Day 2 in Athens the ancient city and the center of the Greek civilization started pretty early. We had to reach Acropolis before the maddening crowd runs the site over.
So we took the red metro line from Omonia directly to the Acropoli metro stop, passed the museum on our left and arrived at the south slope entrance. At 12 Euros, the Acropolis tickets are steep but they give you access to Ancient Agora, South slope of the Acropolis (Theater of Dionysos), North slope of the Acropolis, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Hadrian’s Library and are valid for a week; so that old(er) people or people who do not want to walk too much in a day can cover the sights at their own leisure. We, on the other hand, intended to finish all that before lunch!
As we tread on the stone paved path and through the big pine trees, we couldn’t help but imagine how it would look like in those old day when the site was in its full splendor.
The Theater of Dionysus came first and we were amazed by its size. I wondered how much time and effort would have been put in to cut out a part of the hill and build this. I awed at its magnificence and how well-preserved it was while my wife was busy clicking photos to prove she was here before Dionysus himself! 🙂 (Long story short, one of her dear friend has nicknamed himself Dionysus.)
We walked past the Theater and up the steep slope towards the Acropolis, took left and walked past Odeon of Herodes Atticus (which is still used today for concerts and plays) to arrive at the entrance.
By the time we reached it, there were already too many people. It took me 5 minutes just to take a single photo of my wife standing in front of the massive columns without someone walking between us!
The crowd was very well-managed though. We reached the top, crossed the Propylaea and headed towards the Parthenon, posing in front of all the monuments along the way (as typical tourists :P) We did not take any guide but were reading the plaques in front of each monument. This did give us an overview about the site but in hindsight, it would’ve been better with a guide. We made sure we would not repeat this in Istanbul. Moreover, the Parthenon was being renovated and we were unfortunate that most of our pictures had scaffolding in them 🙁
Before heading out towards the Ancient Agora, we decided to take break. Have a cup of coffee or beer depending on whether you preferred something hot or cold. What followed next had the potential of ruining the entire vacation!
Basically I hate pigeons. I believe every organism on this earth has a part to play in the circle of life. But I also believe that God forgot to fit pigeons in this jigsaw. And therefore, they are useless, irritating and foul-smelling asthmatic agents who have nothing better to do than to get scared and fly in people’s faces. Yes, one did fly in my face, while I was enjoying a cold one. The consequence of which was a lovely lady who smelled of beer! Only issue was she hates beer. Apologetic sentences were spoken, feet were stomped, pigeons were blamed and the possibility of a hard stop to our vacation was envisaged. Fortunately, the Greek Gods were happy with our visit and the trip continued. Phew!
The Ancient Agora was a set of buildings that were the political and administrative centre of ancient Rome. At present they are a set of stones amidst a lot of trees and shrubs. There are some good well maintained churches but I was not impressed.
We moved on to visit the Temple of Hephaestus and thereafter to the Stoa of Attalos which was a long building with a lot of pillars housing various artefacts found around the Acropolis. I felt we could’ve avoided it as frankly it was too boring.
Posing, clicking pictures, gawking at the mighty ancient structures and looking at the vast expanse of the city named after its protector from the Acropolis hill took almost 3 hours. We were tired and hungry. All the walking made us crave home food. So we headed out onto Adrianou Street and walked toward Monstariki metro station to take a train back to Acropoli in hopes of finding the same Indian guy who gave us a handout of his restaurant.
We found him but decided to check out the modern Acropolis museum. We mistakenly thought it was included in the Acropolis ticket but that was some other museum. The lovely shade and cool air bribed us to purchase tickets and explore the place. There’s a glass floor around the museum that shows the ruins of ancient settlement. The museum inside has architectural pieces, sculptures that adorned the Acropolis. It was interesting at first but after a while it got boring. Most probably as a direct consequence of the increase in hunger. So we headed straight out to the Indian restaurant.
Having our fill of delicious Indian flavours we so longed for, we continued towards the nearest tram stop. My wife wanted to ride a tram from the time she saw one and she wasn’t going back without riding one. On the way we stopped to look at the Temple of Olympus and Hadrian’s Arch. We contemplated going in but the sun was too harsh for her.
We walked and walked but could not figure out which way the tram stop was. Although we did see trams on the road, I was utterly confused, even with the map in hand. We tried asking a local but she didn’t seem to understand. Finally I decided to follow the tram line till we arrive at the stop. Dragging my reluctant wife along we managed to get into the tram at Zappio. Wifey gloated in glee as she rode her first tram. Soon we reached Syntagma square and got into a metro and arrived back at the hotel. That’s when we realised we missed the change of guards at the Athens Parliament building. We decided to replace the loss of this photo op with the prospect of going out at night for some dancing.
But the late afternoon nap extended beyond evening. I woke up startled at around 2 am only to realise that our time in Greece was over. I was disappointed. We didn’t party in Mykonos and now Athens was a dud. I looked forward to Istanbul and slipped back into the blanket besides my lovely wife who was sleeping like a child.