We began our trip to Greece with an overnight flight into Athens. The traveling on this trip was even more exhausting than usual. We landed in Athens at 2:30 am Friday morning, and since the metro didn't open until 6:30 am, we had to sleep in the airport for a few hours. After catching up on some sleep and meeting up with some friends who flew in from Italy, we were ready to explore the city by late Friday afternoon.
We definitely took advantage of the free sights and tried to visit each one, if only for a few minutes. Our first stop Saturday morning was the Olympieion which had many ruins, including the Temple of Zeus, the Hadrian's Gate, some Roman baths, remains of houses, the Basilica of Olympieion, and the Temple of Apollo Delphinios, along with many others. From here, we had a nice view of the Acropolis. Before seeing the Acropolis, we stopped at the original (modern) Olympic Stadium, built in 1896. Not quite as eventful as we had hoped, so we headed for the Acropolis.
We decided to begin our sightseeing with the new Olympic Stadium built for the 2004 Summer Olympics. There were some cool structures and interesting features, such as the arched walkway at the entrance and the louvered sunshade. Overall it was pretty impressive, but it seemed very odd since there were only about 10 other people in the whole complex besides us--definitely not what it must have felt like to be there when the Olympics were taking place. It also looked surprisingly run-down for having only been used four years ago.
We ended our evening in Syntagma Square, one of the central spots in the city. There was some concert going on, and it took quite a while (and an English-speaking performer) before we knew what it was all about. They were having some sort of earth and environmental action celebration...which turned out to be quite beneficial for us the next day because all of the sights in Athens were free!
The Acropolis was really cool, and we had absolutely perfect weather that day. It was warm, but there was a nice breeze blowing so we were never hot. That (and the free entrance!) made this a great day for sightseeing. The sights were beginning to get crowded, but I think we just missed the major tourist season, so we never had to stand in line to see anything.
After walking down the hill from the Acropolis, we decided to climb this really big rock at the foot of the hill for one last really great view. From here, we also had an amazing view of the rest of the city, including the old town of Athens and the Athenian Agora. After some shopping time in the old town (there were so many amazing little stores with all kinds of handmade goods--jewelry, dresses, sandals, etc!) we visited the Agora and called it a day. Our feet were pretty sore from hiking up hills over the rocky ground, and we had an early ferry to catch to our next destination--Santorini Island!
All of the old structures and temples were really interesting, and I tried my best to remember everything about them from my history class three years ago. Surprisingly, I didn't do too bad. My favorite building on the Acropolis (as well as when I studied it in history) was the Erechtheum with its caryatids (women columns). They're just so different from all of the other temples (which all start to look the same after a while). The Parthenon was also amazing, but I was a little disappointed by all of the scaffolding.
To see all of my photos of Athens, click here.