Our barebones hostel was fine, but it's the kind of place where you have to request a top sheet, and it will cost you an extra euro. We shared a room with a guy from Poland, a girl from Spain, and a girl from Russia, all very nice and sociable.
We started off our Athens sight-seeing frenzy with a free walking tour that was offered at our hostel and three others daily. It was a group of twenty young adults and our guide, George, was a raspy, weathered, half British, half Greek man who gave a well-informed tour. It lasted about four hours and we packed a lot in. We didn't go into any of the paid sights on the tour, but he gave us a slew of information from the outside looking in and we were able to go back and go into the sights we wanted to see more intimately later on. He took us to the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Mars Hill, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian's Arch, the Parliament and the Changing of the Guard, the Theatre of Dionysos, the Acropolis and a stroll through the National Gardens. The changing of the guard was quite the spectacle, full of costume and custom.
After the tour Katie and I tipped George the guide, grabbed a quick lamb gyro, and retraced our footsteps to go into some of the places that sparked our interest. We were able to buy an Acropolis ticket for half price, 6 euro each, by flashing our student IDs. The Acropolis ticket gets you into the majority of the other sites as well.
We started at the Acropolis, translation: high place, where the main attractions are the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. There is a lot of archaeological and preservation work going on unfortunately, so there was a big crane smack in front of the Parthenon. It gave us a greater appreciation for the ruins at Ephesus, which are untouched in comparison. But these giant marble temples were astonishing nonetheless. The Acropolis was built after the victory in the battle of Marathon when Athens defeated the Persians. The Acropolis was built to be ostentatious, a symbol of prowess. Below is the main structure, the Parthenon, which is said to have housed a statue of the patron goddess Athena. If you don't want to go all the way to Greece to see the real deal, there is an actual size replica in Nashville, Tennessee!
Next is the Erechtheion, which was built as an offering to Athena and Poseiden. Notice the beautifully ornamented pillars, which resemble maidens supporting the structure.
Another of our top finds was the Ancient Agora. This served as a marketplace in early Athens, it was a center point for social life, and now houses many sights worth seeing. The Church of the Holy Apostles, dating to the 11th century, had incredible and intricate paintings.
The Museum of the Athenian Agora is housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attolas, which would have functioned as a commercial center. There were hundreds of artifacts from pottery, to sculptures, to the lone existing Spartan shield!
On one of our evenings we scrapped together a picnic dinner of bread, cheese, grapes and wine (sold in a plastic bottle, we do not recommend)and trekked across Athens from our hostel to get to Lykavittos Hill, the highest point in Athens, to watch the sunset. While we did (barely) catch the sunset, we had to jog the last bit of our journey to catch the last moments of the fully exposed sun before it fell beyond the horizon. It was still well worth it for those few moments, a tremendous view of Athens.
We enjoyed joining in the hustle of Athenian life for a couple of days that whizzed by, and now we're headed to do some camping again, but on a beach this time! We are going to be in Litochoro, near the base of Mt. Olympos. The camping looks beautiful and there is hiking, snorkeling, kayaking and sailing galore! We're looking forward to some outdoor expeditions!
Will and Katie