Thursday, December 12, 2013

It’s all Greek to me – Athens, Greece

I’ve always wanted to say that phrase.  But really, Athens has Greek written everywhere.  Luckily it’s a huge tourist attraction and most people speak English too.  Otherwise you would be ordering and just pointing to something because I can’t even begin to pronounce any of these.  My Greek knowledge is limited to the popular sororities and fraternities at UGA. 

As I said most of the people spoke enough English for us to get by.  Some of the taxi drivers did not speak English well. There was also only a 50% chance that you would get a reliable one.  The good news is that cabs are extremely cheap in Athens.  I’m not sure why this is, but we were so relieved to get rid of the crazy German cab prices.  In Wiesbaden if Sam and I want to take a cab downtown it is 10 euros each way.  This is at max a 8 minute cab ride (Maybe the charge is because of the giant hill?).  In Athens the apartment we rented with a group of friends was around a 6 euro cab ride for 20 minutes.  Needless to say we felt like ballers the whole weekend and went everywhere.

Here is the view from the apartment we rented with a group of friends. Do you see the Acropolis on the hill on the left?  And the Mediterranean past that?  So cool!

 Look at all of the housing!  At night it looked like there were little twinkling lights everywhere.  Unfortunately my camera wasn't good enough to capture it.

We did have an amazing time in Athens.  Our first day there we started with the usual sites of the Acropolis.  We ate breakfast for reasonable prices right at the base of the sites.  It was a great view, and the food was yummy. 

Our view of the Acropolis at breakfast.  Construction began in the 5th century BC! 

Here are a few of our pics at the Greek ruins. 

Our friends stretching for their marathon this weekend.

The Parthenon.  

Our crew in front of the Erechtheum. 

Sitting on some ancient steps!

Seeing all of the sites took only about 1-2 hours.  We felt very accomplished and were wondering what we would do for the afternoon and 2 days that we had left in the city.  We visited a few more ruins around the city and then ended our afternoon with visiting the market shops followed by drinking Greek beer and eating great food! 

Temple of Olympian Zeus.  The construction began in 6th century BC but wasn't finished until 2nd century AD.  During Roman times it was the largest temple in Greece.

Temple of Haphaestus.  This is one of the most well preserved Greek Temples.  It was built in 449 BC.

On a side note, we also saw a lot of stray dogs and cats.  They were all docile and some really old, but they were everywhere. They looked well fed and healthy, too.  There are mixed reports on the internet about the reasons why the strays are everywhere and who feeds / takes care of them (government or locals).  Here are some cute pictures!

One of the evenings we took a trip to the waterfront.  I had to see the Mediterranean for the first time.  It was nice to walk around the town of Piraeus.  We found a great restaurant with tapas style food and live music.

Holy relics of St Nicholas were once in this church.

The Med!!!

Greek Food!

We also visited the The National Archaeological Museum and saw tons of marble statues that were taken from around the city.

Here's the much smaller Varvakeion Athena built by the Romans in order to remember the original Athena that was removed by the Romans.  Did you know that you can see a full size replica of Athena and the Parthenon in Nashville, TN?  It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessean Centennial Exposition due to its nickname "The Athens of the South".  

A Siren!  Remember learning about these in freshman English Greek mythology?

One of the main reasons we visited Greece was that our friends signed up to run the original marathon.  You know the one where the guy ran all the way from marathon, Greece to Athens, Greece to tell them of the victory?  After muttering the words of the victory he collapsed and died.  Luckily all of our friends are still alive, yay!  We had a great time cheering them on at the finish line in the original Olympic stadium.  No, Sam and I did not train to run a marathon.  This is our second time being spectators though.  We enjoy being on the other side of the race and are trying to set a record on how many marathons we can spectate.


 This guy appears to have run the whole marathon with no shoes on, but I think his feet would be a bit more bloody, don't you?  Still this is awesome!

This is what drinking wine out of a plastic bottle will do to you.

This is Sam’s co-worker who every year sets goals for herself on her birthday.  This year one goal was to do a marathon…crazy, right?  Well, she’s amazing and did it!  So proud!  I loved hearing at the end of the race how she made it through.  Whenever she felt like she couldn't do it, she looked down at a quote she had written on her hand, “One day I will not be able to do this; Today is not that day.”  J

All in all we did love Athens and at the end of a 4 day weekend we felt like we knew it pretty well.  I have to admit that if you want to only see the Greek ruins, this city can be done in one day.  The plane tickets can be quite pricey to Athens, so I would suggest doing a Mediterranean cruise with a stop in Athens.  That way you can just spend one day on the ruins and then the rest of your time on a Greek island soaking up the sun.  I still feel like I didn’t see the picture that I had in my mind of Greece, and will definitely be back to see the islands. 

Here’s a short video of the marathon atmosphere!  One of my new favorite songs too!

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