“Gord, you RUINED the picture.”
“Turkey really RUINED ruins for me.”
Etc. etc. There are a lot of really old stone ruins in Athens. They drove us kind of crazy.
This post will likely have the greatest “words per hour spent in city” ratio.
Gord and I were in Athens for 24 hours. Not an hour less, or more.
After an extremely classy and unnecessarily expensive ferry ride in from Santorini (apparently the only difference between economy and VIP seats is a red leather, a table and an extra 30 euros), we arrived in Athens, ready to use what little time we had to take the city by storm.
But first, we needed to find the subway. An adventure in and of itself. Unlike France where we could decipher the language into something that sort of resembled english, the complicated Greek alphabet characters were lost on Gord and I. It took approximately 30 backpack-sweaty minutes of searching to find the subway station, which was in the exact opposite direction of where we originally started walking. Whoops.
Once found, we navigated our way through the Athens subway fairly easily, noticing quickly how clean and empty the whole place was.
I didn’t know whether to be impressed or weirded out. It was a relief to get back to normal subway scum when riding the metro in Rome today.
Arriving at our hostel, Athens Backpackers, we quickly dumped our bags and went off to explore.
Since our hostel was super close to the Acropolis (seriously, best location ever!), we wandered over there to start our sight-seeing. Five minutes later, we were looking up at Parthenon, lit from behind by the late evening sun. Naturally, we decided to walk further into the grounds, our hearts set on looking down on Athens at dusk.
On our way up, we passed through the ancient Theatre of Dionysus, where we made sure to take tacky tourist photos sitting on the crumbling marble thrones.
Just as we were about to reach the final uphill stretch, drama set in.
Okay, not really drama, but Gord and I like to exaggerate because it makes us sound cool. Apparently we needed tickets to enter the Acropolis. Yes, in hindsight, this made total sense, but we swear there was no one selling tickets anywhere along our route. After much wide-eyed innocence and groveling, we were kindly escorted down the side of the Acropolis hill by a stern Greek official.
Plans foiled, we consoled ourselves with a dinner of delicious Greek salad, oven feta (our new favourite thing), moussaka and some weird tubular pasta thing (for Gord).
It was just what we needed and was super cheap. All part of the Greek “crisis” menu, as the restaurant liked to call it. Yes, that’s a thing.
We ended the evening by making new friends on our hostel’s rooftop patio, sipping on Mythos beer and staring out at the beautifully-lit Parthenon.
The next day, we registered for our hostel’s walking tour in order to find out more about our ancient surroundings. In the end, we found out LOADS more than we had to, and our very-informed, very-chatty Greek guide kept us out in the blisstering sun for a sweltering two hours.
Some lessons? Well, we learned a lot more about the tensions between the Greeks and the British Museum. In the early 17th century, the British Lord Elgin decided to strip the Parthenon of its artistic glory in order to impress his bride-to-be. As a result, the majority of the Parthenon’s glory now sits in London. The Greeks are not pleased.
We also learned about the history behind Athens itself. The myths made me reminiscent of learning about ancient Greek mythology, circa grade six. I won’t go into detail, but lets just say I am stunned with the amount of godly self-impregnation that occured (seriously Zeus, you REALLY needed to grow Athena in your mind? That’s just begging for attention.).
Stunning sights of Athens were also a given. This one was taken atop the point where the Greek Supreme Court once stood.
After our tour’s gyro/souvlaki stop (I finally got one!), Gord and I decided to ditch out of the tour early to actually go up to the Acropolis.
Once again, we stubbornly refused to comply with the proper ticket-buying procedure. Here’s the thing. You could get to the Parthenon for free if you were a student studying in the EU. Thankfully for us, Carleton University just happened to be in Cork, Ireland for the day. Imagine that. Hey, we need to save all the money we can. It’s not our fault Greek ticket officials are very trusting…
Here’s what we saw at the top:
On our way down, we decided to stop at the New Acropolis Museum, which we were told was the place to go. The building itself is very modern looking and is cleverly designed to reflect the remains of the Parthenon on its glassy outer walls.
Since we got away with the Irish student scam once, we thought we would try it again. It worked, 2/2. Wonderful.
The museum itself was worth the short visit. As impressive as we’re sure the stone remains would be to antiquity studiers, Gord and I were a little bit tired of seeing ancient artifacts. It was a bit boring. Sorry, history buffs. I did, however, love the top floor – it was an exact to-scale replica of the Parthenon, complete with a 16×8 metal columns outside. I took many pictures, despite being yelled at on numerous occasions by both Gord and officials at the museum.
Conclusion: Athens is a city of rule-breaking.
And that was our very short visit to Athens! We avoided riots and saw the Parthenon. Mission accomplished.
PS: This is the tan difference between Gord and I after a week in Greece. 🙂