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Athens, Greece

Bring out the stuffed grape leaves, the tzatziki, greek salads with huge chunks of feta cheese then throw in a lot of old buildings and monuments and there you have it – my first trip to Athens, Greece. It is now a proven fact that I can indeed eat those things every single day. Because that’s pretty much all I had during my week in Greece. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. And it was the best food I’ve had in months – I must have been a Greek Goddess in my earlier years because I can’t get enough of everything Greek.

We arrived late in the evening, there was only one flight out of Barcelona to Athens leaving at 6:30 p.m. so we arrived at the airport around 10:30 (3 hour direct flight plus one time difference). The hotel, Grecotel Pallas Athena, had reserved a driver for us at the airport and he whisked us to our boutique hotel, smack dab in the middle of Athens. The location is superb, the eclectic design is super fashionable and I never turn down a free breakfast, which was delicious as well. But as I said, we arrived late, thankfully there were still plenty of options for dinner for us to choose from. We wandered through the streets to the restaurant the front desk dude told us about and enjoyed our first views of Athens. Here are a few sights from that first night:

We found where we needed to get some food in our bellies and guess what we had? Tzatziki!! And a few other things. And there were two singers to help us get into the Greek feeling and welcome us to Athens. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and crashed. A full day was upon us in the morning!

First things first. Breakfast! Yes, tzatziki was involved. 🙂 Along with fresh fruit, a pastry with spinach, a very hot tea and lots of water. Only then were we ready to venture out to the glorious Acropolis in the sky. And I do mean in the sky! It’s high up on a hill. AND we walked! Very proud of ourselves. It wasn’t too difficult but the day was super hot and I only brought a small bottle of water. From the hotel it was about a 30 minute walk to the entrance. You need to buy tickets (I think they were 20 euro each) and there is a place before you enter to buy drinks – lemonade slushes, coffee, beer but NO water! And I can’t even tell you how many times I heard people ask for water and every single one was incredulous that water wasn’t sold. Even one lady said to the man, “You don’t have water!?”. “No, no water,” he answered. “No water?!”, she asked again. He replied, “Maybe if you ask me twenty times more there will miraculously be water.” Needless to say she left without ordering anything. I smirked and ordered a lemonade and strawberry slushy. But then the joke was on me – nobody can enter the Acropolis grounds with any food or drinks. Ha! But water is allowed …….

So Jess and I tried to down my slurpie as quickly as possible, resulting in about 28 brain freezes.

And we were in! There were TONS of people there. But it’s quite an expansive place so you can move around pretty easily, minus those first steps to get up to the top of the hill but once you’re there people spread out. But don’t think about getting any pictures with only you – well, it’s probably doable but difficult.

I was already impressed. First stop was the Theatre of Dionysus – which funny story. We looked out over the Theatre and Jess said that she thought it looked different. I shrugged my shoulders and said wouldn’t it be cool to see an opera here. I think they must do things there still because there were lights set up and speakers, etc.

We continued on … but it was still bothering Jess. She said again, I remember it differently. How, I asked. Well, it seems very open to fight lions and animals. OMG, I laughed so loud that I think I scared people around us. I said, I think you’re thinking of the Colosseum in Rome. 🙂 Ahhhh, good times. Let it be said Jess is a very smart woman! She’s a lawyer in Los Angeles but we all have our blonde moment from time to time.

It was amazing how old this place was, pottery sherds of the Neolithic period (4000/3500-3000 BC) and of the Early and Middle Bronze Age, show that the hill was inhabited from a very early period. Seriously, walking around where people lived in 4000 BC really blows my mind.

The Acropolis was dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena. It was Pericles in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important present remains including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. There is a restoration project that has been going on for years so we saw scaffolding, cranes, etc. But with things that old they all need a little help from time to time (don’t we all?).

We spent about two hours touring the grounds and taking lots of pictures, just like everyone else. Here are my favorites.

Alright, enough with the old stuff. We needed a cold brewski to take a break in the day. From the Acropolis we could see a very well preserved temple that looked interesting to check out. So after our beer, stuffed grape leaves and ….tzatziki!!! Sorry, I’ll stop. Maybe. We searched around for the temple. Turns out it’s located in Agora with lots of other ruins, a church and a museum. So, when in Athens, go see the temples.

It was the Temple of Hephaestus that we were seeing. The Doric order temple was dedicated to Hephaestus (naturally), who was the son of Zeus and Hera, and a god of blacksmiths, metallurgy, and craftsmen. This temple has been incredibly well preserved so one can easily see the Doric trademarks. The columns are fluted, or grooved. Above the columns is a thick, horizontal element called the frieze. Doric friezes are decorated with alternating patterns of triglyphs and metopes.

The metopes are blank panels in between the triglyphs. Very often, Doric metopes were carved with reliefs of scenes from Greek mythology, and the Temple of Hephaestus is no exception. The friezes of this temple depict scenes of the twelve labors of Hercules, the battle and fall of Troy, and an unidentified battle scene. It’s possible that the metopes that were not carved were, at one point in time, painted. We do know that some art has been lost from this site; records indicate that bronze statues of Hephaestus and Athena Ergani once stood inside as well.

As I mentioned, this temple is located in the Agora which was a place for the citizens of ancient Athens to meet, bond and deliberate on the issues of the day. The Ancient Agora was a dynamic place, where the great thinkers Sophocles, Socrates, Protagoras, among others, would meet and where ordinary citizens could come and interact with their peers, voice their concerns, agree on solutions and courses of action.

Nowadays, it a peaceful place with shady trees, paths and cats among the ruins. We checked out the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles and the Stoa of Attalos. The stoa was another place to meet but also an ancient version of a mall, it had 42 shop spaces on the two levels. It was destroyed in 267 AD by invading Herulians. Its restoration took place between 1953 – 1956 by the American School of Classical Studies with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

I really enjoyed the Agro and check out the restaurant Heliaia close by the ticket entrance to the Agros. Yummy food! (see I didn’t say it) and a great view of the Acropolis while you enjoy your food and drink.

Some of my favorite pics from the Agros area.

After the Acropolis and Agros we were a bit pooped. We walked back to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner. I did a little research for dinner – I like to eat at nice restaurants and stay in nice hotels so I always do a bit of delving into the internet for the best places. And this time it also still had to be within walking distance. On our way to the restaurant we turned down this street and there was one cute restaurant or bar after another. And then there was the place I had chosen – Bandiera at Taki 19, Athens. They don’t have a website but the food and house wine was one of the best places we ate in Greece. We had the hot pepper and cheese dip, tzatziki 🙂 and a greek salad. YUM YUM YUM.

Now I’m googling good greek restaurants in Mallorca. Must have more greek food! After the fabulous dinner we stopped by A is for Athens and had a glass of wine at their rooftop bar. Nice place!

And there you have it folks – Athens, Greece. We had an early wake up call to catch our ferry to MYKONOS! Check the blog soon for my time in Mykonos and Santorini.

And our word for the week in Greek was thank you – Efcharistó!!!! xo -k

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