Groovy in Greece – Athens Part 2

This installment is going to jump ahead a few days to the end of my Taste of Greece tour with Expat Explore….

We arrive back in Athens in the late morning with time to drop off our bags at the hotel and pick up the new people that are joining this tour for the second half. For some of us though, it is our last day. It was an amazing time with an amazing group! But we’re not quite done yet, so here we go….

We meet our local guide Babis and we make a quick stop at the Panathenaic Stadium, which is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. Wow!

It was built around 330 BC, and was refurbished a few times before finally hosting the opening/ closing ceremonies and some events of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

It is also the location where the Olympic Flame is handed over to the host nation. This time we only look at it from the outside. When I was here in 1997, we went in and ran around the track. Haha.

Next stop is…finally…The Acropolis. I would recommend doing this attraction as early as possible because it gets BUSY. Like totally nuts. We’re here before noon and already the line up is massive..lots of tour groups and cruise ship groups. Normally there is a flow of traffic in both directions but today they alternate blocking off the routes in and out. Ugh. When we finally make it in, the first thing we can see down below is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a giant Roman style theatre made of stone.

Dating back to 161 AD and renovated in 1950, it still hosts concerts to this day…I know a few people that caught a show here and they said it was awesome. Wish I could have! We make our way over to the Propylaia, the monumental ceremonial gateway into the Acropolis.

It’s one of the main structures that still remains. And the traffic flow stops again, while we wait for people to exit the gate. Come onnnnnnnnn.

The Acropolis is an ancient citadel that sits atop a large rock in the middle of Athens. There are amazing views of the city from up here. Fun Fact: there are height restrictions for buildings in Athens to ensure that the Acropolis hill is visible throughout the city.

Our guide Babis is still with us, and he’s got a great personality but I’m not finding his info very interesting and I just want to go explore because we have limited time. We’ve got those headphone tour box things, so I can still hear him when I wander off. Perfect. So, what’s up here on the hill. First, the Parthenon…

probably the most photographed structure here in Athens. It’s a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, and it also served as the city treasury. Fun Fact: the word Parthenon comes from the Greek word for “maiden”, “virgin”. You can wander around the perimeter, but can’t go inside. On the south side, you can see where an explosion in the 1600’s damaged the walls – it hasn’t been refurbished.

There is scaffolding on one side; restoration has been going on since the 70’s.

No matter what though..this building is stunning. A lot of the items that were excavated here are now in the Acropolis Museum, which I do not visit. It isn’t included in our particular ticket, and at this point I had been to the museums in Delphi and Olympia so I make the decision not to check it out. Bad move, maybe. But luckily you can check out their website www.theacropolismuseum.gr to see some of the cool stuff they have on display.

And the last building to marvel at up here on the hill is the Erechtheion, which is another temple/hall that was made to house the statue of Athena Polias.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while researching this temple…they can’t quite decide exactly what this building was or what it was used for. Standing in front of the Erechtheion is a moria olive tree, thought to be in the same location of the very first olive tree given to Athens from Athena.

But the most famous feature on this temple are the Caryatids, which are the six female sculptures that support the Porch of the Maidens.

The ones outside here are replicas, with the originals being in the Acropolis Museum.

Now it’s time to make my way down and out of the Acropolis. A lot of the pathways and steps here in Athens are really slippery, so I’m being soooo careful coming down. One girl behind me slips and falls, and I feel for her and I am also glad that it wasn’t me. Turns out I am also late, because apparently the meetup time changed and I did not catch that memo. Oops. While we wait for a few others that are also late, guess who we see…Charoula, from the food tour on the first day in Athens! She runs over to say hi and give hugs. From the Acropolis, we walk through the Plaka, a neighborhood with narrow cobblestone streets and lined with shops and restaurants.

We sit down for lunch, and bad blogger didn’t catch the name of the restaurant. The main course for lunch is lamb sausage skewers. Not amazing, but not bad. After lunch we hop back on the big coach bus one last time and say good bye to the group as they continue on to the Greek Islands. Remaining in Athens for the night are myself, Vanessa, Sophia and Deepti. We had considered doing a night out in Athens, but decide to stay at the hotel and enjoy the rooftop bar. We order pizza and drink beer, wine, and Metaxa – a Greek brandy. A perfect girls night!

The next morning, I say farewell to the girls and get ready to meet up with my cousin Jerod and his new wife Mandy. They just got married a few months prior and I wasn’t able to attend the wedding in Winnipeg – so how amazing is it that I get to see them here in Greece! It is only coincidence that we planned to be here at the same time, so we set aside a day to hang out. They have just finished a week on the islands and will fly home tomorrow.

From the hotel we walk back into Athens central and we explore the Ancient Agora of Athens, which was used as a commercial and residential gathering place.

It is a large field filled with ruins that are still being excavated. We first have look in the museum, located in the Stoa of Attalos (an ancient covered walkway).

And like many museums here, there are tons of cool statues and artifacts to admire. This one is my fave, they figure it’s Aphrodite.

Then we walk through some of the ruins to eventually stop at the entrance to the Odeon of Agrippa, which was a gymnasium in the centre of the agora.

Now there’s not a lot of shade here in these ruins; we’re nearing the end of our heat and sun tolerance. But not before we climb up a little hill to the temple of Hephaestus.

On the way up we see a small tortoise….a random tourist is surprised I haven’t seen one yet as they are common around this area. Yep, didn’t know that! Hep’s temple is very well preserved and mostly intact; it’s believed that it housed 2 bronze statues of Athena and Hephaestus.

And then we head back through the flea market to do some souvenir shopping. I seriously love souvenir shopping – like I can go into shop after shop even though they all sell the same shit. We pick up a few items, such as the obligatory dick shaped bottle openers.

We wander into the Plaka to find a cool place for lunch; we end up at Psarras Tavern, a restaurant in an old stone mansion that’s been around since 1898 – one of the oldest in Athens. We sit outside on the deck and I have the chicken skewers and fries. It’s really good!

After lunch we head back to Monastiraki Square to the rooftop bar called A for Athens, for drinks and amazing views of the square and the Acropolis.

This place gets busy, so if you want less hassle, show up in the late afternoon. Before we head back to the hotel, I want to find this popular shop that sells loukoumades (Greek donuts). I put it into my Google Maps and it takes us to the wrong place. There are two other random girls that are in the same predicament, so I don’t feel so bad. Jerod and Mandy head back to the hotel but I’m determined to find this place. Turns out it was really close to where we had drinks earlier. Dammit. Haha. This shop is fittingly called Loukoumades, and you can order these little round balls of dough with a variety of toppings – I try mine drizzled with salted caramel sauce.

Yeah, it is worth the trip. It’s always busy here so expect to wait at least 10-15 minutes for your order. Back at the hotel, I find Jerod and Mandy and we have dinner on the rooftop patio. Later this evening I am flying to Crete, but that’s a story for later……

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