First Day in Athens
So we were in the train station in Athens. A city that I hadn’t been to in over 8 years, and of all of us, I was the only one who had been at all. While it was early we decided we should try to find a hotel. So we asked in the train station and were told to head to Omonia – that there should be some cheap hotels in that part of town. So we go into the metro station which is just outside the Larissa train station. We decide it might be best to spend 3€ and get the full day travel pass since we would likely be moving about a fair bit and it would be easier. We took Line 2 (red) two stops south and got off at Omonia like advised. We can see down a street that goes off from the square and there are a number of hotel signs hanging off the buildings. We start walking down the street and stopping to enquire about rates and availability. Fortunately for us, English is considerably more prevalent in Athens than in Thessaloniki. After a couple places without vacancy, we find the Diros Hotel at 21 Ag. Konstantious. It was only 50€ for three people so we decided that it was as good as any and got two rooms. Later we found that it had a computer in the lobby to access the internet at 2€/hour and free wireless.
This was around 5:45, and we agreed to meet up at 8:30 and headed to our rooms for a couple of hours of sleep. I was in room 505 with Q and Max, while the other three were in 105 (which turned out to be a much nicer room). We all pretty much crashed right away and it was too soon when my cell phone started chirping to wake me up. The other two still sleeping, I decided to quickly shave while I had the chance. We were running a bit behind schedule and Pablo knocked mid-shave to see where we were. Where the others were was still asleep so I woke them up and told them to get ready. I finished shaving and quickly made it down to the lobby. Daniel was on the computer, checking his email. Q and Max came down and since Q needed to take care of his replacement travel documents, he needed to take care of some things on the internet (like find out where he needed to go). So the other five of us left Q to his devices and headed out. I suggested we start with the Acropolis because that is the most notable thing to do in Athens. Everyone was in favour, so we headed back to the metro station.
Heading to the nearby Akropoli metro station we emerged within sight of the magnificent structure and before heading up we grabbed a quick snack/breakfast at one of the omnipresent Everest restaurants. Satisfied we walked towards the Acropolis hoping to find the entrance. Before long at all we came to an entrance that looked like it might lead to the correct place. We asked what the price was – 12€ and asked if there was a student discount. There is – it’s free! Pleased that our Greek student paso’s are finally being used for more than just half price bus tickets, we start heading into the site. Just then, the woman at the gate notices that Max is wearing his backpack. Because you aren’t allowed bringing packs into the site, we were forced to go around to the main entrance where there was a cloak room to check bags, etc. Purses and camera bags are apparently OK, because nobody said anything to Sissi or I. Showing our student ID again we were actually able to get into the site and started the climb towards the top. The view and the ruins are both fantastic and many photos were taken. We slowly made our way up, taking in everything we could and took our time wandering around the site in a self guided fashion. Not held to any schedule it is much easier to get the photos that you want, how you want them without needing to rush.
We went through the museum and by this time, I started to realize that I was burning. The weather had been warm – I think I saw 23°C at one point, and sunny at times, but mostly cloudy. I had long ago hung my coat over my camera bag, but it was my head, as bald and white as it is, that was starting to pink up. Luckily I had a bandana with me that I had intended to us a means to mop up my head if I started sweating – instead it was reassigned as permanent protection from the sun. My face also felt a bit tight, but my head was taking the worst of it. Max as well with his fairish Ukrainian skin was feeling it on his face. The Guatemalans of course were unaffected. :/ After circling the acropolis a couple times, we decided to head back down. As we were leaving, we met up with the other Erasmus party, chatted for a few minutes and then continued on our way.
After leaving through the main entrance we headed right to a large rock formation that people are allow on which provides more incredible views of the surrounding city. We spent at least half an hour up there taking photos and just taking it all in. So beautiful. We then headed to the refreshment stand to quench our thirst – in my case the thirst for soft serve ice cream. Daniel paid over 2€ for a donut which is the most any of us have paid for one before. They said that was even with the student discount, which we figure was actually an increase – “You didn’t pay to get in here, so you can pay twice as much for refreshments!” We rested a bit while refreshing and then headed back along the road in front of the acropolis. Before long we came across some very touristy shops which shirts and hats and all other manner of collectible. Sissi and Pablo may have bought something.
Half thinking about lunch after our three hour acropolis adventure, we wandered down the street until we discovered another historical site. The Temple of Olympian Zeus, which is situated not far from the acropolis is also very visually stunning, although not quite as famous as the Parthenon. Our student status once again granted free access and we went in for more photo opportunities. At this point, it started to spit rain and we were glad we had gotten to the acropolis in the morning. However, the rain didn’t really take (yet) and we managed to make our way through the Zeus Temple without any issue. Getting hungry by this point, we start looking for some place where we could sit down and have some gyros or something similar to contrast them with those in Thessaloniki.
Along the way we encountered the Parliament building which was being prepped for the parade and events on Saturday. There were a disturbing number of pigeons around and we found the source of this was a couple of older gentlemen with Polaroid cameras and bird seed. They would walk up to a tourist and offer bird seed which the tourist put in their cupped hand and the pigeons would fly up onto the person and the man would take the photo and sell it to the tourist for 5€. A clever, albeit disgusting gimmick, Daniel found out the hard way that the pigeons are so conditioned that you didn’t need bird seed in your cupped hand for them to swarm you. Of course, he isn’t a fan of pigeons and I think he may have pissed them off by teasing them like that and they started to follow him, Sissi and Pablo away from the Parliament. I must say that it was creepy looking, and later we laughed by imagining the old men running after saying “Wait, bring back my pigeons!”
Back on our quest for lunch we were starting to grow impatient at the serious lack of decent eating establishments. Maybe we were in the wrong part of town, but while you can’t walk 6 meters in Thessaloniki without tripping over a spindle of meat, we wandered around for an hour before finding anywhere appropriate. At this point, my feet hurt like nothing else. I’m not going to get into it now, but suffice it to say that my boots aren’t made for walking… any more. Lunch was good, with a slightly different style than we were used to, but some of the meat was a bit tastier, so it passed the discerning tests of a couple of greek fast food connoisseurs. After eating, we decided that we should probably buy a map of Athens if we want to find some of the other sites.