My First Full Day in Athens!
As an amazing trip comes to a close, we return to the city where the adventure began. Now please understand it is impossible to capture the essence of Athens in a post, but I will hip you to the things that I absolutely enjoyed.
I love the city of Athens, perfect combination of old and new, shambles and chic, bursting with citizens and tourists. Traffic is absolutely horrific, you couldn’t pay me to drive and it seemed faster to walk at times. I marveled at the lack of compliance with rules, and people driving on the days they weren’t supposed to. People were everywhere, sitting, walking, running, on scooters, in cars, on motorcycles, riding buses, and sailing. Nobody seemed pressed, or bothered, so I made up my mind to follow suit. People openly smoked cigarettes and drank coffee for hours, life moved at whatever pace you set for yourself. Everywhere you turn was some type of food, shop, cafe, we walked, ate, shopped and enjoyed the freedom of doing everything and nothing.
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is a must first stop before seeing the Acropolis. Go early, avoid the crowds, and try your best to walk each floor and see a bit of everything. It is impossible to see and read everything entirely, I tried, it isn’t possible. Ask the guides to give you a brief summary in each area and move on to the next. Visit the gift shop, great gifts of all prices, but save the major shopping for the Plaka. The museum has excellent bathrooms on every floor, this is a great restroom stop before heading to the Acropolis. Most importantly, you will be suffering from mild heat exhaustion when you leave the Acropolis, enjoy the museum while your mind is fresh, you are cool and relaxed. If you are trying to prevent a heat stroke you wont be able to enjoy it. If you are traveling with kids of any age, teach them the importance of not touching, I observed a kindergarten class on a field trip, the children were well behaved, and had their hands in their pockets, if the babies can do it, so can you.
Warning~In June the sun beaming down at 11 in the morning was nothing short of 90 plus degrees. In the heat the marble steps become slick as ice so sneakers with a good grip are non negotiable. Don’t attempt this climb in flip flops, and for God sake ladies, leave the damn high heels at home. After hiking up the hill and what I’m certain was 2,000 steps the scene opens up that every traveler visiting Greece anticipates, only its so much better than any travel magazine could ever capture. Nothing but temples, everywhere you look temples. Now you can see the Acropolis in parts from the bottom of the hill but its magic is truly unveiled when you reach the top. For people who say “oh the Acropolis isn’t the best part of Greece” everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would suggest you make that determination for yourself and check it out.
Warning~The heat was scorching when we reached the top, if you are person who has the tendency to faint or fall out (Nyri) I would suggest you walk with cool packs to put inside your clothes to keep your body temperature cool and a hat is a must.
Many sections are under construction, ropes were everywhere in different locations to keep travelers safe. Please don’t ignore the ropes or signs seeking Instagram perfection, its dangerous and in my opinion disrespectful. These are historical sites and they should be respected so that they can be enjoyed for thousands of years to come.
When you are up close you can see what was original construction and what has been restored, all the stones you see and pieces of artifacts on the ground behind ropes are from the original construction. The guides explained that they try to use the old and new to maintain authenticity if possible.
What I liked most was the willingness of guides and locals to explain and answer questions at both sites and museums. They walked around making sure people followed directions, but they really enjoyed answering questions and interacting with visitors.
Look closely at this picture, I captured the columns of another area unknowingly so I am not sure what it is. But I love the view of the city, another mix of old and new.
There are so many moments that I kept thinking “how the hell did anyone get up here and how the hell did they carry that marble and build”. In these moments I always want to have a conversation with the ancestors of the Greeks, transport myself back in time and have the opportunity to experience the vision in its true form. The areal views are amazing, you can see all of Athens.
The Plaka is located at the bottom of the hill from the Acropolis. It is so much more than a shopping district, it also includes museums, additional displays of history and it is filled with any and everything you think you will need in life. This is where you must stop and have a Gyro, purchase trinkets, and learn the art of haggling. I will admit, I am not a haggler, so I can’t provide tips. Warning-The Plaka is overwhelming, don’t spend all of your money or all of your time in one place, but if you love owls buy them here. They have the best selection in my opinion. Pick a restaurant that isn’t crowded especially if you have time constraints. The food will be good regardless, and you want the opportunity to really savor the ambiance as well as the food. The Plaka is a people watching paradise, kick back, enjoy your food watch others do the same and spend a little money. At the end of the day you will be exhausted, the walking is endless and the heat is relentless. This is a day that you will go back to your hotel, shower, wait for dinner, and have a full night of deep restorative sleep.
My Final Night in Athens.
The trip from Delphi put us back in Athens in the early afternoon. Enough time to unwind before dinner and start packing up to go home. The hotel was in the middle of a small suburb of Athens full of citrus trees. A pool area with a cafe, and music was in the back. The kids used this opportunity to cool off and swim, while the adults lounged, had a drink and chatted about how much fun they had on the trip. It started raining and nobody seemed to mind because of the extreme heat, it was refreshing. My last hike, in the rain, dogs barking, poop dodging, on the way to dinner was full of laughs. Finally everyone was comfortable enough to be themselves, the kids from Pennsylvania, Montana and Utah mingled freely with the kids from Georgia. Seemed like geological differences were no longer an issue, they were all teens, talking about teen issues, anticipating the trip home. After dinner they all met in the hallway, doors open, a heated game of spades using ex-rated cards. Warning~Sexuality and the body is celebrated in Greece so if you are bothered by seeing a penis or sexual positions on cups, key chains, and playing cards (I got a pack) I suggest you prepare yourself, relax and enjoy the fun.
One valuable lesson I learned is that kids look to all adults as parental figures, even when traveling. Yes they love going off, experimenting, having teen adventures, but just know as a traveler with teens you are a mom first. They will need some form of medication, band aids, tampons, run out of money, be pregnant secretly, get sick, cry, so be prepared for everything. These are not always kids that are in your traveling group, please remember when they seek out the person that they need a dose of mothering from, provide it with a smile and a hug if needed.
As quickly as it began, its over. We gave Ernesti a round of applause, he earned every cent of his tip plus some! He transported us around the country with the utmost care and concern. The airport check-in process was a breeze, but we were warned to take all jewelry and cash our of any checked baggage. I wish she had said olive oil, a baggage handler or TSA jacked me for a bottle and left a note about “random security check”. Changing planes in Amsterdam was a mess because the process is somewhat confusing, we had to clear a virtual customs, it was simple yet strange. I don’t think it would have been as stressful on a normal day but we had about an hour to get through customs and across the the other side of the airport. The food scene in the airport seemed to be amazing. I had some Pho that was top notch with just enough time to drop a few chili peppers in it and take it with me to the gate. It was here we said our final goodbyes, and boarded Delta for a smooth flight home.
Blessings and may you enjoy Athens as your first and final destination while in Greece~Ny