Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Our first trip to Greece, so another tick on the must go to places around the world. Many more to go we assure you. :-)

First stop we arrive in Athens on a warm summer evening, which was quite strange anyway as usually we have morning flights and its rush rush from about 5am to make an 8 or 9am flight. So it was a cruisy day, get up late, pack, leave to airport just after 1pm - no rush, very casual even with time for food and drinks in the bar before our flight. Since it was 10pm we headed straight to our hotel, via taxi as the trains - conveniently were not running, and rested up for the next days exploration of Athens....

A day and certainly no more than two is ample to explore Athens (see Map below) and I have attempted to show where we went on the map. Its not very clear so I may well elaborate, so you don't have to guess LOL.

The Acropolis was the first thing we wanted to visit and we were in easy walking distance to it from our hotel. In fact we saw it all lit up the night before as pointed out to us by our taxi driver. Though I wasn't paying too much attention as I was worried he was trying to rip us off at the time!!! (he wasn't as it turned out - thank goodness)

It was a very steep walk to get up there, hot and windy with the incessant chirping of cicadas in the olive trees. We were trying to figure out how the people sitting in the cafes nearby could stand the noise. It was quite a saga to get in, with about a million cruise ship tourists and the ticket booth was no where near the actual entrance. We lined up 3 times really - once for tickets, then again after we were told you had to check your bags, again elsewhere, and finally to get in the gate (i also misplaced one of the tickets and had an arguement with the women on the door to get in too - hehe!!!)

It was pretty impressive, seeing such old and magnificent structures still standing after all these years and still today they are doing a lot of work to bring them back to their former glory. The most impressive bit for me was the Erechtheion which was build in 421-406BC and the porch with the draped maidens (now copies of what was originally there).

There is a good view from there across to Mt Lykavitos where there is a small church (apparently the view from there is even better than from the Acropolis), down to Hadrian's Arch and to the Temple of Olympiad Zeus. Both of those we walked down to later on, after visiting the old Olympic stadium that they used in 1896 (its very small). On the way back down we could see the Stoa of Attalus, part of ancient Agora, which was a shopping arcade back in 159-138BC and the Hephaisteion - the best preserved Greek temple in the world.

After a delicious lunch in a little backstreet taverna we began to wander through the little market district as we headed towards the National Gardens. It was such a relief to sit down there as it was so warm wandering around.

On the way there we also passed the Parliament buildings, which would have been completely uninteresting if it were not for the hilarious Greek guards dressed in their cute little outfits (see pic). It was so hot they were swaying with the heat.

We later wandered around the Plaka district - an area of old blending with new - firstly just to walk the pleasant narrow streets and then later to explore the markets (lots of "tourist tat") whilst killing time before dinner. We still ended up eating way before Greek dinner time (usually 10pm and later), so we ate alone in a largish taverna, as we had to get up at 5am to catch a 7:30am ferry from the Piraeus port just outside of Athens.

We enjoyed it though and if we go again we'd probably visit the little islands off of Athens which I have been told are quite interesting with fishing villages and the like.

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