EuroAdventure15: Getting acquainted with Athens
(posted by Emily)
5 July 2015
40,203 steps (19.86 miles walked)
Sunday morning we were up early for our flight to Athens. Since we had to drop off the rental car, we got up around 4:15 for our 6:30am flight.
We were on Aegean again, and before we knew it, we were in the ground in Athens.
This particular Sunday was the day of the Greek referendum, which asked citizens to decide if they wanted to accept the terms of the EU bailout--they were voting yes (Nai) or no (Oxi) to the question.
When we got to the Athens airport we were planning to take the metro in to the city. Normally, this costs about 2 Euro per ride. There were signs over the ticket windows explaining that due to the day's vote, all metro services would be free. While checking in to the hotel, I asked the woman at the desk about it and she explained that due to their "situation" (had I heard about their situation?), all public transit would be free on Sunday and Monday. Great for us, but I'm sure Greece could have used our money!
Our hotel in Athens was a Radisson Blu. We couldn't get in to our room right away, so we left our bags and decided to take advantage of the free transit and head off to sight see.
We came out of the metro near Hadrian's Library. Very impressive from the outside, but we decided not to go in.
Our first stop was the Acropolis. It was right around 10am when we got there, and the crowds were just starting to pick up. Rick Steves' Audio app offers a walking tour of the site, which we attempted to stream over our 3G connection.
Jetsetting ProTip #2: Definitely get the Rick Steves app and save $$ on a tour guide. Download the podcasts/walking tours ahead of time, so you can be sure to enjoy the experience without having to rely on wifi or a data network.
The streaming worked well for a while, but at some point, it became too much of a hassle to let the streaming catch up, share headphones, walk, and avoid other tourists. There's my one regret of the trip so far--should have planned that experience better!
Still, the views from the top of the ancient hill were stunning. The Acropolis was built to honor Athena, the goddess who was patron of the city. It was the center of ritual/religious life in ancient Athens, and we enjoyed learning more about the history of the complex, including who decided to dismantle it over time, who used it as a gun powder magazine, and how it has been restored.
The temple of Athena
The ticket we bought for entry in to the Acropolis included admission for other sites--we walked next to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Looking back up toward the Parthenon
Just down the road is the historic stadium from the 1896 Olympic Games. I believe it was used in 2004 as well. We didn't go inside, but I definitely wanted to see it!
Lunch was next on our agenda and we decided to check out one of the best vegetarian spots in the city, Avocado. We had found this one in our research before the trip, but it was also recommended to us by our accountant, John, who was in Greece as well this summer and passed along an excellent list of places to check out.
For lunch we ordered the eggplant rolls with cheese and red sauce, a Cesaer salad (YUM. I had been dying for a salad), and a pasta with vegan bolognese (sp? spell check on the Blogger app is suspect) sauce.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel via Syntagma Square--this is where all of the protesters and rallies had been located, and already the area was full of news vans and journalists.
Rick and I both had noticed that the coffee culture in Greece was very srong--most people take their espresso to go, and get it freddo style, which is over ice. We stopped for cappucino freddos and decided to check out some other sites from our museum pass....until we realized they had all closed early because of the referendum!
We ended up walking around in the Plaka neighborhood, which is full of shops with things like handmade leather bags and sandals, touristy items like postcards and magnets, clothes, and kitchen item made from olive wood.
After a bit of shopping (I picked up some leather sandals), we headed to another one of John's recommendations, a wine bar called heteroclite. They feature Greek wines by the glass, and we really enjoyed the look and feel of the bar.
The wine bar was close to Syntagma Square, so we decided to head over and see if it was filling up yet. Polls had closed by this point, and results would be coming in soon. Police were out, and there were media people everywhere. Apparently, the hotel overlooking the square was HQ for all the networks, because there were cameras and lights on every balcony overlooking the square.
It was fascinating to see all of the people out to support the Oxi or no vote. We decided to walk around a bit more, before the results started to come in.
We looped back around and came in to the square as things were picking up. Lots of people celebrating, giving speeched, and singing.
We decided to stop for a light dinner, mezes and wine--fried cheese, grape leaves, and stuffed tomatoes and peppers.
We had done quite a bit of walking, so after a few pictures of the Acroplois at night, it was back on the still free subway and off to bed!