After a 3 hour flight from Delhi to Abu Dhabi, then a layover of around 6 hours and then another flight of around 4.5 hours, we finally got here. Helloooo Athens.
While booking, I had purposely booked a flight which got us to Athens in the morning, as it gave us a whole extra day to spend and explore Athens. Since we were on a short 10 day trip, we didn’t have much time to spend in each city/island of Greece. Thus it was just going to be today and one day when we came back to catch our flight to Delhi; for exploring Athens.
Our other friends had landed in a day earlier and today were already catching a ferry from Athens to Mykonos. We (mi esposo y mi) would be catching up with them tomorrow as my research had revealed that Mykonos is a 5 hour ferry ride from Athens, and I knew after a whole day spent travelling to Athens, I would be in no mood to travel another 5 hours by sea.
After collecting our bags, we headed out to find our ride back into the city. While we had a cheaper transport option of taking the metro back into town, we decided to go easy and take a cab instead.
A cab ride from the Athens International airport to the city centre will approximately cost you between Euro 40-50. Steep right? But well to be fair, the airport is a good 40 mins away from the town. So, you have an option to choose the mode of your travel keeping time, cost and convenience in mind.
I had looked up sites before our trip and as a friend had suggested to stay in the city centre in order to make best of our time, I had booked Pan Hotel, Mitropoleos 11, for the one day we were staying in Athens.
This decision turned out to be a good one as it was very conveniently placed and we were able to walk around literally everywhere worth seeing in Athens.
We reached the hotel around 10 am, and the receptionist informed that unfortunately no room was ready for us yet and we had to wait till the check-in time i.e. 2 PM. Shucksss..
Half expecting this to happen, we quickly decided to dump our luggage in the hotel itself and to go grab some coffee and breakfast before heading to THE ACROPOLIS…
Athens, I guess is most famous for this historical site which is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world. I had read enough to know that the line to enter Acropolis is long and its best to get there as early as possible. Which is why, we decided to check it off our list first.
As we moved out of the hotel, we spotted a cute Greek café diagonally opposite to the hotel. I was dying to try the Greek coffee and decided to have it with a croissant. The service was quick, but we took our time sipping our drinks while enjoying the holiday vibe. Pure bliss. Thinking about that feeling still gives me goosebumps.
After we were refreshed with the coffee intake, we decided to make a move towards the Acropolis. The hotel staff had informed us that the site was just 15 minutes of walk away and since it was still comparatively early we wouldn’t hopefully find many people queuing up outside for the entry. He also let us in on a secret, which I will also tell you if you promise not to tell anyone else. Deal?
Okay so here it is. In case you want to beat the long queues and get in faster then go inside from the back door entry of Acropolis. The same can be approached from taking the path going towards the back of the hill i.e. towards the left of the main entry gate. Not many people know about the second entry and thus if you are lucky you might literally get no queue.
We were not that lucky..lol..But it was still way better than the main entry scene. After buying our tickets which cost 20 Euros per person, we had to stand in the line for around 20 mins before we managed to get in the site.
As per Wikipedia, The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.
Can I be honest with you guys?
When I was actually saw the Acropolis, I was quite disappointed. Yup. I was.
I mean there were some ruins here and there, some columns half standing and all that was actually impressive to me was the city view from that height. I know, I am going to be offending a lot of history buffs but I am telling you what I felt.
However, not wanting to judge too quickly, I went ahead inside and looked around for a self-tour-audio guide which could help me connect with this place better. Unfortunately there was no such provision. It was only later that I read about the Rick Steves audio guide of the Acropolis, which would have made my experience a 100 times better than the current one.
So we practically just roamed around, tried to google everything that we could, admired the views from up there and then headed back down to the city.
At this time it was just around 12.30 PM and we still had some more time before we headed back to the hotel to get some rest. And so, we decided to ask around and figure out more monuments to see in our spare time.
Someone mentioned to us the Temple of Olympian Zeus which was just around 2 km’s away and we decided to go check it out as well. After all we had all heard about Zeus while growing up. Well technically I didn’t know much, but well at least it was familiar (being honest again about my ignorance of ancient mythology).
While heading to the temple, we crossed many bustling shopping streets which also had several eating joints. Lunch was on our agenda after the temple visit and so we kept a look out for any restaurant which caught our eye so that we could come back later.
The entry ticket to the temple of Zeus costs around Euro 6. There is also an option of buying the Athens Unlimited sightseeing tourist card which ranges between Euro 100-120 based on the company you purchase it from. In case you do not want to stand in queues everywhere to buy a ticket or don’t want to restrict the number of times you want to visit a particular monument, then definitely go for this pass. The same is valid for almost a week.
We decided to buy the individual entry ticket and when we entered (thankfully no queue), what do we see?
More broken columns and incomplete destructed structures.
The main temple stands in the centre of the ground and whereas originally was a huge structure with around 104 columns holding the temple and hosting the giant gold and ivory structure of Zeus; currently was barren with just 11 columns remaining and practically old rocks spewed here and there.
The reason for the destruction is not yet known but most popular theory is that it was destroyed because of a massive earthquake.
With another kind of unsatisfying visit to a key monument, we decided to head somewhere to eat now considering we were starving by now.
On the way to our hotel there were many restaurants to choose from. I was in the mood for some sea food (as usual) and so we went and found one such cute corner with a very rude waiter. Obviously we found out about the waiter part later and so couldn’t move out considering we had already ordered our food. But nevertheless, we let the behaviour pass as a bad day for the waiter and kept our patience considering he was lacking his :/
The food was actually average and maybe it was to do with the negative vibe of the waiter, or maybe that we were super tired by the long journey and hence were not able to enjoy the so called ‘specials’ of the restaurant or Athens at large, but it was time we headed back to our hotel for a nap to get rid of the tiredness.
We thankfully got checked in pretty fast after our arrival, and bang another disappointment (what the hell was happening!!!!). The hotel room finished before it even started. I felt like Hulk trying to enter Barbie’s bedroom. It was only later we found out that Athens city ws built this way. Almost all the houses and hotels in the city centre were tiny as there was a major space crunch in the city…Umm..that quite evident by now for sure.
I was in mood for no more let downs and just decided to get into my comfy clothes after a nice long hot shower (in the hotels closet sized bathroom) and get to bed.
My nap was a short, uneasy one but yet I felt a little better than earlier.
For today evening we had planned to join the Free Walking Athens Tour which started at 6.30 PM from National Library of Greece at Vallianeio. The address is 32 Panepistimiou Street, also known as El. Venizelou Street, Athens. It is right outside Panepistimio metro station, and also walking distance from Syntagma metro station.
Our tour was to be two hours long and we managed to reach just in time when our guide had just started explaining what all would the tour include.
The route that we were to follow planned in a way, such that we would get the chance to explore different areas of Athens. There were around 10 of us in the group which made it easy for the guide to manage us and for us to hear him well.
During the next two hours, we saw various neo-classical monuments and urban areas of the modern city of today but also hidden and famous ancient ruins that reflect the ‘Glory that was Athens’. We walked through Ermou, one of the main shopping streets, Monastiraki, Plaka, the Roman Agora, Panathenaic Stadium, Temple of Zeus(our second time here today) and several other spots.
The most interesting part of the tour was the part where our guide told us about the history of the Battle of Marathons, how it unfolded and the bit about the soldier named Pheidippides. This soldier is said to have run from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon and at the end of the journey of around 40 kilometres though treacherous terrains; died. The famous marathons that we know happen so often all across the worls, got its name from this Battle of Marathon and is a sort of dedication to the dedicated, loyal soldier Pheidippides.
Since we were on a free tour, it do not include visits to the sites with entrance tickets like the Acropolis, Parthenon, Agora, Temple of Hephaestus, and the museums.
By the time we finished off with the tour, we were EXHAUSTED to the core. It had almost been a 3 hour tour and my feet were screaming to be cut off and be relieved of the excruciating pain (Drama Queen ain’t I).
But still we promised that we will not act like old foggies, and will just go back to hotel to change, watch a little of the FIFA World Cup; and then head out again at around 10ish to Plaka the ‘supposed’ night life place of Athens.
Exactly 40 minutes from the time we reached our hotel room, we were ready to……zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….
I do remember getting up in the middle of the night, contemplating to stick to the plan and head out after waking my sleeping partner. And so I GOT UP….to switch off the TV and lights… and went right back to sleeping….I know what you are thinking when reading this. Don’t worry I thought the same thing when I woke up next morning- LOSERS…hahahhaha.
The good part was though that we were absolutely fresh and couldn’t wait to get going to meet our friends who were waiting for us in Mykonos.
While mostly you can get the ferry tickets on spot, I as usual didn’t want to risk it. So had booked a superfast Sea Jets ferry from Rafina port to Mykonos New Port. The ticket costed around 50 Euros which compared to the regular ferries like the ones operated by Blue Star costed around 30 Euros. Though cheaper, this ferry took around 5 hours to reach, whereas the Sea Jet takes just under 2 and a half hours.
Time was of essence and hence I am glad that we had decided to take the faster ferry to Mykonos. To be honest I couldn’t wait to get there already. Not only were we going to be meeting our friends after a long time, but from all that I had read and heard about Mykonos; it was supposed to be epic. Some even had called it the Ibiza of Greece. Sounds amazing right.
So read on to hear how we kicked Mykonos’s ass, coz we did just that.