August 10th, 11th, 12th 2010
(View of Athens from the Acropolis)
Athens! Stepping out to a clean, organized airport, standing in a proper line for a bus ticket to downtown, walking on your quiet, safe streets where people obey traffic lights and drive in their lanes, into your wonderful (but Euro-pricey) hostels, oh you spoil me!
Before I talk about Athens, I’d like to add that at the Cairo Airport, I saw a line of men and women, mostly older generation, wearing all-white and getting ready for what it seems to be a journey to Mecca (the flight was to Jeddah) just in time for the start of Ramadan. What was interesting was that some of the men were wearing what I thought to be towels kept together by pins. I asked an elder gentleman about the attire and he said that all first-timers (men only) to Mecca must wear clothes with no stitching in it. And let’s not forget the beautiful farewell the Cairenese gave me. I ordered a cafe latte and paid up with the last E£23 I had. One of the guys mentioned to my barrista that he made my coffee wrongly. So the barrista decided to fill up my cup with more milk instead. I had coffee-flavored milk, not coffee. But oh well, thanks for screwing me one more time before I left you Egypt!
Honestly though, God bless those Egyptians. Take away the over-aggressive selling, they are a lovely and friendly bunch of people. When you’re back in Europe and everyone’s keeping to themselves, you begin to appreciate the Egyptians for going out of their way to find out where you are from and saying “Welcome!”.
I don’t think I was quite hyped up on Greece. I flew here because:
-I had to get back into Europe, this was the closest to Egypt. The other option had been go straight to Rome.
-It’s Greece, I had to visit Greece! Acropolis, gyros, souvlaki, nude Greek gods…
-It’s the start of my route entering South Central Europe (I had mentioned previously I was going to skip it but time has permitted me to do it).
I booked my hostel pretty late, had discontinuous rooms and since this hostel had two branches (thankfully a few minutes walk from each other), I had to check out each morning and check into the other branch.
(Parthenon. Already lots of tourists at 7:30 am)
Did a walking tour. Our guide was a Greek archaelogist and he took us around to the major sights of Athens (Hadrian’s Arch, Temple of Zeus, Roman/Athenian Agoras, Acropolis, Panatheic Stadium, National Gardens, Monastiraki, Parliament etc.) but the only thing I was interested in actually checking out was the famous Acropolis (where the Parthenon is). So that’s what I did the following day. I went around 7 am and even then, it was already packed with tourists. The Parthenon was closed as there was some restoration work going on. We could only see it from the outside. I wasn’t overly impressed by it but it definitely had its charm. I also visited the National Archaelogical Museum because some people claim it’s one of the top museums in the world. Again, due to my lack of knowledge about archaelogy, I couldn’t fully appreciate all the old stuff I saw. The highlight of my visit was seeing some arrowheads found from the Battle of Thermapolye (“300”, King Leonidas, “This is SPARTA!” ring a bell?). I think I’m beginning to see a trend here. I enjoy things military and war-related.
(Changing of the Guard, in front of Parliament. Note their traditional military attire)
I love good, cheap eats and gyros were my favorite. I had pork, lamb, beef, chicken over 2 days, at €1.80 a gyro. I would buy, sit down at Monastiriki Square, eat, and people watch.
Not much else to say about Athens. It was short, sweet, and relaxing. I thought about my route already. Thessalonikki, Sofia, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Split, Ljubljena before entering Italy.
edit : Not much in Thessaloniki, walked around, saw the “White Tower”, that’s about it. I did meet a guy in my dorm whom I later discovered was part of a university archaeological expedition group which I later met in my Mostar hostel.