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Touring Athens - My Way

  • Submitted by: R.A.Slowik, United States
  • Submission Date: 02nd Jul 2005

The Aegean Airlines Boeing 737-300 I was aboard landed at Athens International Airport around 5 p.m. on a Sunday. Maybe not the best day or time to arrive, but I had to settle for the situation. I just hoped everything would work out fine.

It took awhile to locate my baggage, then I had to start looking for a hotel, because it was getting late. Several attempts failed because the places were full. I started at the top calling the names that were recommended in the travel guide. Unfortunately, I guess, so did everyone else--and, they were ahead of me.

I was ready to give up when I decided to ask the next hotel desk clerk I talked to, who did not have an available room, to recommend another establishment. It worked, and I got a room. The Hotel Samolou was my next stop for the next several nights. The clerk gave me until 7:30 p.m. to arrive and directions to get there.

By 5:45, I was aboard a train heading into downtown Athens. It took me to the Omonia Circle stop where I disembarked and walked north for four blocks to the specified address. I arrived at 7 p.m., a half-hour early.

I checked in, took the elevator to my room, deposited my baggage, then returned to the desk clerk to get some information. I needed a map and directions to a good restaurant. He gave me both.

By 7:30, I was seated outside at the Tripoli Restaurant. I quickly ate a tomato/cucumber, smothered in olive oil, salad. It was filling. Next, I had spaghetti bolognaisse. The Grecian version tasted better than the Italian, I thought to myself. I washed it all down with an icy cold bottle of Mythos Beer, a Greek concoction.

Being very tired at this point, I headed back to my room, unpacked, took a nice hot shower, then climbed into bed. I was getting ready for a full day tomorrow.

On the 18th, after doing all the necessary things one does after waking up in the morning, I traipsed over to Omonia Cirle Metro Station and purchased a ticket to Monasteraki Circle for 0,60 euro. The train was nice and comfortable, but I was only staying aboard for a couple of stops. Looking at the route depicted above the doors, I saw that I should get off at the Acropolis stop. I did exactly that.

The walk to the site was long and difficult for an old man like me. Much of it was uphill, and there were no elevators, escalators, or other forms of transport to get me there. I was tired when I arrived at the entrance, but it was still early.

When I arrived at the Parthenon, I felt that all the trouble had been worth it. It was 9:30, and I was standing in the shade of the huge and magnificent edifice. I could easily imagine that Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, etc., had stood here too, back in their period of time.

I mounted my camera atop a tripod and took many photos of the building, some with--and others without--me in them. The large size, bigger than I imagined, forced me to step back a ways to gather it all in.

It is definitely a grand temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, of Doric architecture, and a fantastic symbol of Greece's past. Built around 450 B.C., during the days of Pericles, it was constructed just prior to the Peloponnesian Wars--made famous by Thucydides.

By 10 a.m., I turned my photo apparatus in the direction of the nearby Temple of Apteros Nike, and the Erectheion. The so-called Karyatids were easy to see and the sun was just right for my needs.

Not liking too much sun on myself, I stood at the back side of the Parthenon, looking for any shade at all. It was not easy, but I managed to locate a place.

From here, I used my camcorder to film everything I could, turning myself 360 degrees and slowly panning all the while. It was a temendous sight.

Around 10:15, I was immediately in front of the Temple of Apteros Nike and the Erectheion, filming movies and shooting stills. This particular edifice was less damaged than the other places. Still, it was in the sun, so I did what I had to then moved along.

Unfortunately, the statue of Athena was no longer inside, so I missed that in my films. The purpose of the structure was to honor Athena for the earlier Greek victory over the Persians.

By 10:30, the tourist buses had unloaded and people of all ages were swarming all over the Acropolis. I decided it was time to move on and see what else I had missed.

At 10:45, I was back at the entrance, called the Propylaea, doing some more filming. By now the entire place was crawling with tourists from all over the world. I wondered what Plato or Aristotle would think of all this if only they could be here making observations.

Soon, I was off the Acropolis and in the Plaka area of the city. I intended to walk over to the Parliament building from here.

When I arrived, I quickly located the guards at their War Memorial of the Unknown Soldier. I took many still photos and movie footage of the displays.

By 11:50, I got a bit hungry, so I bought a fast-food, ham and cheese pie. It was delicious and the crust was flaky.

Since I was near to Syntagma Square, I walked over to the metro, climbed aboard the next train, got off at Monasteraki Square, transferred to the Omonia Station green line, and got off there. Nothing at all complicated about this place.

At Omonia Station, I found a place to use the internet. It was downstairs, and very hot inside, so I did what I had to, paid, then left.

Now I had an opportunity to check out the local area and did so. I did some window shopping, checked out souvenirs, and some of the young ladies walking past me. A few benches even helped me pass the time in a relaxed manner.

Around 4:15, I wanted to eat some real Greek food, so I stopped in at Joy's. I saw what looked like lasagna, so I ordered a plate of it. It turned out to be pastitio and it was delicious. Cost was only 4,0 euro.

Afterwards, I returned to my room for a bit of welcome rest. It felt good and recharged me for the evening.

Around 6:30, I was back on the street, and it was getting dark. People were heading home from work, or out for an evening stroll, so the sidewalks were full.

By 7:10, I was sitting at a table outside the Neon Restaurant, eating pork souvlaki, along with french fries, slaw, tomato and cucumber salad, and bread. I washed it all down with a cold bottle of Amstel lager. I sure felt good afterwards.

Later, I walked slowly back to my room, got inside, showered, and went to sleep. I reflected on a great day.

The next day, the 19th, found me at the National Archaeological Museum. I got there around 9 a.m., and entry cost me 6,0 euro.

It was a place full of ancient art, and I enjoyed every minute I spent in there.

Around 9:40, I was taken in by a sculpture of Aphrodite, so I asked a tourist to snap a photo of me standing next to her. This would occur again and again, while I was inside.

The large bronze statue of Poseiden, the Greek God of the Sea, stood impressively in the middle of another room. It dated from around 5 B.C. I listened as a German tour guide explained to his group how it had been recovered from beneath the Aegean Sea some time in the past. It must have been around 10 feet tall, and the work was incredible for the age in which it was created.

I passed through various rooms, some full of broken artifacts, and others with still intact works. Large vases were in some, and figures in others.

By 10:15, I was in the presence of a very impressive work of art. It was Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, being besieged by an evil-looking, horned, horse-legged creature named Pan. Eros was overhead. The other works in this room dated from around 100 B.C., so I was amazed at the detail in this marble work.

At 10:20, I was in the presence of another magnificent work of art, a little girl holding a dog. Although done around 2000 years ago, it looked as if it could have been done today.

A few minutes later, and I was in the presence of a boy riding atop a rushing horse. It was in bronze, had been recovered from beneath the sea, and dated from around 140 B.C.

After passing through several more rooms, and enjoying everything I saw, I felt it was time to leave. So, by 10:30 a.m., I was back out on the street, ready to head to my next tour.

I decided to walk to the base of Mount Lykavitos, in the northeastern part of the city, and ride the funicular railway to the summit. The ride cost me 4,50 euros, and I was at the 275 meter peak around 11:35.

The view was indeed spectacular. Using my camcorder I did a 360 degree walk around and took film footage of the immense city below. I also used my still camera to obtain a dozen or so photos from above.

Around 11:45, I was inside a small chapel of St. George, belonging to the Greek Orthodox church, I assumed. Religious icons were everywhere, not an empty space was available for any more.

At noon, I took the ride back down and decided to walk some more. I still had a good bit of the day ahead.

Not going too far, I found myself in a tourist shop, purchasing a Greek vase for mailing back to my home in the USA. Cost was around 110,0 euros.

Next, I wanted to see the changing-of-the-guard at Parliament. It occurred every hour on the hour.

It took me about 30 minutes of downhill walking, but I finally reached the area in time. I was hot and sweaty, but it didn't matter.

At 12:59, the Evzones (guards) coming on shift marched in formation to the monument. I got it all on film, as well as the change.

They wore dark blue tunics, white breeches with knee socks, extra-long slippers with pom-poms on their toes, and red hats with a tassel atop. To say the least they were colorful.

After the guard change, I asked an Australian to take a photo of me standing alongside one of the guards. He obliged nicely.

From here, I decided that I should visit the ancient Agora. My map gave me the direction, and I headed that way.

By 2 p.m., I had found the entrance and was inside buying a ticket.

At 2:16, I was inside the Stoa of Attalos, impressed with all the recent work done by international aid groups to restore the edifice.

Later, I walked along the Panathenaic Way, perhaps in the same footsteps done by the ancients before me.

Looking around,I was impressed at how they had managed to reconstruct some of the buildings and the amount of damaged columns and pillars that were still standing about the place.

By 2:30, I was standing in the shade of a magnificent looking building, the Temple of Hephaistos. Doric in architecture, it stood atop the hill of Kolonos Agoraios. Construction occurred back in 450 B.C. I took a lot of photos of this building and spent a lot of time admiring the work that went into it.

Although I wanted to stay longer, I left after 15 minutes more of traipsing around. There was just too much to see.

By 3 p.m., I found my way back to Omonia Station. Near there was a Neon Cafeteria, so I went inside and got a plate full of moussakas and another of string beans. I choked it all down, including the olive oil that oozed from it.

Afterwards, back to my hotel room for a bit of rest. It felt good.

By 6:30, I was back out on the street again. I enjoyed this period when the sun went down, the cool breezes fanned my face, and the people drifted about. It was great for me. So, I relaxed for awhile, then returned to my room for the night.

The next day, I took one last walk around the local area, taking my time. It was pleasant outside, and I had been treated well here.

Back to my room later, I packed my baggage, and went downstairs. I checked out of the hotel around 11:15, thanked the boss, and we parted as good friends.

From Omonia Station I took a train to the Port of Piraeus. The ride took about 30 minutes.

When I got to Piraeus, I bought a one-way ferry boat ticket to Chania, Crete. Cost was 24,4 euros. The time was around noon.

The Blue Star Ferry Line departed with me aboard destined for Crete. Looking back at Athens from the sea, I mused about how much it had to offer, and I had barely scratched the surface. I vowed to return someday.