Watching the recent Winter Olympic Games inspired me to write my last post about Lausanne, Switzerland, home to the International Olympic Committee. So continuing on with my love of the Olympics (so sad they’re over but at least I’m getting to bed at a decent time again!), I thought I’d share more about my 2007 trip to the birthplace of the Olympic games: Greece.
My travel buddy, Teresa, and I arrived in Athens very late in the evening after our flight from Milan was delayed. We took a frightening taxi ride from the airport to our accommodations in the city center, Hotel Pergamos (more on our hotel at the end of this post).
And that pretty much recaps our first evening in Athens. 🙂 Other than taking the elevator (a luxury in Europe!) up to our room and falling into bed.
We both slept in the next morning and missed the complimentary breakfast downstairs. But we had hoarded some of the food we were served on our flight the day before and snacked on that before heading out to explore.
I love taking bus tours when I first arrive in a big city – they really help me get my bearings and scout out places I might want to visit. We bought tickets for the Athens Sightseeing Bus, a hop-on hop-off tour bus, and took off around 2pm after picking up some lunch from a grocery store.
Athens is a crazy city – everything we thought Rome was going to be but wasn’t! We hopped off the bus near the Acropolis but it still took us awhile before we found the site. Nothing in Athens is very well marked and it took some guessing and a few wrong turns before we finally found our destination.
We were visiting during the summer of 2007 when Greece was experiencing an extreme heat wave. And I can attest to the fact that it was indeed nearly unbearably hot! But it’s a dry heat and I was surprised that I didn’t really sweat despite the sweltering temperatures. Being a native Floridian (humidity central) this came as kind of a shock to me.
We bought tickets for the Acropolis then bought cold drinks and gulped them down while sitting in the shade – getting ourselves hydrated before starting our explorations! Unfortunately, while we were there nearly all of the buildings on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, were under renovation/restoration and were, therefore, also partially hidden under scaffolding. It took away some of the awesomeness of the place but we still enjoyed walking around this historic site.
It was very windy while we were up there but it was very welcome in the heat! The views from atop the Acropolis can’t be beat – the city of Athens stretches out as far as the eye can see until it hits either the hills on one side or the sea on the other.
We left the Acropolis and walked up Areopagus, or Mars Hill, where a sign informed us that the Apostle Paul once preached there and it’s mentioned in the Bible. Sure enough! We looked it up later and there it was!
Leaving the Acropolis area, we hopped back on a tour bus (the air-condition felt so good!) and took it to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This area contains the remains of houses and Roman baths as well as the temple which was the largest temple in Athens, even larger than the Parthenon. Work on this structure started in 515 BC – amazing!
We headed next to the Panathenaic Stadium which was built in 330 BC and reconstructed in 1895 for the first of the modern Olympic games held in 1896. We couldn’t actually go inside the stadium but we took pictures from the outside.
By this time we were pretty hungry, tired, and thirsty, so we decided it was time to find someplace to eat. Continuing our tour of Hard Rock Cafes, we visited the one located here. I’ve since found out that this one is no longer in operation so I’m not sure if I can still count it on my list of Hard Rock Cafes visited…
We were so thankful to be sitting down in an air conditioned building! We each ordered pork souvlaki, a menu item specific to this restaurant, and shared the Hunk Of, Hunk Of, Banana Chocolate Love for dessert. 😀
After dinner, we walked to the nearest bus stop to wait for our number 400 sightseeing bus. And wait. And wait. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we saw it coming in the distance, and watched as it sped right by the bus stop. Hmm. Since the bus wasn’t working out very well for us we decided to take the metro back to our hotel, as our 24-hour bus passes covered that mode of transportation as well.
The Athens metro is probably the nicest I’ve ever seen. I think it’s fairly new compared to others which probably explains why it seems so nice. There are even some ancient artifacts displayed throughout.
A full first day in Athens and we were looking forward to our second day (and hoping for cooler weather?)!
Accommodations Info & Tips
While in Athens we stayed at the Hotel Pergamos. We found this hotel through Hostel World and we chose it because it was fairly central and more importantly, fairly cheap. 🙂 It was an okay hotel – very just okay. I checked the website and it looks like the hotel went through a recent renovation so I’m sure it has only improved. Current rates for a double room are €28. See? Can’t beat that price.
As previously mentioned, I really like taking hop-on, hop-off bus tours in large cities I’ve never been to. This one was maybe not quite as informative as others I’ve been on but it still took us to the sites we wanted to see. Current rates for the red route, which takes you to all the major attractions in the city central, are €18 for adults and tickets are good for 24 hours.
The cost of a ticket to visit the Acropolis is €12, which also includes entrance to other sites including the Temple of Olympian Zeus.