Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Athens.


Athens.  Photo by Christophe Meneboeuf
Photo by Christophe Meneboeuf.  The photo was too gorgeous to display in any other format than its original panoramic width.  Use the scroll bar to pan to see the entire photo.

I've always wanted to come to Athens.  One of the oldest cities in the world, centuries of history.  Just up my alley.  We'll be arriving into Athens from the US and then immediately going on our road trip so we won't actually be in Athens until five days into our trip.  By the time we arrive, we'll have had a whirlwind tour of tourist sights and having a bit of downtime would be welcomed.   We'll only be in town for three days and I don't want it to be a rushed visit.  So, I've  pared down the list of must-see touristy places to the highlights, leaving plenty of time to to see and do whatever we discover along the way.


I've booked us into an Airbnb apartment that's located close to Monastiraki Square which is in the heart of the city.  Most of the historic sights are located in easy walking distance and for anything further afar, we have easy access to the Metro.  To help us navigate about town, I've already bought a Rough Guides map to Athens from Walmart and will download the Metro map to my smartphone.  National Geographic also has mapped out a couple of walking tours (Central Market to Ancient Agora and Mount Lycabettus to National Gardens) which we can follow.  Bro, the ultimate plant collector, will especially appreciate time visiting the National Gardens.

Our map.

First a bit of geography.  Athens is situated in the prefecture of Attica and extends to the peninsula into central Greece. It is surrounded by the Ymmytos, Pendeli and Parnitha mountains to the northeast and the Saronic gulf to the southwest. Temperature wise, it will be warm - mid 70's Fahrenheit during the day and dropping about 10 degrees in the night.  Humidity wise, it should be dry i.e., below 50%.  Fingers crossed historic weather charts are correct and that we'll have perfect weather for wandering about town in t-shirts and shorts!

Athens Central Market (Photo by Sang Kim)
To help us navigate about town, I've bought a street map of Athens and have started marking it up with the key places of interest.  For the most part, I think we can pretty much get around on foot and subway.  There may be one or two places that we'll need to take a taxi to.

Our first day in Athens will only be a half day so we'll spend the time wandering about and just getting ourselves acquainted with the city.  Our apartment just so happens to be located about 2 blocks from the Central Market so that will most likely be the first place we go.  We have to pick up some items for breakfast, snacks and maybe a lunch and/or dinner. We both love wandering markets and I have a feeling we'll easily spend a couple hours on the first day and maybe come back in the morning on another day.





Monastiraki Square (Photo from my greece, my travels)
We'll have time before the day ends and presuming we have enough energy left, we'll explore the area around Monastiraki Square. From what I've read, it's filled with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants but it's also über touristy so I doubt we'll spend much time here other than to find a spot to sit, rest our feet and people watch.  I must try and find the spot where this photo was taken. It's a great vantage point to not only see the Square but also the Acropolis.  This would be a great place to come at night when the Acropolis is all lit up.

Entrance to the Odeion of Agrippa, Ancient Agora (Photo by janmad)









Next, we'll wander over to the Roman Forum and the Ancient Agora, which are both located pretty much just a couple of blocks away from the heart of Monastiraki Square.  The Agora might just be the perfect spot to find a place and have an afternoon snack.






National Garden.  (Photo from This is Athens)





Our first full day will no doubt begin with a trip to see the Acropolis followed by a visit to the Acropolis Museum where many of the pieces from the Parthenon are housed.   On the way, we'll make a quick stop to see the ruins at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest of all the Greek temples that took almost a thousand years to complete.

In the afternnon, we'll make our way to the National Garden.  From the few picture that I've seen of the place, it seems like a very lovely garden. 

Evzones in their khaki uniforms (Photo by Matthew Laird Acred)





Located adjacent to the National Garden is Syntagma Square (otherwise known as Constitution Square) which is where the Parliament Building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are located.  There is a changing of the guard ceremony that takes place every hour which we will definitely try and catch. Unfortunately, it's only Sundays at 11am that the guards, known as the Evzones wear their traditional white kilts, red and black caps, and red clogs with pompoms - we'll have left Athens by then :-(  But, I have to admit, I'll be glad to see them dressed in their daily khaki uniforms.

View of Athens From Lycabettus Hill.


On our last full day in Athens, the only must see left is the National Archeological Museum and in the early evening, a trip to Mount Lycabettus which from all accounts gives a wonderful twilight views of the Acropolis, the city, and the Aegean Sea.  It will be good to take in the view on our last day as we'll recognize the landmarks.

If we have the energy after a full day of sightseeing, then one night, we can catch a movie at Thiseion, an open-air movie theater located on the south side of the Acropolis. Apparently, classic Hollywood flicks are popular and all non-Greek films are shown with subtitles rather than dubbed.  How cool would it be to watch a classic movie with the Acropolis as the backdrop?

It's going to be a short visit to Athens but I already know I'm going to be enjoying every minute of it!