Ancient Athens

After surviving the sardine tin of Santorini airport (the building is tiny and unable to cope with all the tourists!) we took a surprisingly pleasant and short Olympic Air flight to Athens. Definitely can’t complain about that £20 flight.

A tiny bathroom and private courtyard in the sky

We stayed in two Air BnBs in Athens and a hotel in Delphi in between. The first Air BnB was conveniently located close to the Acropoli station and also to all the main attractions.

Our room was on the top level, the ‘penthouse’, and we even had our own very cute courtyard which was perfect for a cheeky beer or wine after an afternoon of exploring. Our first Air BnB host had the beers covered, as the fridge was filled with complimentary food and drink for us to enjoy. The cherry on the top was of course the fact that we had our own private view of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis.

Our little courtyard with a view of the Parthenon in the background.
Our little courtyard with a view of the Parthenon in the background (it looked closer in real life!).
Enjoying a refreshing beverage on a hot day!
Enjoying a refreshing beverage on a hot day!

One somewhat interesting experience was the bathroom, which was super small. You could barely move in the bathroom: the toilet, a small sink, and ‘shower’ were all crammed in. The whole bathroom was about the size of a regular shower, and actually was the shower! You were expected to stand next to the sink and toilet while showering. It was impossible not to get water all over the bathroom. Somehow it sort of worked, but it was very bizarre!

Our second Air BnB was in the cute leafy neighbourhood of Koukaki and had a massage chair that we definitely enjoyed!

One ticket to rule them all

After looking at all the various options to see Athens’s ancient sites, we decided upon the €30 combo ticket, which granted us entry to the Acropolis as well as some of the other main archaeological sites in Athens such as Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. At €30 it was quite reasonable.

The combo ticket.
The combo ticket.

We visited all the sites that our ticket granted us access into. We enjoyed wandering around all the ruins, but we thought that with some investment the sites could be made even more interesting. For example, it would be really amazing if there were some kind of virtual reality/holographic recreations of the buildings so it is easier to imagine what was once there.

Also, after exploring a few ruins, we hate to say it, but they all started to look quite similar. Of course, they all have quite different and fascinating histories, and these histories should be more prominently highlighted. Jostling with other tourists in the sun to read the odd shiny sign was not ideal – even though it was late summer, it was still very hot (30+ degrees Celsius) and it didn’t take long before we craved the shade!

The Temple of Olympian Zeus (or Olympieion) was very tall and quite impressive!
The Temple of Olympian Zeus (or Olympieion) was very tall and quite impressive!
Size comparison.
Size comparison.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus with the Parthenon in the background.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus with the Parthenon in the background.
Statues of the personification of the Odyssey and the Iliad (at the Stoa of Attalos).
Statues of the personification of the Odyssey and the Iliad (at the Stoa of Attalos).
A bust of antoninus pius emporus.
A bust of antoninus pius emporus.
Some pottery displayed at the Stoa of Attalos.
Some pottery displayed at the Stoa of Attalos.
More pottery displayed at the Stoa of Attalos.
More pottery displayed at the Stoa of Attalos.
Real life knuckle bones and dice!
Real life knuckle bones and dice!
View from near the Ancient Agora of Athens.
View from near the Ancient Agora of Athens.

In the evenings we happily strolled around the city and the large National Garden. It was so lovely to be able to enjoy the long light-filled evenings.

The wood-breaker statue.
The wood-breaker statue.
The Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
The Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Aristotle's Lyceum (Peripatetic School). There were lots of pomegranate and other fruit trees on the property!
Aristotle’s Lyceum (Peripatetic School). There were lots of pomegranate and other fruit trees on the property!
Hadrian's Arch.
Hadrian’s Arch.
Got to love the ceremonial guards outside the Hellenic Parliament. They have pom pom shoes and a very intense routine.
Got to love the ceremonial guards outside the Hellenic Parliament. They have pom pom shoes and a very intense routine.
Jase with a ceremonial guard in the background.
Jase with a ceremonial guard in the background.
A lively street in the Plaka area.
A lively street in the Plaka area.

The Parthenon, the Acropolis, and the Acropolis Museum

As it’s the star attraction of Athens, we made sure to arrive at the entrance of the Parthenon at opening time. It was a good idea as there was no line and we were some of the first people to enter the site. The Acropolis was much more atmospheric and calm in the morning. We had about 30 minutes of serenity before the tours and crowds started to pour in.

There were tour guides available, but instead we decided to explore by ourselves. We probably would recommend a guide though because there wasn’t much information around.

Some remaining columns.
Some remaining columns.
The military marched right past us.
The military marched right past us.
Erechtheío - which honours Athena and Poseidon.
Erechtheío – which honours Athena and Poseidon.
The Parthenon, which continues to be under construction/maintenance.
The Parthenon, which continues to be under maintenance.
Some of the stonework up close.
Some of the stonework up close.
Famous olive tree.
The olive tree given to Athens by Athena.

The view from near the Parthenon was stunning! Such an amazing 360 degree panorama of the city.

A view from the top.
A view from the top.
Another vantage point.
Another vantage point.
View from another side.
View from another side, where you can see the Temple of Zeus.

Annoyingly when we visited one of the slopes was closed off. However, we don’t think we missed anything major. We managed to climb up Areopagus – a craggy hill that was a court in classical times and the site of a famed speech by Saint Paul in 51 CE. Apparently there were also buildings there at one point.

A view from Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This arena is still used for the arts today!
A view from Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This arena is still used for the arts today!

The Acropolis Museum

You aren’t allowed to take photos in the museum (that of course doesn’t stop people who blatantly ignore the rules and were often told off by staff policing the museum). We don’t go regularly visit museums, but this is a wonderful museum that’s well worth the visit and we would definitely recommend you go if you are in Athens. The had a lot of artifacts from the ancient history of the site.

On reflection, we think that perhaps it might have been better sequentially if we had visited the museum before going up to the Parthenon, but you can do it either way around.

Food, glorious Greek food

We know, we talk about food a lot. But, when a country has amazing food we can’t help but rave about it! We would got back to Greece for the food alone. Not only was the food in Athens tasty, but it was also cheap! The wine was also very good value.

We were lucky enough to find an amazingly cheap local establishment near our first Air BnB. We feasted there several times since we enjoyed it so much. A meal like that back home would cost at least twice as much!

A famous sesame bread ring (Koulouri Thessalonikis).
A famous sesame bread ring (Koulouri Thessalonikis).
Hipster coffee at Tailor Made.
Hipster coffee at Tailor Made.
Yummy toasties and coffee at Tailor Made.
Yummy toasties and coffee at Tailor Made.
Deep fried cheese. YUM.
Deep fried cheese. YUM.
Whole sardines from the local establishment near our first Air BnB.
Whole sardines from the local establishment near our first Air BnB.
A very tasty salad with fig and pomegranate from the local establishment near our first Air BnB.
A very tasty salad with fig and pomegranate from the local establishment near our first Air BnB.
We loved some of the cute neighbourhoods. In one, we found this amazingly decorated pirate cafe!
We loved some of the cute neighbourhoods. In one, we found this amazingly decorated pirate cafe!
Yummy skewers and home made nacho-style chips.
Yummy skewers and home made nacho-style chips.
Yummy rissoles.
Yummy rissoles.
A meat stew.
A meat stew.
Grilled tomato and pepper.
Grilled tomato and pepper.

Final thoughts

Athens is an interesting sprawling city with amazing food and cultural attractions on offer. By contrast, our final destination, Delphi, was a more relaxed sleepy countryside town. But, we’ll talk more about that in our next post!

Jason and Kimmie