Greetings and Welcome to Part One of a two part series on my trip to Greece. I realize this is a very odd time for travel, and most of us who have a habit of taking many adventures have been grounded for a time. I still think it is appropriate to share this trip I took with my daughter with you. It took me quite awhile to get my blog up and revamped and running again, and to organize the 2000+ photos taken during this trip, but? Better late than never. When travel does get a little more friendly and safe, I highly suggest putting Greece on your list to visit for a multitude of reasons, many of which are included in this story. So thank you for joining me.
Part two of this series will be published this upcoming Wednesday. Today it will be Athens and Wednesday will be beyond Athens, the rest of the country plus an island we got to spend a few days on. Stay tuned for sure.
I remember after a glass or two of wine a few years ago, asking my daughter: “If you had an opportunity to travel anywhere in the world, where would you choose?”
She answered “Greece”. I knew I asked for a reason as I had aspirations of making a savings plan and taking her somewhere special. She never asks me for a thing and I wanted to do this for her badly. But GREECE? For a well versed traveler, I have to be honest and say that Greece had never been on my radar. What to do? Easy solution. It was for my daughter. Greece it was. Started saving, and two years later? We boarded a plane for Athens. Little did I know it would end up to be one of my favorite international trips and I would go back in a heartbeat.
**Sidenote: I am a master at affordable travel and this trip was CHEAP considering how far we went, how long we were gone, and everything we did. If you are interested in the financial end of this, leave a comment and I will try to oblige. I should do a complete post on cheap travel to faraway locations – perhaps I will.
We went from Phoenix to Salt Lake City where we had breakfast at 8am. Notice I had eggs and toast and Bethany had a beer…..yep, that happened. Then from Salt Lake we went to Amsterdam where we had a several hour layover. Bethany pulled out her laptop to work on some details for her grad program. The more she got done, the less she had to do when we got to Greece. I was living on coffee by that time. Then we boarded from Amsterdam to Athens Greece.
When we arrived, we were exhausted but full of weird energy and no way we could sleep. Checked into the hotel we would be staying at for a few days and went on the hunt for some food. We walked until we found a restaurant with a name we could not pronounce, with menus we could not understand but greeted by an incredibly friendly staff. Considering we were the only patrons at the time, they went overboard making us welcome. They presented us with complimentary shots of OUZO, to welcome us to Greece……and so it began.
We ordered random things to share including fried Feta Cheese in honey (Oh. My GOD!!!!) Mousaka which is like a mince meat eggplant kind of thing, almost a cross between a meatloaf and lasagna? Maybe? And Souvlaki which is hot meat right off of a skewer. It was all mouthwatering delicious.
The first morning……. after some much needed sleep and waking up with that scary “where am I?” feeling…
B wanted to get all of her busy work completed so she could enjoy the rest of the trip without this on her mind. I set out for a walk to find me “some pretty” and she stayed behind in the quiet to focus on the task at hand.
And comfort is essential….. correct?
**Sidenote** Very proud of her commitment and dedication – some would have just blown this off, but she worked hard on that first day and the rest of the trip was busywork free!
Wasn’t too sure where to go or what I was looking for. I suppose I would just wing it. I walked for a few blocks (in a straight direction to avoid getting lost) and then I turned the corner and history smacked me right in the face. Amidst the buildings and busy traffic of modern day Athens, stood sculptures, ionic and doric columns reaching up to the sky, and years that were uncountable. It literally took my breath away and I stood there. Speechless. In awe. It was very emotional for me. To realize you could be walking on the same path that one of the great thinkers in history did……..was truly overwhelming.
I preplanned our first full night using a site ahead of time called “Withlocals”. Its an app and if you travel I highly recommend. You can find a ton of foreign cities and you can connect with locals for a variety of activities. I purchased tickets for an “Athens Pub Crawl”. I hired and then we met with a local named Dyonesius who was so fun, friendly and knowledgeable about his country! He took us to several small pubs, each one we were treated to a local beer or drink and a local snack. He shared information about the history and culture of his country. We talked and laughed and shared about our countries. It was a GREAT experience!
After the pub crawl however, the walk back to the hotel was………interesting….
We noticed on our walk home from the pub crawl, that Athens is a city that never sleeps.
The infamous Acropolis is the cities “shining moment”. You can literally see it from anywhere in the entire city and it is under spotlights every single night. It is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city. It is home to several structures, one being the Parthenon which is one of the most famous architectural structures in the world.
This sacred place began construction in 438BC or so, which means it is approximately 2460 years old…..let that one sink in. The United States is 244 years old. England is about 1090 years old. Two thousand four hundred and sixty! And we are looking and standing amidst structures that stood throughout all of this history!
Bethany and I got to take the hike up to the top of the Acropolis. It is a hefty walk with 80 marble steps and quite steep in some places. It is a 1.1 mile loop just for informational purposes. But it was worth every step as it was a sight to behold. Literally takes your breath away when you consider the years. The walkway isn’t new or reconstructed. There is no official sidewalk, or fancy ropes. Just marble paths, uneven steps, as you climb up to one of the oldest structures in the world.
On both the way up, and the way down, we passed several structures, including the major amphitheater. The size of these structures is incredible and there is no way photos can do it justice, this is just to give you an idea.
We all have bucket lists, or we should have. Just a list of “hope to’s someday”. One of mine has always been to be able to “stand in front of the ladies”. The famous female structures that held up an ancient building for over two thousand years! Little did I know or could even imagine I would be able to scratch that one off of my list.
There is history, Im talking REAL history, on just about every corner in Athens. There are excavation sites literally everywhere and they are all very protected. The Greek people are not only extremely friendly but very proud of their homeland. Always positive verbiage, at least this was my experience. Very hospitable, very friendly and eager to help and exceptional restaurant service from the fancier eating establishments where you sit down, to outside casual places. You are never “rushed out the door” and you can basically stay as long as you like. Very welcoming and casual atmosphere. No one is in a hurry here.
The greek language is musical to listen to, but understanding it is another story. Reading it? Forget it. Couldn’t find one street sign, and then we figured it out. The street signs were plastered on the side of the corner buildings. Who knew?
Plaka is a small neighborhood of Athens that resides in the shadow of the Acropolis. It is quaint and authentic, lined with cobblestone streets, street vendors (hot nuts in a bag sold out of the back of a wooden wagon was typical and wonderful all at the same time), lined with tiny shops, restaurants and taverns. This ended up to be one of our favorite places to walk around.
We found a great upstairs restaurant where B found her favorite hot Toddie, we wine tasted, tried Baklava and Turkish coffee (where apparently you can get your future told to you by getting the coffee grounds read…..) ate deserts while walking down the narrow streets…..honestly, very easy to spend hours and hours here.
And then of course, there were Gyros…..which are absolutely addictive in every way no matter how you order……even watching the locals put them together was fascinating! The locals take great pride in preparing local dishes for touring individuals such as ourselves.
Acropolis museum – an absolute must if you go to Athens!
I am slightly obsessed with museums. I could literally spend all day in museums taking my time and admiring every single little detail. Bethany was very patient with me……..
Seeing statues and busts of all of the Greek Gods in such detail, standing before a bigger than life size statue of Socrates…..it was all pretty incredible. The detail on some of these sculpted pieces was so intricate, you could almost “see” the movement in the clothing.
Random Details: Tremendous amount of walking, and believe it or not, a lot of the streets are marble, so when its rainy, it can be very slippery. This is a catch 22. Little modernization but the history is palpable here. Everyone wears black. Perhaps because we went in December and it was winter, but black clothes, coats, boots, everywhere. Things are small – plates, elevators, automobiles, street side cafe’s. Places of business close early, around dinner time. Sundays mostly everything closes. Church bells toll frequently and it resounds across the city which is pretty nice. Fresh vegetables served at just about every meal – even breakfast and olives and olive oil too.
If I had to choose a word to describe Athens, it would be “fascinating”. It is a city that combines modern with ancient. The history within this city is beyond comprehension. To stand where we stood, see what we saw, and experience what we did in the short few days we were there is something that is permanently etched in my brain and on my heart. I have a new found respect for history for certain, and if I ever had the chance to go again, I absolutely would. Going again with my daughter would be the best part.
Part two of this series will be going live on Wednesday and it is what we did beyond Athens. I don’t think either of us were prepared for this. We experienced Olympia where the first Olympics were held. Traveled to Delphi up in the mountains where rulers went to visit the Oracle for spiritual advice. We stayed in small villages and took a ferry out to Hydra Island where we stayed for three days. Incredible experience as there are no vehicles allowed there. Only transport is by foot or by donkey.
So please join me Wednesday to experience all of that!
If your eyes have reached this point, I appreciate you! See you Wednesday!
Until next time……be kind……always,