Saturday, March 12, 2011

It's all Greek to me

With a few of my friends leaving and settling overseas recently, it has made me long to travel again. Consequently, I’ve decided to do another post about  my previous travels. This time it’s Athens, Greece.

Destination: Athens

Some facts about Greece:
Capital: Athens
Population: 11,300,000
Currency: Euro
Language: Greek
Trivia: Athens is the oldest city in Europe and the birthplace of Democracy. Another interesting fact is that in a world wide study by Durex, Greeks came out on top. They have better sex, more often…have you booked your ticket yet?

How I got there: I flew EasyJet from London to Athens. It was inexpensive and the flight was fairly comfortable.

Where I stayed: My travel buddy and I stayed at Zorba’s hostel in Plaka, Athens that we booked through hostelworld. I probably wouldn’t recommend it.  Yes it was cheap and quite fun but it was also dirty with little to no ventilation. Although, with a free drink on arrival and cheap Mythos beer, we made the most of the bar downstairs mingling with other travelers.

Highlights: The most popular tourist sight in Athens is no doubt the Acropolis. Presiding over the city, it wasn’t long before the Acropolis beckoned to us so we grabbed some bottled water and started on our way. Of course, being Athens there were no signs directing us as to where to go- or if there were we didn’t see them. So after an hour and half of solid walking including (wrong turns, blocked paths and plenty of sweating in the midday sun) we forked over our precious euros and entered the ancient world.
The Acropolis
It was almost a bit surreal to see this ancient structure up close; a symbol of power and prosperous times from centuries ago. The Acropolis offers a breathtaking view of the two Olympic Stadiums (original and modern), the port or Pireaus, the Temple of Zeus, Ancient Agora and the mass of solid white houses that make up the city; there is no better way to see the vast expanse of the Greek capital. 

Close up
The view over Athens - you can see the Port of Pireaus on the far right
Ancient Agora is also not to be missed. A political, social, religious and commercial site, the Agora was the centre of city life in the Greek capital and the remaining ruins are still quite well preserved. We really enjoyed wandering around the site; stumbling over the remains of pillars and broken statues and visiting the Museum’s beautiful statue gallery.

Ancient Agora

This statue is carved in such beautiful
The Temple of Zeus - or rather what is left of the Temple, the Panathenian Stadium (the original Olympic stadium) and the National gardens are also worth a look but I will say they aren’t overly exciting. However, the gardens do provide a lovely green haven from the concrete jungle that is Athens so if you’re craving some peace and quiet, you know where to look.

Be sure to amuse yourself by watching the changing of the guards outside Parliament house…if only to see the uniforms.

Food: The food in Greece is phenomenal. Unfortunately for us, our first Greek meal was a dinner of hot chips, a BLT with tomato sauce and a side of ‘creepy man following us home’. Thankfully, once in the confines of our hostel we didn't' see him again.
You know, your typical Greek Fare...
Each day in Athens we would buy fresh fruit from the street merchants to munch on while we explored. We would splash out on bananas or spend 1 each on huge paper bags full of fresh strawberries and cherries and then proceeded to gorge ourselves silly as we walked through the flee market stores.

Athens is full of tavernas and we frequented a couple around Monastiraki metro station. The most memorable of these cured our raging hangovers with one of the best brunches I have ever eaten.
Nom nom nom we certainly tried out best to finish it
As you can see it’s a GIANT metze platter full of meat; pork sausages, lamb souvlaki, beef patties and grilled chicken, calamari plus fried haloumi, roasted veggies, toasted flat bread, olives, dips and Greek salad too! We endeavoured to finish it all but it proved an impossible feat for our overly full tummies.
But the food defeated us
Drink: Mythos is Greece’s Beer of choice as well as mine. A 1L bottle costs around 1 at the Supermarket and its light flavour is the perfect accompaniment for hot weather and tasty Greek fare.

Ouzo is really gross. All I can say is don’t go there!

Getting Around: The Athens Metro system easy to understand, relatively inexpensive, and fast. As two female travellers we both felt very safe using it.  

Greek taxi drivers are not to be trusted. We caught a bus from the airport into the city centre and then a cab and had to pay €20 for what should have been a €5 cab ride to our hostel in the Plaka. Save your money for a night on the Mythos; catch the metro and walk.

Mistakes and un-pleasantries: As much as I wish I could, I can’t overlook the terrible invasiveness I felt in Athens due to the behavior of local men. In all my travels I have never felt so uncomfortable. My advice is to trust your intuition and try to ignore the constant unwanted attention. If you’re blonde it may help to cover your hair up a little.

Fellow travellers: We made all our friends at our hostel bar. Everyone is in transit to the Islands and stays only as long as they need to in Athens: 2 full days is all you need to see everything.

Nightlife: I admit that we didn’t bother with much of the Athens nightlife outside our hostel bar. Locals told us that the clubs are very expensive and during the summer time they are located at or close to the beach. Then there is the added bonus of catching a cab home at dawn…why bother when you can drink with great people till 3am then go upstairs to bed?

Biggest surprise: The short distance between each of the main tourist sights…it looks so much further on the map! I was also pretty gobsmacked by the number of shoe shops. There were literally 20 different shoe stores on some streets selling stilettos and pumps galore. I wish I’d been towards the end of my trip so I could stock up!

Don’t forget to take: Sunscreen, a water bottle and deodorant (it gets hot and there is no shade).

What to wear: If visiting in June I would recommend clothing that’s light, breathable and quick drying. I paired singlets and t-shirts with shorts or a cute summer skirt. Summer dresses by Ecote and Ladakh were also favourites. Havianas and my tan Grecian sandals kept my feet happy but they were no match for the dust and dirt of Athens.

If you’re thinking about going to Greece all I can say is stop in Athens and say hello to some history then head straight to the Islands. Aaaaaaah the beautiful and so much fun!
The next travel post will be about my adventures on the Cyclade Islands of Santorini, Ios and Mkyonos so keep your eyes peeled!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting my little corner of the net. I really appreciate your time and thoughts xx