Athens, Greece

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August 23rd 2017
Published: August 19th 2018
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Mykonos, Greece to Athens, Greece

Athens...I have seen this wondrous city on television all of my life, and I have only dreamed of coming here. Now my dream was finally a reality. I was anxious to get to my hostel, for I had booked one very near to the Parthenon, and you supposedly could see the Acropolis from there. I depart from the ferry, and find the metro that will take me near to my hostel. Once I depart the metro station, I make my way to the street level, and after a short time searching for the street, I find the hostel. After check in and going to my room, I find I have a top bunk. Not as excited about this, but luckily for me I was able to switch to a bottom bunk after only one day.

I got in a bit late, so I decide to head to the roof top bar area to get a glimpse of the Acropolis. The details for the hostel mentioned that it was very near, and that the view is spectacular at night. The advertisement was correct! Once you get to the top on the roof, you were looking directly at the Acropolis, and with it being night time, it was lit up with lights and looked so beautiful. I tried to take a photo, however it did not come out as good as I had hoped. I decide to go down to a little sports bar/restaurant that was associated with the hostel. I find me a spot and sit down to watch a soccer game on the television. There was a lovely couple from Liverpool (Gary and Sian) sitting at my table and we started to chat. Before I knew it, I had been sitting there over two hours. I had originally planned to get some rest, for I had a big day following in which I was going to do some tours.

I awake the following day eager to start my walking tour. I could hardly wait to start seeing what Athens had to offer. The name of the tour was " Athens off the beaten track", and I meet up with the tour guide (Andrew). He was a jolly gentleman that was an Austalian now living in Athens. Once the group assembled, we were off. Our first stop was at the Arch of Hadrian, most commonly known in Greek as Hadrian's Gate.This is a monumental gateway that somewhat resembles a Roman triumphal arch. It spanned an ancient road from the center of Athens to structures of the city such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The Temple of Olympian Zeus was mainly a portion of what it once was, however it was magnificent none the less. We were told that originally there were 104 Corinthian columns of which only 15 remain standing.Even though only a few columns remain, you still can somewhat visualize what this a huge structure when fully intact. We were told about the history, and to be honest, we saw about as much from the view point we were at versus paying the entrance fee to actually go in and stand closer to the structure. We were allowed to take a little time to take photos, and we were off.

Our next stop was to view the outside of the original Olympic stadium. I was pretty excited to see this place. I watch Amazing Race television show, and they just had an episode previously where the contestants had to run on the track. At this point in time, knowing we were not going into the stadium, I made up my mind I wanted to come back here and go in. Anyway, after ten or so minutes, we were off to walk through the city. Andrew took us through some parts of Athens that I definitely would not have seen on my own. All along, he was giving us the history and interesting facts. At about 11:00 am, we went to watch the changing of the Presidential Guard. Andrew took us to the Presidents mansion, for he said they do the change there as well as the Parliament building, but the mansion was far less crowded. Andrew also explained the uniforms to us, which would appear to be quite hot in the summer. We were told that the members of this special unit (evzones) wear one type of uniform during the week, and then another that is more striking on Sunday. Along with the pleated kilt, the costume also consists of a hat with a black tuft, a white shirt with loose sleeves, the waistcoat and pom-pom decorated footwear, and lastly fringes, garters and a belt are also part of the ensemble. Each guard also carries a gun. What I found as interesting, was in olden times, inside the pom pom on top of the boot used to house a weapon (knife or dagger) that would be used as a last line of defense if needed. At least this is what Andrew told to me. It was fun to watch the synchronized movements of the costumed guards marching, and all the while, their faces were emotionless. This lasted ten minutes or so, and we were off. We walked around other interesting areas of Athens, and we capped off our trip at a stop for lunch at a little café. Our entire group was there and Andrew took a photo of us and put on his blog. We disperse, and I head back to my hostel. I clean up a bit, and I see Andrew and a couple of the guys that were in my tour from the morning. I go and sit with them in a little café near my hostel just to chat and pass a little time. Andrew gave me directions to my meeting place for a tour I had scheduled for the evening time. I was going to see the Temple of Zeus and Cape Sounion to watch the sunset over the sea. I spent the early afternoon just hanging out until my meeting time. Actually the tour guide would be picking me up at my hostel, so I awaited until the allotted time, went down stairs to wait, and like clock work, the tour bus showed up and picked me up. We had other pick ups, and then we were on our journey. It was a bit of a ride, and all the while the driver told interesting facts about the surrounding area as well as Athens in general. There was still daylight left , and even though the tour was for us to go to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Zeus, we were able to stop at a little village very near to there and spent about an hour or so at the beach. I just sat around gazing at the beautiful sights. Once our allotted time was up there, we drove up the mountain to secure our parking spot while we got out for the tour. I walked up to the Temple of Zeus, and I was quite amazed. I had seen this from a far and the anticipation grew as we got closer and closer. Now I was here, and I was just excited. We got in the que, paid our admission fee and made our way up. I walked around the Temple of Zeus to take some photos, and as it was getting a little dusky dark, I secured me a spot to assure I was able to get some good photos of the sunset. I watched as the sun dropped to the sea, and it really was a sight to see as I was at such a high elevation overlooking this beautiful sight. I make my way back to the tour bus, and we make our journey back. The bus actually took me to the front door of my hostel which was nice.

I got back to my room at my hostel, and I was the only one there. A young male roommate brought in someone he picked up. Needless to say, there was some extra curricular activity that went on in the very bathroom/shower that all of the roommates had to share. A few more room mates came in and actually walked in on them, but that did not stop the proceedings. I only write this because this was quite funny to me, and I actually could not believe this was occurring. Whatever.

The next morning I awoke very eager to walk up and view the Parthenon. I was told to get in the que early, and by doing so you could spend more time at the top without the heavy crowds. This I did, and there were not as many tour groups or too many people in general when I went. I would walk up and just have to continue to stop to read about this marvelous structure, as well as take some beautiful photos. The Parthenon is a former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece. It was dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. From my understanding, construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power. It was completed in 438 BC although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece. It seems as if everything I have known or seen concerning Greece had this iconic image in it. Now I was here. I was thrilled, and I could not believe that I was actually here. I walked around all sides a few times, and I took tons of photos. There are so many historical things to read about the structures, you could spend hours there. I did some of this, but as it was getting quite crowded ,and there were many tour groups starting to form up there now, I figured that once you have seen... you have saw, so it was time to head back down to continue my days journey. I walk back down just taking in the beauty and trying to fathom in my mind where I was physically at. I couldn't hardly believe I was actually here, and I was really happy at the moment. I walk down the road towards the original Olympic Stadium. I saw briefly as I had my walking tour, however now I wanted to go in and look around. There was no wait or line to speak of, and this was a self guided walk around, so I pay my entrance fee and in I go. I was amazed, surprised and happy all rolled up into one. I walk to the very top of the stadium, look all around, and then I make my way around. I stopped and sat in what appeared to be concrete thrones at the center of the track. I could only imagine who sat there during the real Olympics. It had to be someone of importance or someone with lots of money. I proceed to walk up this little tunnel right off the track. This had to be where the athletes went in and came out. Anyway, this led to where all of the Olympic torches were housed, as well as a little store. I went around and took photos of the old torches, and I thought it to be a special treat when I saw the 1996 Atlanta games torch. I remember seeing this as I watched the games. I stayed here for a time, and then I proceed back down toward the track. I stop and look at some of the film clips of some of the older games, as well as some of the events that occurred around the games. When I get back to the track, I decide I needed to walk on it, and I make my way around. I get to the podium where the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers stood, and I climbed up on and had my photo taken. What a thrill. I could only imagine what it must have been like to be standing in that very spot looking at your country flag while the national anthem would be playing. Awesome. I make my way all the way around, and I even ran a short bit on the track just to say I did. After spending a little more time here just taking it all in, I proceed to make my way out and back towards my hostel. I wanted to freshen up before my bike tour I had planned later on in the evening.

I spend a little time just relaxing and then I walk to try and find my designated meeting spot. After a little confusion and asking some locals, I find the place. Seeing I was still early, I walk around this part of Athens until it is my scheduled time. I proceed to wait outside the location, which appears to be a residence, and then the tour guide comes out and puts out a sign that this is the place. I go up to speak with her, and come to find out, I am the only person scheduled for the tour that evening. We go over the bikes, discuss the tour, and off we go. Being the only person gave me the opportunity to have the full attention of the tour guide. Throughout the tour, I was able to ask more questions, and we also had many more opportunities to stop and take photos due to not having to wait on other tourists. Hindsight, this was the best for me, as the guide told me that I got more one on one which included a lot more insight of Athens. Some of the places we rode past, I had seen already on my free walking tour, but never the less, it was okay to see again and to get a different perspective and insight. We stopped at many historical locations, and I was able to see many interesting things. We went through little parks, and took several trails that the guide told me she normally does not take due to the size of the group. We get to the top of a hill, and we get off to have a photo made with the Acropolis in the background. Pretty sweet. We start our ride back and again we went through many little park areas. After a wonderful time and experience, we arrive back at the bike shop. I give the tour guide an A, and what a wonderful time I had.

I find my way back to my hostel, and all the while I am walking, I am just gazing at the monuments and my surroundings. I am just thrilled to be here. Well the time has come to depart, and I am thankful I was able to experience this beautiful place.

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