Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The first day in Athens

I've been back from Athens since yesterday, but the internet isn't working in our apartment, thus the delay.

In any case, Athens was extremely fun! My friend and I arrived a bit later than expected in the airport (new as of 2001), and took a bus to Syntagma Square, which was only a short walk from our hostel. A kind taxi driver pointed us in the right direction, without even trying to take us in his taxi. (The walk was pretty short.) His friendliness was a good introduction to the city.

We went to sleep as soon as we could in the hostel, where our other friend was already asleep. It was a room with 6 beds (3 bunks) and a bathroom, and I now realize that I forgot to take any pictures of it. But the whole facility was very new and clean, and other than that there wasn't much to note about it. The most important feature was the location, which was right near the Acropoli metro station. You might be able to tell by the name that the Acropolis is right there, as well. All of the major historical sites in Athens are very close to each other, which makes touring easy.

We briefly considered waking up at 8 am, but considering that we didn't arrive until 5 am, you can guess how that went. When we got up, our first priority was the Acropolis and the Parthenon. I really wish I could post some of my pictures here, but I promise they'll come when the internet is fixed. Most of the historical sites in Athens are on a shared ticket, which costs only 6 euros for students! It's 12 euros normally, so either way, it's a great deal. Included on the ticket are the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Hadrian's Library, the Temple of Zeus, and maybe something else, I can't remember.

The Acropolis and the Parthenon are incredible! I honestly thing the two of those alone are worth the trip to Greece. When you climb the Acropolis (I think this is Greek for hill city), you have an amazing view of the entire city, which was built around it. The view includes some unbelievable ruins as well. Then at the top you get to the Parthenon, which was the finest temple of its time, according to various sources. For comparison, the Temple of Zeus was the largest, and the Temple of Hephaestus is the best preserved. The Parthenon is sort of continuously undergoing preservation efforts, which currently include a lot of scaffolding. Despite this, it is still incredibly impressive.

With little to no breakfast between the three of us, we decided to go for lunch. One of the employees at the hostel pointed us towards a traditional Greek restaurant that was slightly off the beaten path (or so we want to think). Ordering food was an interesting experience. The waiter brought us a whole tray of options, and we picked 7 of them to share between the three of us. My little dictionary came in handy when I wanted to explain, "I don't eat meat." However, almost everyone we dealt with spoke English, including this waiter. On the one hand, I'm disappointed by this, because it seems to diminish the traveling experience by making us too comfortable. On the other hand, it sure did make thing easier. I'll post food pictures later as well, for those of you who are interested. We had some really tasty tzatziki and spinach pie, and the meat eaters had mousaka.

After lunch, we went to the Kallimarmaro Stadium, which was the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It was really big, and made from marble from the same mountain as the Parthenon, but we couldn't go in and it was pretty much just a stadium. Apparently the track isn't big enough to use for regulation races, so they only really use it for the finish lines of marathons.

We wandered back through the National Park, which was more tree-filled and less flower-/other plant-filled than I had expected. It was more like an arboretum, I guess.

As we left the park, we found ourselves at what appeared to be either the headquarters or a concert site for the Athens International Children's Games. Oddly enough, no one seemed to care that we wandered through the very pretty building and took pictures. It was pretty deserted at the time, possibly because it was the break between the end of the games and the closing ceremony.

We saw the Temple of Zeus as we were walking back to the hostel. Besides a few extremely big columns, there's not much to see. This temple is not as well preserved as either of the others.

As if this weren't enough, we then went to the brand new Acropolis Museum (only 1 euro admission!). It only opened on June 21, 2009 (last There are a ton of artifacts there, including pottery and art as well as panels from around the Parthenon, and statues, and see-through floors. These are cool on the ground floor, because you can see some excavation going on underneath, but they can present a bit of a problem when you're not on the ground floor and happen to be wearing a dress. Fortunately, you can walk around the see-through areas. On the top floor, they have a video about the Parthenon's construction and symbolism.

After the museum, we went to "God's Restaurant" for dinner on the recommendation of a hostel employee. The food was good, and the dessert was delicious.

Then we went to the hostel to go with some other people to a club. We stayed for a little while, but the music was a little too loud and we were pretty tired, so we went back to the hostel and went to sleep.

And that was just day one! I'll write about day two later, so stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. makes me want to book a trip to Athens! you are going to need to sleep for a week after you get back from all of this summer excitement!