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One of the greatest pleasures of travel is accomplishing life-long dreams. During January of 2015 I ticked off Athens – the birthplace of democracy, home of the Acropolis, and crammed so full of history that no blog post will ever do this city justice.
For my first night in Athens, I stayed in the Art Gallery Hotel. I chose this hotel due to the excellent location. Less than a five minute walk to the base of the Parthenon? Yes please! I really enjoyed my first night here, the bed after nearly 30hrs of traveling was the definition of heaven.
The following morning at check out the owner expressed concern thinking I had missed breakfast (I hadn’t). Having not seen me in the breakfast room, her and another member of staff were debating waking me up. On the one hand, they said, you should really eat breakfast but on the other hand, they thought ‘she probably really needs some sleep’. I was touched they had given such thought to someone they really didn’t need to worry about at all.
Another plus of this accommodation was the mini supermarket just across the street. My favourite activity was buying some food and heading up the base of the Acropolis for a mini picnic.
After taking a tour around Greece I returned to the Art Gallery Hotel for another couple of nights. One breakfast the chef came up to my table and put an orange down next to my cereal and coffee. “Always start your day with an orange. You will be happy all day.” And I was happy all day (though probably not because of the orange).
Highlights of Athens:
A C R O P O L I S!!!!
There are literally no words I can string together to describe the feeling of walking onto the Acropolis for the first time. The staggering history of the site, the sheer size of the Pantheon and the beauty of the Caryatids all combined together makes for one humbling experience.
Fun fact: The Acropolis has massive walls and one end flies the Greek flag. This wall has only ever been climbed once in recorded history. During the Nazi invasion the Greek flag was removed and a Nazi Swastika flag was flown instead. In the dead of the night two men (Apostolos Santas and Manolis Glezos) climbed the wall and took down the Nazi Swastika flag.
The Philopappos Monument is another must do. This monument is located on top of The Hill of Muses and is well worth the walk because you get another perspective of the Acropolis and some pretty sweet views of the city.
To get here simply walk to the base of the Acropolis and head in the opposite direction of the Acropolis Museum and Plaka. You will see walking tracks among trees. Follow these paths and you see not only the Philopappos Monument but also Socrates Prison, the Pnyx, and many, many, many other sites. Seriously, you could spend a good half day wandering around these paths and seeing what you find. There are signposts and information boards as well. Everywhere you turn in this part of Athens there is an Ancient ruin demanding your attention.
I do want to mention the stray dogs along these paths. While most stray dogs are friendly and loved by the locals (the feed and name them), there are occasionally less than friendly dogs. Please exercise caution and refrain from petting stray dogs.
Acropolis Museum: The best museum I have ever been through. Information is overflowing in this museum, as well as both original and copies of ancient artifacts. Hunt out the original Caryatides, all except one who is in the London museum. Her space is left blank as a protest.
“We left her space blank…We did not fill her space with a copy. She is not lost, we know exactly where she is and hopefully one day she will come back to us.”
Hopefully one day I will return to Athens to see the full set of originals.
Another amazing part of this museum is the glass floor entrance outside. This was done because while excavating the build this museum, they stumbled across more ancient history (of course). What better way to showcase history, and the process of uncovering history, than by installing a glass floor.
Head to the markets of Plaka and shop till you drop. The hustle bustle of Plaka feels a world away from the history and philosophical feelings brought on by the Acropolis and Agora. Here you can rub shoulders with locals and travelers alike.
One final warning / highlight about Greece:
They free pour their alcohol. I ended up with a very strong vodka and lemonade. Whoops, accidentally drunk.
Overall Athens is an extremely friendly and welcoming city, packed full with history and adventure.
If you have never been to Athens, I hope you pack your bags immediately and pop over.
Those who have been to Athens, let me know in the comments your favourite experiences!!