In Athens, there are a lot of cats. So many that I nearly titled this post ‘Cat-thens’ but that made Callum snort derisively, so I am only writing a sentence or two about it here. Having just kissed our little furballs goodbye for the next month, I was happy to see some feline friends nearly the moment we landed. Rest assured our two cuties are well-looked after by a nice, retired couple while we gallivant around the Mediterranean for a bit.
It has been 2.5 years since overseas travel for Callum and I. We had fully planned and booked a trip to Greece and Italy for June 2020. In March, I thought “It will be fine. We’ll still be able to go. They’ll have it sorted by then.” Two years later and we’ve finally made it.
We flew from Perth on a Saturday evening. That meant we had a full morning to clean the house and prepare it for the cat-sitters, as well as pack and organise ourselves before our flight.
We got to the airport super early because it’s been a long time since we’ve gone anywhere, and I have completely forgotten how to travel. Our first flight to Singapore was about five hours and we had a mere 50 minutes to get to our next gate to board our second flight, which took about 10.5 hours to Athens. We landed super early in the morning and dropped our luggage at our hotel. We sought some breakfast and coffee and just succumbed to Starbucks. Hey, we were tired, it was 830am, nothing else was open, and it was a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. We were super judged by all the people walking by…we even heard one British gal remark to her friend “Isn’t that FUN-eeeee….come all the way to Greece and eat at Starbucks!” I wanted to tell her all the things I just explained to you, dear reader. I wanted to tell her that Starbucks is a novelty to this Can-Australian as Perth does not have such a locale. And I happen to like Starbucks coffee. Geez. Give me a break; I can’t be like a local the second I arrive. Give me some time to acclimate. I was falling over with exhaustion and needed a minute to get the caffeine into my veins. Also, I do not sleep on planes. So I was very very tired.
So tired, that after our Starbucks we walked a bit and found a nice-looking bench. It was here that I had a nap on Callum’s lap while he watched the world go by. I simply could not do anything more than that. When I awakened from my slumber we meandered back to our hotel. Our plan was to try and freshen up a bit and then go for a walk around the shops, have lunch, and then check in. As it happened, our room was ready and we were able to do what we really wanted: shower, sleep and recover. We slept hard for three hours.
After a rest and a bit of food—at a local place this time, eating a Greek salad prepared by a Greek person, thank you very much—we walked up to the Acropolis Museum. Our original plan was to do it the next day, but an art museum I wanted to see was only open the next day and we only had two full days in Athens. The museum was a great place to start before continuing the gentle slope up to the Acropolis itself. We only looked around for one hour, but that is all I had energy or care for at that point.
Athens in mid-June, by the way, is very hot. Like Australian weather hot. I’ve always said it, and I’ll say it again, but the heat and sun are different in the northern hemisphere. Yes, it’s hot in Perth Australia, but the sun doesn’t bite you the way it does in the Northern Hemisphere. We applied sunscreen and started the hike up to the Acropolis. I had a funny stomach-ache so it was a bit tough. I was also pretty thirsty so before we got far, I bought a lemonade slushie for a ridiculous amount of money. I did not care. 5 Euros (7.60 AUD) for a drink that should cost a dollar? Sure, why not. Get that ice cold beverage down my gullet right now.
Somewhat refreshed, we hiked the short distance to the entrance and climbed the steps up to see the propylaea (main gateway) to the site. Something I learned on this trip that you may or may not know, is that the Acropolis is the hill on which stands the structures, including the main thing, the Parthenon. I always thought the Acropolis was its own ancient monument, but it is the hill itself. The Parthenon is a temple which was built to honour the goddess Athena and it is almost 2,500 years old. The building itself can only be viewed from the outside, as are the other structures on the site. The other two temples are called the Erechtheion (to worship Athena as the guardian of the city Athens) and the Temple of Athena Nike (to worship Athena as warrior defending Athens). The Parthenon, (Athena Parthenos) is to celebrate Athena as the patroness of the city.
We were among hundreds of people viewing the site. If you take your time looking (and trying to get good shots with as few people in the background as possible) you can easily spend two hours up there, as did we. It was so interesting to see these ancient stones up close in real life. I’ve seen the Parthenon in TV and movies countless times, but to be there in real life was something special. All together, we went to the museum at 4pm, then made it to the top of the Acropolis around 530pm, and left around 730pm to go find dinner in Plaka. Because the sun stays up for so long in the summer in Europe, even at 8pm, the sun was still high in the sky and made me feel like it was only 3pm!
One piece of advice to people who have not been yet: wear good strong footwear with traction! Athens is a slippery city, and the Acropolis and surrounds is very treacherous for the clumsily-inclined. The rocky ground has been walked upon for quite some time by quite a number of people, making it smooth and therefore slippery. Thankfully no accidents were had, but only because slow walking and careful navigation were employed by yours truly.
The next day we went to the Benkai museum in the morning which wasn’t too far to walk from our hotel. We made a quick stop first at the Parliament where we saw two guards entwined in some sort of slow-motion dance routine which was both fascinating and hilarious. I’m sure it’s very important and my flippant remarks may be offensive to some. We watched for a few moments and then went on. The Benaki Museum has many relics and artworks from the Byzantine period, Prehistoric, Ancient and Roman Art, Chinese Art and more. We were most interested in the prehistoric objects on the first floor and then I was fascinated by the Byzantine art, much of which was recognizable to me in some instances but looked totally unique in others. The way artists depicted the human figure is interesting to me—so elongated and sort of bendy. The use of mosaic and heavy application of gold everywhere was also very cool. It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen European art in real life. I was loving it!
After the museum we went to the National Garden for a much needed breath of green air and to rest my weary feet. We then walked back to Plaka and found a restaurant with fans and mist cooling the patrons and settled in for a relaxing lunch. It was so hot. It’s the kind of weather that sort of saps you of your energy and naps are needed to endure it. So, we went back to our hotel to have a bit of a rest before venturing out for part two of the day.
Just in case you weren’t sick of seeing old rocks and the same famous landmark from every possible viewpoint, we went to a hilltop where earlier that morning I had observed a photoshoot taking place. From our breakfast lounge at our hotel, we had a great view of the Acropolis and surrounds, and I saw the iconic giant-red-dress-blowing-in-the-wind-Instagram-moment which we would encounter several more times in Santorini. You know the one. Girl in flawless makeup and gorgeous flowing red dress with the long train, the epic landmark or landscape behind her. She is Instragram Girl…posing in this romantic and contrasting-colour dress, so unique, so different from alllll the other Instagram Girls doing the exact same thing. I must admit…I am totally an Instagram Girl wannabe. I kind of wanted to do this whole red dress thing. I looked up how much it cost (because it is an actual real ‘thing’), saw the prices….and thought to myself “Callum is pretty good with a camera, and I have a little red frock to throw on”. Just a little foreshadowing for you.
Anyway, we climbed to this rock and got a great view of the city and it was actually pretty neat to see the Acropolis from a different angle, and to say “hey, look at that throng of people traversing the slippery stones and enduring the heat!” while we were standing under an olive tree with only one other couple nearby. It was in these places that we got our necessary photos of Georgina the World Wide Travelling Sheep.
Athens is an incredible city and a great first stop before seeing more of Greece. I am so thankful we got to go. I think 2.5 days is plenty if you are short on time. Really, if you’re even shorter than we are, honestly, 1.5 days is enough if all you care to see is the famous Parthenon. Just be mindful that you will be judged if you stop to have a Starbucks coffee. So FUN-eeeeee.