Athens was not what I expected. It was much larger, too desert like, and more crowded than I anticipated. Greece has 11 million people, and almost half of them reside in Athens. Add to that all the tourist, and it’s pretty much a mad house. However, in spite of the chaos, I still managed to have a good time. Fascinating ruins from ancient civilizations are randomly scattered about the city. As a result, Athens, Greece is full of ancient history in a modern world.
By far, the most famous destination in the entire city is the Acropolis. The friendly receptionist at my hotel told me it was about a 15-minute walk, just past the square. I headed out in the general direction she had instructed me to go, and before long I saw it, high on a hilltop overlooking the city. I was impressed with its sheer size long before I even arrived.
I got there at 9:30 in the morning and the line was already about 100 people long. Boy am I glad I didn’t arrive any later, because by 10:30 the line was about 1,000 people long, and I’m not kidding! I asked one girl later in the day that was near the front of the line how long she had been waiting and she said she had been standing in the “que” for an hour and a half!
The Acropolis is massive. Giant pillars, carvings, and stones from around 300 AD stand strong and regal against a brilliant blue sky. It was horribly hot but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Families and couples from around the globe posed for pictures against one of the most well-known backdrops on the planet, and the view of the city below is worth the price of admission alone. The whole time I kept wondering to myself which cities, countries or planets will be in ruins 2,000 years from now. Somehow the Acropolis has a way of making you feel very small. It was an experience that I’ll never forget.
Busy Flea Market
On the way back I wondered through the Flea Market next to the main square. I noticed the shoes were cheap and well made. They reminded me of the ones in India. I was impressed with the colorful spices, olives and fresh nuts. I smelled the fish market before I even saw it. I had to take a look and I was amused at the variety of seafood. Much of it I couldn’t even recognize, and wouldn’t dare eat!
For lunch I had an authentic gyro and the most delicious baklava I’ve ever had! I was surprised that the gyro wasn’t wrapped. Instead, the meat was piled high on little triangle pita slices. The serving size was gigantic! I couldn’t have eaten it if I took all day. When I was done, over half of it was left on my plate. The female server was visibly agitated that I didn’t eat more. I tried to explain that I was full but she just started mumbling something loudly in Greek and then told me to take it with me. I figured it was useless to try and explain that my hotel room didn’t have a fridge, so I wisely took it with me anyway.
The next day I headed to the beach. The water was brilliant blue and crystal clear. Brightly colored umbrella stands littered the small pebble beaches, and children of all ages played gleefully in the warm water. I had to pay 5 euros for the day in order to lay there on my designated cushion, but it was a good investment and I was glad to be out of the city.
Athens is an unusual place. It reminded me of a lot of a bunch of different cities all mixed together. Perhaps that is because it is such a melting pot of people from around the world. I’m glad I went, but I doubt I’ll go back. I prefer the islands, but you pretty much have to fly through Athens to get to any of them.