Here's an overview of my visit to Athens. In another post I will share about my time in Crete. I love this photo because it says it all .... the ancient ruins atop the Acropolis, being renovated and tourists visiting both by foot and by Segue/Segway.
Corresponding photos can be found in the column to the right.
December 25th I took the morning train to Sofia to meet Joan Myers and Mary Smith, two other Peace Corps volunteers. We decided to go to the movie “The Life of Pi” in the afternoon. It was my first full length 3-D movie – and I loved it.
December 26th we flew to Athens on a morning flight. We had a surprise at the airport – we met Patrick, another volunteer, who was traveling on the same flight to Athens. After settling into our hotel, we headed out to look for lunch. A “very nice” man dressed in a business suit, suggested a restaurant and showed us the way. Yup – person-to-person marketing.
It was a nice restaurant and before sitting down we looked at the menu with expensive entrees. I asked them what they could make for us for not more than 10 Euro each. We had a fabulous lunch – Greek salad and fresh bread with Greek Olive oil (of course) and the ladies had grilled pork and Patrick tried the moussaka. It was awesome and the environment was lovely. At other times during our trip we saw the same man “corralling” people to the restaurant – it was pretty funny!
Patrick headed off to his hostel and Joan, Mary and I took a 90 minute bus tour to familiarize ourselves with the main tourist sites in central Athens.
So much of Europe has ancient ruins and artifacts, but in Athens they felt different to me. Energetically they feel like the “originals” – from which so many other cultures evolved. It’s humbling to walk around these ancient buildings. The Parthenon – the Temple of Athena – located on the site called Acropolis – was completed around 432 B.C.
And of course, Athens is a very modern, sophisticated city as well. The contrasts are sooo interesting – old/new, Greek/Roman/Venetian/Ottoman…
In the evening Patrick and I went for a walk around Monastiraki Square and saw the ruins all lighted up! Gorgeous. This square is an active place – it has a flea market and bazaar, metro station, tourist shops, cart vendors selling fruit, knick-knacks, warm drinks and coconut meat / confections. There is also spontaneous live music.
December 27th – time to walk around the Acropolis – but first a buggy ride which showed us the neighborhood - and took us as high as vehicles were allowed to go – making our walk up to the top a little shorter. It’s a beautiful day for walking and exploring the many sites on the Acropolis. (I have more details with the photos.)
In the evening Joan and I went to a show at the Planetarium. We thought we knew how to get there by looking at maps but after getting off at what we thought was the correct metro station, we asked for further directions and found out it was really located in the opposite direction. Ahh – the life of a traveler! So back on the metro and to another station. We finally took a taxi there. The show was discussion about theories of what the “Star of Bethlehem” was – star, comet, asteroid, planetary conjuction, spiritual phenomenon. No definite answer – but they could eliminate comet, asteroid and star. It was pretty interesting and visually intriguing. It was a very technologically advance planetarium.
December 28th – We had a great day wandering around our neighborhood in Athens. We headed to the National Gardens and saw flowers in bloom, and resident birds and goats. Then headed to the Temple of Zeus for more ruins. It was time to head back to the hotel and wait for our 4th traveling companion to arrive – Susie. As we walked from the bus stop to the hotel, guess who we ran in to….Susie. Love it! After lunch we headed to Monastiraki Square and listened to the music - Penny and the Swingers (or something close to that). Wandered through the market – some nice new things, some junky new things and some antiques. Athens has a great transportation system and many “walkable” neighborhoods. We head to the ferry for our overnight passage to Crete….