Athens! Getting through Greece!
Here we go again!
The view from our room at the “Acropolis Hill Hotel”
My husband had four days off over Valentine’s Day and he had planned a trip to Athens, Greece! –This is the first time in the five years we have been together that neither of us had to work or do any kind of training on Valentine’s. To say the least, we were both incredibly excited to go on this trip.
When the day came we were up at around 7 a.m. to make sure everything was ready to go for our four day trip to Athens! No matter how many times I go somewhere, I always double and triple check I have everything: outlet adapter, chargers, charged tablet, travel journal, pens, coloring book (don’t judge, haha), clothes, etc.. We left around 8:30 for the hour and a half drive to Brussels-Charleroi airport (this airport is smaller than most other airports and pretty easy to navigate through). After check-in and security we just waited around until our flight left a little after noon.
A three hour flight and a time change (Greece is an hour ahead of the Netherlands), we were there. Athens international airport is huge–so be aware. Now, this is where things started getting a little crazy. First of all, we caught the wrong bus into the city which let us out closer to the north side even though our hotel was on the south side. But hey it is an adventure, right? We tried to stay positive about it, and took on the hour walk to our hotel–thankfully our phones GPS still worked. Twenty minutes or so after our walk started it was dark. Something we didn’t realize is that there are a lot of refugees and immigrants in Athens. Everything was going well until we were about 30 minutes from our hotel and both of our phones were dead.
To say the least we were lost in the middle of the city and starving. Stepping into a hotel to ask for directions was a nice break. The receptionist tried to explain how to get there using the metro system–which is easier said than done. In all reality we ended up catching a taxi (which only took ten minutes). By the time we actual got to our hotel (the Acropolis Hill Hotel–which was fantastic) it was after 8 pm and there was no room service and none of the delivery restaurants were in English. Almost two hours later, we had Domino’s pizza and after which we headed to bed with hopes that the rest of trip would be much better.
Day two started off so much better, starting with a large breakfast at the hotel.– Also, let me go back for a second and explain just how stunning the view from the Acropolis Hill hotel was: you could see the entire city from our sixth floor room. It was gorgeous.– Before the trip, I had made a reservation for a free tour through Athens which is great because it is with a local guide and it is very informative (I have also done one of these tours in Dublin, Ireland). I really like doing these kind of tours on one of the first days when I get to a new city because it kind of gives me the lay of the land and most times I get to explore places I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We walked through the city, and we ended up in this beautiful neighborhood up on the hills–I think that it is a richer areas of the city. From up there you could see everything in the city and it really felt that we weren’t in a big, congested, city. The walking tour took about two and a half hours and we walked everywhere. We started at Hadrian’s Arch and ended at the bottom of the Acropolis. These tours are great, especially if you are on a budget.
Walking always leads to hunger. So, of course we had to find somewhere to eat. We began walking back down to the city and stopped at this place called, Scholarhio Ouzeri Kouklis. This place was delicious. They do a thing where they will serve your meal similar to family style. For 30 euros, we ordered two meats (Tope shark and grilled chicken with a mustard sauce), one appetizer (tzatziki sauce), and two salads of sorts (Greek salad and giant beans). We also got bread, mineral water, two drinks and dessert (a fantastic orange zest cake) under that price. It was well worth it! Let me just say, I have now been ruined for tzatziki sauce–really the best I have every had.
Stuffed and ready for more walking, we headed to the Acropolis Museum. At only 5 euros to get in, this is a archaeologist or history buffs dream. With three full floors of artifacts found at the Acropolis. With some of these relics dating back to the 5th century B.C., this museum is very educational. There is an even a real archaeologist that you can ask questions about all different things. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the galleries but trust me it is worth it. They have a sculptures of everything ranging from building fragments to personnel and dedications during that time. One of my favorites was the Hekatompedos, which was a temple built during the Archaic period. The fragments the museum has, you can clearly see Hercules fighting the Triton and the triple-headed monster. Once we kept going up the stairs, we realized that the entire third floor is built almost in a full size replica of what the interior of the Parthenon looked like. There are pieces of the walls that are white and are casts of what those pieces would have looked like, these pieces are connected to the original walls which allows visitors to get the full affect.
Exhausted from all the walking, we decided to head back to the hotel and relax a little before continuing to dinner. –I always suggest to anyone traveling, to set aside a little time to just hang out and let your feet recuperate. After we each took a shower and rested our feet, we headed out to dinner. We had seen this place on our way back from the museum, Arcadia. The entire waitstaff were fantastic! Our waiter, Nick, was funny and definitely made our meal wonderful. I had a gyro–hey, it’s Greece you have to have a gyro at least once– which was so tasty. Nick brought us a piece of the same type of cake we had earlier–oh my goodness, so good! After this wonderful meal we headed back to the hotel , got a glass of ouzo at the bar–you can tell real ouzo if it changes from clear to milky when you either add ice or water to it–and then we went up for some sleep and relaxation.
Sleeping in a little bit, we started our day a bit late (around 9 am) and we had decided that we wanted to visit the Acropolis and some of the archaeological sites. With a full breakfast at the hotel, we set out on our archaeological adventures. We had overheard someone talking about a cut through near the hotel to get to the Acropolis through this side staircase. So, hey why not? This staircase led to a park that was very well maintained, even though it seems a lot of gypsies live within the park. Near the end of the park is the Prison of Socrates, which is very fascinating even though you can only see a part of it from the side of the park we were on.
Continuing on, walking about another ten minutes, we were at the base of the Acropolis hill. It was not that crowded at all, so we were able to get our tickets pretty quickly. We bought the combined ticket for 30 euros each, which is good for five days and got us access to many different sites: the Acropolis and all of it’s slopes, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Olympieion, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s Lykeion. We ended up only being able to hit three different sites during the day: Acropolis, Ancient Agora and Hadrian’s Library.
First stop the Acropolis. The main attraction here is the Parthenon but you can also see some of the original gates and the Shrine of Athena. Seeing the Parthenon has always been on my bucket list. For anyone who is into Greek mythology, this is a must see. This particular building was built some where around 450 B.C. and is dedicated to the goddess Athena. The people of Athens are are reconstructing this area to it’s original form–which is pretty cool if you ask me. We spent almost two hours walking around the Acropolis. No amount of pictures or words can really explain how magnificent this place is.
Walking back down the hill towards the city, we popped into a little cafe to get a quick drink, however my drink was forgotten but oh well. Continuing on to the Ancient Agora (a meeting place for Athenians), which is pretty much in complete ruins. But, there are two intact buildings: The Church of the Holy Apostles and Stoa of Attalos. Walking through these ruins, there are a lot of stray dogs and cats–they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. The Stoa of Attalos is very similar to a town hall of sorts. Even though this is not the original building (the building was destroyed in 267 A.D. and was rebuilt in 1953-1956) it has be reconstructed to replicate the original building. There is also a museum within the Stoa of Attalos which holds some artifacts that Athenians owned during that time. For example, clay jars and plates.
Library of Hadrian
Before we headed to our last place we wanted to go, we grabbed a quick bite to eat–I of course had a cheeseburger, don’t judge. Going into the restaurant however we did get a little scammed by an older Greek lady who basically shoved a rose in Cole’s hand and wouldn’t leave us alone until we gave here three euros. The last site we explored was the Library of Hadrian. This building is also mostly in ruins, except for one of the back walls and a handful of columns. The original building was erected in 132-134 AD and follows the “Roman Forum architecture. There was only one entrance into this library. It is not that large but still interesting to walk through.
Now, Hadrain’s Library is pretty much in the middle of one of the city squares. Around the squares there are a lot of panhandlers trying to get money from you for anything, so be aware!
We stepped into a little tourist shop to get some playing cards–we like to play this game Cole’s family invented called “2000”. Then, we headed back to the hotel to relax and change before our Valentine’s date. For dinner we had reservations at Strofi- they have a rooftop terrace with an amazing view. We ended up having the entire terrace to ourselves for dinner–I guess we just timed everything right.
The view from Strofi
The meal was a perfect end to a great trip! We walked the five minutes back to the hotel and played a round of 2000 (Cole won–which is rare ) then had some wine from the bar at the hotel and yogurt with honey in it. It was great!
The last day we had to leave the hotel around 6 am to get to the airport by 7 and our flight took off at 9. Future reference: the movie “The Godfather” is the perfect length for this flight. When we got back to Brussels, we both had that feeling that we were just ready to get home.
Athens was very educational and informative. But be aware that it is a very large and crowded city and pretty much everything is covered in graffiti. Also, panhandlers and homeless are a very big problem here. So, my suggestion is to be confident and try to avoid the major squares where certain people tend to hang out. There are stray cats and dogs everywhere, just watch where you are going.
I hope you all liked this post and if you have any questions, feel free to comment below.
Until next time. Adventure Awaits!
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.