Ancient Athens

We land in Athens at 10am local time after a 5am start in Berlin and a sleepy 2 and a half hour plane ride. After collecting our bags and walking straight on out the airport with no sign of any customs or stamping personnel, we head for the bus. The bus drops us in Syntagma square in front of parliament. My first impressions as we are driving through the streets, is how dirty everything is. Unlike my idea of the picturesque, ‘majestic Athens’ full of Greek god statues, big nicely mown lawns with the Akropolis looming above. Noooo, the real deal resembles more of Central Fiji more than anything else I’ve ever seen. There seems to be a lot of poverty, huge apartment buildings with moulded sheets handing from the balconies, graffiti creating not art but dirtiness, boarded up buildings, neglected buildings, crowded streets with every car dented (showing the crazy driving in Greece more than anything!) However, first impressions aren’t everything, and as of Fiji, as soon as you get to the ‘tourist side’ all your ideas of what Athens should look like become a reality. Our hostel, Athens Backpackers is in the central part of town, directly underneath the looming Akropolis. Our room is a 6 bedroom apartment which has a cute wee balcony, a kitchenette and a few comfy couches. After de-plane-a-fying we head for the huge looming white stone building you can see from most places in the city, the Akropolis. For €24 we get 2 tickets to view the Akropolis itself, and a dozen other historic buildings including the The Ancient Agora which we also visited. The Akropolis is impressive. It consists of the remains of several ancient buildings, the Parthenon being the most famous. The Parthenon is seen as a symbol of Ancient Greece, it’s thought have been built in 447 BC for the maiden goddess Athena, yet was partly destroyed 1687. When we visited it is currently under construction so the surrounding area resembles a construction yard but the sheer enormity of it explains why it’s taking so long to get it back to its former glory with restoration beginning in 1975 and near completion. We took some impressive touristy snaps up here and took in the vast mass that is Athens, white apartment buildings going for miles in every direction. Also an impressive layer of smog resting above the city which I misguidedly thought was dust, yet there is no desert in sight! From here we venture to get some much needed food. A gyros does the trick, a Greek take on the Turkish kebab. Done in a thicker wrap with tzatziki chilli and salad. Mmmmm. We then walk through the cobble stone streets to the Agora. On the way there a Jamaican man targets us and starts to force conversation, he then pulls Dans hand and places a beautiful handmade bracelet on it, Dan, aware that ‘nothing is free’ unlike me, says no yet is denied and the bracelet is firmly tied on. He then continues to put one on my wrist and wish us happy love, life and future- a very nice message. Then as we turn to leave he grabs Dans arm and says, “for just 1 or 2 euro.” My first lesson in Athens, ‘nothing is free’. This happened again when an older woman approached me with two red roses, she handed them to me and said ‘for you’. I said no, yet she insisted, so I said thankyou and turned to leave, she held onto my arm pointed to her belly and said “just 1-2 euro to feed my baby, please I have no money to feed baby.” I had to literally push the roses back into her hand in order to leave, this same scam was done time and time again throughout the night. Women walking round carrying roses putting then in people’s pockets without giving them an option, then demanding money. We land in Athens at 10am local time after a 5am start in Berlin and a 2 and a half hour plane ride. After collecting our bags and walking straight on out the airport with no sign of any customs or stamping personnel, we head for the bus. The bus drops us in Syntagma square in front of parliament. My first impressions as we are driving through the streets, is how dirty everything is. Unlike my idea of the picturesque, ‘majestic Athens’ full of Greek god statues, big nicely mown lawns with the Akropolis looming above. Noooo, the real deal resembles more of Central Fiji more than anything else iv ever seen. There seems to be a lot of poverty, huge apartment buildings with moulded sheets handing from the balconies, graffiti creating not art but dirtiness, boarded up buildings, neglected buildings, crowded streets with every car dented (showing the crazy driving in Greece more than anything!) However, first impressions aren’t everything, and as of Fiji, as soon as you get to the ‘tourist side’ all your ideas of what Athens should look like become a reality. Our hostel, Athens Backpackers is in the central part of town, directly underneath the Akropolis. Our room is a 6 bedroom apartment which has a cute wee balcony, a kitchenette and a few comfy couches. After de-plane-a-fying we head for the huge looming white stone building you can see from most places in the city, the Akropolis. For €24 we get 2 tickets to view the Akropolis itself, and a dozen other historic buildings including the The Ancient Agora which we also visited. The Akropolis is impressive. It consists of the remains of several ancient buildings, the Parthenon being the most famous. The Parthenon is seen as a symbol of Ancient Greece, it’s thought have been built in 447 BC for the maiden goddess Athena, yet was partly destroyed 1687. When we visited it is currently under construction so the surrounding area resembles a construction yard but the sheer enormity of it explains why it’s taking so long to get it back to its former glory with restoration beginning in 1975 and near completion. We took some impressive touristy snaps up here and took in the vast mass that is Athens, white apartment buildings going for miles in every direction. Also an impressive layer of smog resting above the city which I misguidedly thought was dust, yet there is no desert in site! From here we venture to get some much needed food. A gyros does the trick, a Greek take on the Turkish kebab. Done in a thicker wrap with tzatziki chilli and salad. We then walk through the cobble stone streets to the Agora. On the way there a Jamaican man targets us starts to force conversation, he then pulls dans hand and places a beautiful handmade bracelet on it, Dan, aware that ‘nothing is free’ unlike me, says no yet is denied and the bracelet is firmly tied on. He then continues to put one on my wrist and wish us happy love, life and future- a very nice message. Then as we turn to leave he grabs Dans arm and says, “for just 1 or 2 euro.” My first lesson in Athens, ‘nothing is free’. This happened again when an older woman approached me with two red roses, she handed them to me and said ‘for you’. I said no, yet she insisted, so I said thankyou and turned to leave, she held onto my arm pointed to her belly and said “just 1-2 euro to feed my baby, please I have no money to feed baby.” I had to literally push the roses back into her hand in order to leave, this same scam was done time and time again throughout the night. Women walking round carrying roses putting then in people’s pockets without giving them an option, then demanding money. But we eventually made it to Agora which acted as the centre of the Athenian government in the 6th century BC. The Agora had three main buildings, one which held historical artefacts which was a replica of the traditional style of Ancient Greek building made using the same techniques yet made using modern materials. Another which was the temple to the Ancient Olympian Gods.

Walking through the narrow streets back to the apartment I noticed a few things, the amount of stray cats and dogs everywhere, the relaxed mentality everyone has which puts you at ease and the amount of cafés and restaurants lining the streets. It made me awfully glad we didn’t come in summer, the amount of people would be horrible! The weather was beautiful too, a lovely 18 degrees mid winter, we were in our summer-best while everyone else was rugged up in thermal gloves and snow jackets! Pffft, you call this winter?!

For dinner we carefully went through different menus, allowed multiple maître d’s to offer us free deserts, wines of bread & dips if we dined there! The night scene was fantastic with bars lining stairs, restaurants lit up, music, people, and of course the true star- the lit up Akropolis which really did look spectacular at night. We found a cute wee restaurant with ferry lights and a good looking menu. We ordered bread and tzatziki followed by a Greek salad and a seafood platter. Wow!! Amazzzzjng food, we were full before we even started the seafood platter! After this feast we were given a complimentary cake each and a wee bottle of a honey red wine concoction which made my eyes do loopdy-loops.
Back to the apartment we head for a good night sleep before our 5am start to get to Pireaus port by 6 for our ferry to Santorini. I enjoyed my short visit to Athens and would like to return again for a better look round. We eventually made it to Agora which use to be the centre of the Athenian government in the 6th century BC. The Agora had three main buildings, one which held historical artefacts of what the Agora stood for. The building was a replica of the traditional style of Ancient Greek buildings made using the same techniques yet using modern materials. Another which was the temple to the Ancient Olympian Gods.

Walking through the narrow streets back to the apartment I noticed a few things, the amount of stray cats and dogs everywhere, the relaxed mentality everyone has which puts you at ease and the amount of cafés and restaurants lining the streets. It made me awfully glad we didn’t come in summer, the amount of people would be horrible! The weather was beautiful too, a lovely 18 degrees mid winter, we were in our summer-best while everyone else was rugged up in thermal gloves and snow jackets! Pffft, you call this winter?!

For dinner we carefully went through different menus, allowed multiple maître d’s to offer us free deserts, wines of bread & dips if we dined there until we found the right one. The night scene was fantastic with bars lining stairs, restaurants lit up, music, people, and of course the true star- the lit up Akropolis which really did look spectacular at night. We found a cute wee restaurant with ferry lights and a good looking menu. We ordered bread and tzatziki followed by a Greek salad and a seafood platter. Wow!! Amazzzzjng food, we were full before we even started the seafood platter! After this feast we were given a complimentary cake each and a wee bottle of a honey red wine concoction which made my eyes do loopdy-loops.
Back to the apartment we head for a good night sleep before our 5am start to get to Pireaus port by 6am got our ferry to Santorini.
I enjoyed my short visit to Athens and will be back to visit again for sure.

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