced into the Greek military in his 20s, became a special forces soldier, jumped out of planes for a few years…and then he became an English teacher. Now, he gives the free tours to show people his city (and because of the tips at the end). He knew so much about the important sites and saved us a ton of time and money by giving us great tips about where to go (and not go) and how to get around.
Here’s a map of all the places we went on the tour (yellow) and where we went after the tour (orange). Our apartment is the red circle.
The tour started at Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus
It says on one side: “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus” and on the other side:”This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus” – you know, because he built a shiny new city and he wanted to make sure you weren’t confusing it with old, crappy, Ancient Athens.
This is the site of the first modern Olympics.
We spent some time at the Presidential Palace for the changing of the guards.
The king liked horses so much that he decided the guards had to emulate horses. So every few hours when they change guards, they have to do this ridiculous horse dance.
I hope you enjoyed that video. I “made” it with Google Photos. If you haven’t played with that app yet, you seriously must. Sometimes it just makes movies for me, like a weird, helpful stalker.
We were joined by Leo, one of the city’s dogs. In Athens, not many people have dogs because space is so limited in apartments. What the city does is take in stray dogs, sterilize, vaccinate, and tag them.When the city releases them, they belong to the people of the city. Some of the dogs are famous, like the one outside the King’s guard. He has decided it is his job to protect the guards. He takes his dog job very seriously and barks like crazy at any taxis that go by.
Apparently, Leo has a schedule where he joins the tour for a bit and then goes to cool off in the lake in the park.
Here we are halfway through the walking tour. Still smiling!
Okay – I took these two pictures to illustrate something to be wary of when you are touring in a big city. I’ve seen this scam before in Paris.Basically, the men have bracelets and their goal is to get one on you and then charge you for it. They high five or fist bump you and then while you’re talking they put the bracelet on you. Most people are so nice they don’t even realize it’s happening – how can you be rude to a charismatic stranger wishing you peace and love? Once the bracelet is on you, they demand payment. You can’t give the bracelet back. If you don’t pay, you’re stealing from them. That’s the scam. It wasn’t the only we saw in Athens. The last night we were there a very disoriented woman came up to us (not drunk, but definitely dazed on something) and gave us a sob story about how her husband abandoned her in Greece with her baby and could we give her some money to help her get home? This sort of thing really plays with your emotions because who wouldn’t want to help this woman. Unfortunately, it’s not legit 😦
~back to the fun stuff~
Our tour ended at the Agora at the bottom of Acropolis Hill. We decided to get some lunch before heading up to the top. We tried the ouzo. It’s basically Absinthe that is white. Like white licorice.
Did we like it? You be the judge.
We also had the souvlaki. This was about as adventurous as we got with the Greek food.
After lunch, we headed up Mars Hill to drink in the beautiful Athens city views. If you’re a Christian, you might be interested to know that Paul gave a speech from this hill where he said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” Paul was definitely throwing some shade at the Greek temples. I find as a citizen of 2016 that I agree with Paul. Let’s go find God in nature and in acts of lovingkindness – he won’t be in some cold marble building. But aren’t they lovely marble buildings? And what a testament to the Greek spirit that they built them with their hands and without modern machinery?
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus can hold 5,000 people. Yanni performed here in 1993 and later released his album “Live at the Acropolis”. I heard this album so many times. Yanni was so big in the 90s. Admit it, you loved Yanni.
More beautiful structures in the Acropolis…
and the coup de grâce:
After we finished touring the Acropolis, we returned to our tiny little apartment and readied ourselves for our return to Romania. We ended up driving from Athens to the Romanian border in one day (like 14 hours of driving).
I’ve run out of adjectives, so I will just sum up by saying it was an awesome trip. I’m glad I got the chance to share it with you on my blog 🙂