Tuesday, October 31, 2006

a tad bit disappointed

After Santorini and living in a real-life fairy tale for three days, we were a bit disappointed in Athens.  It’s such a huge city, really enormous.  We had four male roommates in our hostel again, one of whom had sleep apnea and snored like nothing you’ve ever heard.  The whole city smelled of some sort of urine/corn/bleach combination, and there’s really not all that much to do tourist-wise.  We made the most of it, though.

Our first morning back in the city we ate breakfast with one of our roommates, a guy named Nick.  He’s from Colorado and has been traveling by himself in Asia for the past four months.  It was his first morning in the city, too, and so we decided to go to the Acropolis together and maybe see some other sights.  We ended up visiting not just the Acropolis, but also Ancient Agora, the Temple of Athena Nike, the monument of Agrippa, the Filopappos Monument, and the prison of Socrates, and also some places whose names I forget.  Lots of ruins. 
First stop: the Acropolis.  On the way up we saw the theater (whose name I can’t remember), which, being the first thing we saw, was the most impressive to us.  It’s really well-preserved, and doesn’t look fake, either, like some of the preserved monuments.

We liked the Acropolis, too, but were also disappointed because it’s all under construction!  They’re restoring it, but they’re doing a whole half of it at once, so there’s scaffolding over a whole bunch of it.
         
From there we went down toward the Ancient Agora.  We could see it, and so we tried to take a direct route.  We should have just stuck with the marked path.  We ended up on the backside of the mountain, sliding down rocks on our butts so that we wouldn’t fall.  Eventually we made it, but it took some creativity.  On the bright side, we saw a turtle.

The Ancient Agora wasn’t under construction, which was a definite plus.  We could get closer to the ruins, too. 
 
By the time we were done there, it was almost 2, and we were ready for some food.  So we found a little out of the way place, and got some 2 euro gyros.  The place we found was so cool.  It was definitely not a place where tourists usually go.  The waiter actually seemed a little surprised to see us.  There were board games sitting around for customers to play (they were all in Greek or we would have given it a go), the music sounded like a local band (not mainstream), and it seemed like most of the people there knew each other.  It was almost siesta time, so they probably all went there every day.  Yes, I said siesta time.  Athens takes a siesta from 2:30-5:30 every day.  Businesses close down, everyone goes to a cafe, and the whole city just takes a break.  It’s kind of neat.  Businesses are then open until 8:30 at night, and then people have supper.  It’s very much a nightlife city.
Anyway, after our siesta we wandered through the huge Athens flea market for awhile, but didn’t see anything good, so we went up Filappapos hill to see the monument and the view of the city.
 
On our way back down we stopped to see the prison of Socrates.  It was basically just a hole in the side of a hill, but it was cool because Socrates was actually there.  And of course, as we do with any exciting circumstance, Christy and I had some hit cookies.  I don’t know if I’ve written about those before.  They’re these awesome German cookies - chocolate creme between vanilla cookies.  They even get better when they’re stale.  Basically, they’re fabulous and we all love them.  Nick liked them too.  He has good taste.  We had a good time with him on Tuesday.  He is a great conversationalist, and a number of times we found ourselves all just sitting somewhere random, talking about all sorts of things.  We sat in front of Socrates’ prison for a good half hour.  And the prison was not that exciting.
 
The next day Christy and I were on our own again, and we went to the National Archeological Museum, which wasn’t all that good.  It was neat to see some of the really old stuff, but by the end there were a LOT of pottery fragments and restored vases.
     
After getting some lunch, we decided to go see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown (Greek) soldier in front of Parliament.  So we got on the metro, and when we came up out of the underground station near Parliament, we turned around and literally almost ran into Greek police, complete with semi-automatic rifles and plastic shields.  Needless to say, there was no going to Parliament.  Turns out there were protests going on.  The Greek government has always made school free through the university level, and now they want to start charging students for university, and the students were understandably upset.  When we were there they were just peacefully protesting, but we saw on the news that later that evening it turned violent. 

So we went to the Temple of Olympian Zeus instead.  We had tried twice before to visit it, but it was closed both times.  We figured third time’s the charm, and indeed, it was open.  We took a picture of a German (?) family, and in return their son Gustav took our picture.
     
That night we had supper at a Lonely Planet-recommended restaurant.  Not Greek, but Chinese.  It was very cheap food, and tasty.  We had souvlaki or moussaka or gyros (traditional Greek foods) for almost every meal except breakfast, and while those were fabulous and I am in love with Greek cuisine, it was still a nice change to eat Chinese food that night, our last in Athens until the end of our trip.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 10/31 at 09:35 AM
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