If there was ever something I completely underestimated, it was the city of Athens. Booking this trip with just two days in mind, I was convinced that with the cheap airfare and Airbnb (both together for under 100 Euro!) that there was not going to be much to see or experience. But as soon as I landed into the fresh, warm, and Mediterranean air I knew that this city had a lot more than expected. The mountains were in shapes I had never even seen before, some covered with white houses with the most interesting architecture. Although Athens is not a Greek island like Santorini or Mykonos, you could definitely see glimpses of that type of lifestyle, especially near where our Airbnb was located in Piraeus. Being able to take the metro from Piraeus to the inner city of Athens was also something interesting since the metro ran above ground and you could peer out the window and look into the streets. The weather also was amazing for the weekend in Athens, since it was about 65 degrees (F) and sunny! Perfect for walking up the Acropolis and petting all the stray cats along the way.
Not going to lie, but when I first walked out the airport I was a bit overwhelmed. This was my first trip outside of Rome after officially starting my study abroad journey, and the language was completely different from anything I had ever experienced. Not only did it sound different, but the alphabet and the way it was written is something completely incomprehensible for me! The different letters (and even shapes!) were interesting to look at but not being able to read what signs and posters said made me a little anxious. When we were trying to figure out a way out of the airport and into the city, we had so much trouble figuring out what to do since a taxi could not take five of us and we were unaware that the metro ran to and from the airport at that point. Finally, we asked a tourist information desk in the airport who told us to take a bus to the inner city, realizing later than it would have probably been better, faster, and more worth our money to take the metro. Despite this, I thought that this was a good lesson for the future and I thought we managed our emotions well in a stressful situation!
As soon as we got off the long bus ride in inner city Athens, we found an interesting second-floor Greek restaurant which was amazing after traveling. At the restaurant the first thing they gave us was warm pita bread with this peculiar pink dipping sauce, which we later learned was made with beets. Ignoring the color, it was actually delicious! As a meal I ordered a cheese omelette and it also came with a freshly squeezed glass of OJ. My friends ordered Greek kabob’s and gyro’s which also looked incredible. We actually found out that a gyro in Greece is actually what we picture a kabob to be like, on a stick. While a kabob in Greece is wrapped in pita bread, not on a stick. Looked good either way! Some other Greek foods you could try if you’re ever there are fish, ham & cheese pies (stuffed with Feta cheese), and olives.
The first day we mostly settled into our Airbnb, walked around and enjoyed the streets filled with shops, music, and the Greek culture. Many shops sold traditional Greek items such as plates, jewelry, and art. The shopping and restaurant district surrounded the Acropolis, so whenever you looked up you could actually see the ruins in the distance. The feeling of modern living, mixed with the Mediterranean lifestyle with Ancient aesthetic, gave off a beauty that you certainly cannot find in many other places in the world.
After walking around, later on in the evening we decided to go look at the Acropolis museum (pictured below), which is where you can find many ancient statues and busts of Greek history in a very modernized building. Photo’s inside the museum were not allowed, but imagine a building walled by windows and glass stairs where you could see ruins underneath you, and on the second floor rows of ancient statues that you could picture at their prime thousands of years ago. I actually do not know that much about Ancient Greece, other than Plato and geometry and democracy having developed there. I feel like I sound really dumb saying that, but at least the Acropolis museum gave me a little bit more insight in what I was actually experiencing, and allowed me to picture more of what I was going to see the next day at the Parthenon.
To walk up to the Parthenon we entered through the Theatre of Dionysus. The theatre was a half-circle amphitheatre with rows of the original seats and a stage lined by tiny statues. Even at the theatre you already had an amazing view of the southern side of Athens, since it was halfway up the Acropolis. I later found out that they still held events at the Theatre of Dionysus, even concerts are sometimes held there. I think that would be an incredible thing to experience and it must almost be once in a lifetime. After the theatre, we continued to walk up the hill and passed some cave sanctuaries that were used to worship gods such as Apollo and Pan. You could still see a little bit of the carvings in one cave, which made me imagine how they might have been decorated and adorned back in Ancient times. Finally, one of the most impressive and probably most famous part of the Acropolis was at the very top, the Parthenon. Although there was a lot of scaffolding at the Parthenon this time around due to renovations and possible excavations, it was still very extraordinary. I was so impressed by the tall columns complete with the ridges and all, and how most of them are still standing. I was also taken by how the shape of the roof is still partially there, and if you look close enough you can still see little statues or places where they once stood. The Parthenon and the incredible view at the top of the Acropolis is definitely something I believe everyone should get a chance to see in their lifetime. It is hard not to imagine how the area must have looked back in the middle of Ancient Greece, when Athens was one of the strongest cities in the world economically and politically. The Parthenon is something that has withstood so much history and hopefully will continue to be around for many more years.
Although my trip to Athens was short, I felt so lucky to have even gotten a chance to see some insanely incredible things with my own eyes. If you ever have the chance to be in Europe, definitely swing by Athens as it is so cheap you definitely get the most out of your money with everything there is to do there. This experience got me thinking how extremely blessed I am to be abroad right now and to be able to do and see new things. I already have some trips booked for about the next month and half in some pretty exciting places, and I cannot wait to share all of those things will you all! 🙂