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My Trip to Europe: Athens

For the complete trip, check out Dublin ->Paris -> Athens -> Rhodes -> Santorini -> Rome -> Dublin return!

 

We took an overnight flight from Paris to Athens taking off at 9 PM and landing at 2 AM. When we walked to our seats, I saw that I’d be sitting in the middle between my friend, Sarah and a man in his mid-40’s. He was extremely friendly from the moment he saw me; too friendly we would find out. We sat down and Sarah and I began flipping through the flight magazines. He immediately started leaning towards me and was looking at my magazine along with me. Then, he started pointing out all the girls, commenting on how hot they were hot and asking me what I thought of them. I just told him they were girls, I didn’t think anything of them. He spoke broken english struggling to force a conversation with me. It was too awkward, so to his dismay, I decided to go to sleep. I put my hood on my head, sunglasses on and headphones in my ears and turned towards Sarah. Soon I was asleep, but Sarah woke me up for dinner (at midnight).

When I woke up, she told me that the man had leaned against the window and just stared at her and I almost the entire time, while she was awake listening to music. We were freaked out and wanted to avoid him, so we decided to listen to music as we ate. She put one of her earbuds in my ear and when the guy saw this, he apparently thought that meant he could put one of his my ear, too. Wondering what he could possibly have been thinking, I yanked it out and politely told him no. He then offered me his food and I said no again. Then, he offered me his leg room and again I said no. It was getting hard to be polite at this point. I went to bathroom for a break from him and slightly because I needed to. I came back to a more frightened Sarah telling me that he had patted my seat and told her to move over into it so they could talk to which she obviously said no, repeatedly.

So, I sat down to him staring at me wanting to talk. I just looked forward and went to put on headphones and sleep again. He asked me not to (at like 12:45 AM) but I politely said no, it was late yet again and tried to feign sleep. I then felt poking on my legs and opened my eyes to see him poking my legs. I told him to stop almost laughing trying to play it off as the plane was full and I had nowhere to move to, although I should have screamed at him.

I then pretended to fall back asleep and “slept” until the stewardess said we were landing and forced me up. He was beaming when I “woke up”. He tried to talk yet again and asked me where we were staying in Athens. I was more than annoyed and disturbed by this guy by this point. I just told him a hotel. He then asked how long and I simply replied just a few days. Next came the final straw. He asked me if I wanted to share a hotel room. That was it, absolutely no more. There was no need to be polite once that line was crossed and I had already been too polite. I flatly told him no, turned away to ignore him for the remainder of the landing. I turned my back to him facing Sarah and simply said “Mi scusi!” and she yelled “YES!” If you don’t get it, there’s a creepy character from the movie Eurotrip and this guy was definitely his brother (watch the clip in the link).

We just made jokes about him the rest of the flight while he attempted to get my attention every 5 minutes. When we landed, we bolted off the plane and tried to hide at baggage claim. We were staying the airport until 7 AM, then would leave to go exploring. It was was pointless to get a hotel room for the night when arriving at 3 AM. So we were just going to sleep for a few hours, drop our bags off at our hotel at 8 AM and go exploring. So, once we got our bags, we made sure he had left and slinked away to a corner of the airport to sleep.

Sarah sleeping in Athens airport

After airport workers waking us up at 6 AM for disturbing the crowds, while we were in the corner where there was no one near us, Sarah was mad and ready to leave.

We changed and left on the bus for Syntagma Square. Our hotel was about a mile from the square so we needed a taxi. Syntagma was full of protestors camped out for weeks and signs everywhere. We tried to hail a taxi, but none were around. We found out the hard way that taxis had been strike for the past 2 weeks. We trudged a mile to the hotel, which was right next to the acropolis.

view of acropolis

So, that was our first stop. I’ve went there the year before, so it was revisiting a place I love and showing Sarah around it for the first time. I’m also a Classical Civilizations major and so I got to be a nerd.

Theater of Dionysus

ancient Greek writing and design on Theater of Dionysus

Heading up the south slope of the acropolis, we first saw the Theater of Dionysus, the first theater known of as well as the first amphitheater. This is the site where famous plays from Euripides, Sophocles, Homer and other renowned playwrights of ancient Greece premiered.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Following the trail up, we passed the ruins of many key buildings of ancient Rome such as the Odeon of Perikles, the Asklepeion and others, finally coming to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Then we walked up lots of steps finally leading to the acropolis. The final step are all marble leading to the top of the Parthenon. It’s completely slick and worn in some spots, but had definitely held up well over the years.

Erechtheum

Then we came to the Parthenon and the Erechtheum at the top of the Parthenon.

Burnt Erechtheum

The Erechtheum is a temple near the acropolis. It was burnt in the last Persian War in 480 BC when the Persians led by Xerses took the city and burnt all important buildings (this was also the war where the Persians later fought the Spartans at Thermopylae).

Parthenon

Christian church remains on top of the acropolis

We then saw the Parthenon and the remains of Christian churches on top of the acropolis. The Parthenon is much bigger than you could imagine.

View of the Temple of Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium

The views from the top of the acropolis are incredible from all sides.

View of acropolis from aeropagus

Apostle Paul’s sermon

We then headed to the Aeropagus, which was like the supreme court of Athens. It’s also where the apostle Paul preached to the Athenians of the Unknown God which they worshipped for the first time and his sermon is now posted on the Aeropagus.

Stoa of Attalos

Next, we headed down the hill further to the agora, which was the center of all life in ancient Greek. It’s where temples, schools, markets, gymnasiums and everything that was communally Greek existed. I imagine Plato, Socrates, and more walking around it. The Stoa of Attalos has been restored.

Church of the Apostles

The Church of the Apostles was the first significant Byzantine church in Athens and one of the two intact buildings in the agora.

View of the acropolis from the Temple of Hephaestus

The second remaining building (and oldest) is the Temple of Hephaestus. It’s also severely burnt from the last Persian War, but still remaining.

Part of Hadrian’s Library

Mosaics on the floor of Hadrian’s Library

After our first gyros at the plaka, we moved onto Hadrian’s Library.

Roman agora

Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora

Near Hadrian’s Library is the Roman agora. All of these were the center of Athenian and all of Greek life in the later centuries once Rome became the most powerful civilization. I retraced all of my steps from the year before and I loved it, it was like coming home. We then wandered the streets devoid of a grid around the acropolis stumbling on Adrianou Street, a street lined with shops and tavernas.

Panathenaic Stadium

We meandered through the winding street until we reached the Panathenaic Stadium. It was a revisit for me again, but I love seeing the huge stadium. It’s new but was built in the exact location of the original stadium.

View of acropolis

You can see the city planning of the Greeks as you have a perfect view of the acropolis from stadium.

Temple of Zeus

Right down the street from the stadium the Temple of Zeus. It’s still huge to this day. It took over 600 years for it to finally be completed and was the largest temple in Greece for about a century.

Arch of Hadrian

We then walked through the Arch of Hadrian to our hotel and crashed after not having really slept and walking a few miles in the past 2 days.

The next day, we actually woke up comfortably in separate beds, with air conditioning in a quiet and dark room where we could take the elevator down to the lobby where there was a genuine breakfast. We had forgotten what it was like to have things like these.

Adrianou Street

Once we felt human again, we wanted to find gyros that we had stumbled upon the day before somewhere along Adrianou Street.We spent  a few hours browsing shops and hoping to find the right corner for the best gyros. We finally found them after going through countless alleys and a few circles. Then, we moved towards the center of Athens again.

We had seen lots of communist and anarchist graffiti all over the city, but now we started to see some remnants of violence. We walked by men cleaning up shattered glass of their store window and riot police slowly began stationing on the corners. We weren’t sure what was going on, but we knew it wasn’t good. We would be leaving in a few hours, though, so we let it go.

Inside the Zappeion

We moved over to the Zappeion. It’s a beautiful building with huge steps overlooking gardens and it sits right below the Athens National Gardens.

Athens National Gardens

So, we moved through them. Stopping at gazebos, poor attempts at ponds and a mini zoo. We even made a dog friend. Sarah and I finally found a place we could lay down in the garden, which we loved (after not being able to touch the grass in most gardens in Paris).

As we were relaxing talking about the beaches to come, I began hearing noises. Most tourists wouldn’t know this, but the Parliament, where you have seen riots in Athens over the fiscal crisis in Syntagma Square (where the protesters were camping) is right in front of Athens National Gardens. Then we knew it. A protest was starting which might turn into a riot later. We decided we should get going before things escalated and we might not be able to make our flight. We walked back to our hotel as cops became more prolific and shouts grew louder. We checked out and began the one mile uphill trek back to Syntagma Square, where the protests were. It was easy to walk back due to streets being closed left and right.

Protests in front of the Parliament building in Syntagma Square

We finally reach the square, but busses weren’t reaching the square, so we had to take the metro.

Sock tan line

Thanking God that we dodged what was sure to turn violent, we were happy to make it to the airport.

Sarah eating fries with a fancy fork

As we walked to get food, I ran into someone I’ve spent the last two summers with in Greece and realized we were on the same flight to Rhodes. So, after Sarah getting pulled aside for trying to get sunscreen through security (I’ve actually gotten it through before), we hung out with my friend and about 100 Greek boyscouts Greek dancing in the airport terminal for 45 minutes before boarding the flight to Rhodes.

Check out the stops I made in Dublin and Paris before Athens, too!

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  • rental mobil - September 22, 2011 - 11:55 pm

    Very nice, thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth M - March 18, 2014 - 9:59 am

    Hi!

    I’m going to Greece this summer and stumbled on your blog while researching. Do you think 2 days in Athens is plenty to see everything?

    Thanks, ElizabethReplyCancel

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