Published: October 26th 2008September 25th 2008
The site of the ancient cemetery of Athens.
Checking in our baggage at the Venice Marco Polo Airport was completed with a welcoming feeling of calmness, knowing we would positively be underweight. You have no idea how many sleepless nights we have had due to the immense amount of extra luggage we had ‘somehow’ built up during our travels in Italy, and further, stressing about how we were going to ‘lighten our load’ to make it on the plane to Greece.
We arrived at our hostel (Athen's Easy Hostel - where guests receive a free breakfast consisting of unlimited coffee and hard boiled eggs, as well as CNN and a welcoming drink of ouzo) relatively early in the morning and had the whole day ahead of us to explore the ancient city of where Greek mythology began. Walking out of our hostel towards the metro we could not help but take note of the area we were staying in; north of Omonia Station. Filled with the homeless, night walkers, and other questionable, sketchy sods, this area made us think twice about our plans to enjoy the famous Athens nightlife.
The following is a list of what was seen and of course, what we thought about each one:
- The Acropolis - a Unesco World Heritage Site, includes some of the best buildings of the Greek Classical Age (the Parthenon, the Erectheion, the Temple of Athena Nike) and seemed to be the top of the city. The fortified town was completely made of marble which we were frequently reminded not to touch by the multitude of guards. It was impressive and astonishing to think that, that was the very spot where grand decisions were made once upon a time as the Acropolis functioned as the city's administrative center, and the Parthenon as its cathedral.
- Theatre of Dionysos - once housed 17 000 people and is used as a prototype for all theaters in ancient Greece.
- The Ancient Agora - is now very much only green space, however, it did have a very beautiful view of the Acropolis. During our visit they were passing out free tourist guide books, as well as green apples, reminding us not to leave our mark (litter), but instead to take our memories and photos with us.
- The Kerameikos— is the site of the ancient cemetery of Athens. It has a museum showcasing
many of the grave stele and other archaeological items found on the grounds (security here was very strict and watched us the entire time we toured around, to be sure we were never too close and that our pictures were of only the artifacts and not of us with the artifacts -go figure, didn't make sense to us either). However, if you are Ewa it is all just rubble and the most exciting part was the turtles! (see pictures)
Ewa: "TURTLES! Quick Jill get a picture!"
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus— only the ruins (or rubble for Ewa) remain today.
- Panathianiko Stadium— housed the first modern day Olympic Games of 1896. Its an enormous, white, marble stadium, in a horseshoe configuration.
- Lycabettus Hill - a 200m hill; astonishing views of the Parthenon, the Acropolis and the sea. At the top there is a lovely restaurant where we took a moment to enjoy a refreshing sangria and fully appreciate all that was below us.
- Athens Olympic Stadium - where Athens hosted the Olympics in 2004.
- The National Archaeological Museum of Athens -home to some of the most important artifacts from a variety of
archaeological locations around Greece. It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world.
Jill: "Ewa calm down. Turles are not known for their agility or speed."
P.S. Big "Hello" to Mom and Dad back in Turtle Valley, British Columbia!
Our first day in Greece we felt that it was only fitting we sample some true everyday Greek food. Therefore on a recommendation from some fellow hostelers (who eaten one day prior and were not showing any visible signs of discomfort) we set out to try our first meal off a rotisserie at a nearby Tavern
The meal, or better known to some as Greek fast food, was a gyros (a pita filled with tomato, onions, tzatziki sauce, french fries and pork roasted on a vertical rotisserie) and a side of Greek salad. Very tasty! We devoured our meal in seconds.
That night Ewa didn't sleep worrying about all of the potential unpleasant 'things' that could result from ingesting her gyros and greek salad, however, we are pleased to report in the following days we were both a picture of health and ate many more gyros (of course from the same restaurant -why take unnecessary risks?)
One of our evenings in Athens was spent enjoying traditional Greek cuisine with some friendly locals we met during the day. Our meal included a
Our first meal in Greece
Ewa: "This could be my last supper..."
variety of Greek dishes recommended by our new found friends. In a traditional tapas style we sampled: aubergine (eggplant) salad, dolmathes (stuffed grapevine leaves), deep fried vegetables (aubergines, peppers or mushrooms), fava (yellow split pea puree), lachanosalata (very finely shredded cabbage with salt, olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar dressing), saganaki (fried cheese), and keftedes (fried meatballs with oregano and mint).
Part way through dinner and only a sip into our ouzo (ouzo does not go down that quickly...) we learnt the story of Athens:
Back in the time of Greek mythology there were two Greek Gods who demanded the honor of naming the city. Both Athena (the goddess of wisdom, and daughter of Zeus) and Poseidon (one of the two sea gods and brother of Zeus) competed in this challenge.
It was agreed that each would give the Athenians one gift and the Athenians would choose whichever gift they preferred. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a spring sprang up; the water was salty and not very useful, whereas Athena offered them an olive tree. The Athenians (or their king, Cecrops) accepted the olive tree and along with it Athena as their patron, for the olive
Temple of Hephaestus
Ancient Greek temple; up until 1834 it served as a Greek Orthodox church [and to think it is still standing after all these years].
tree brought wood, oil and food. The olive tree continues to be a symbol peace and prosperity for Athens.
Dinner ended with various types of Baklava, (phyllo pastry layers filled with nuts and drenched in syrup) which we will continue to 'sample' many times before we leave Greece.
Love you all
There are more photos below