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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Αθήνα. Athens.

Sunday started with another delicious roll and hardboiled egg breakfast. I'm now hooked on hardboiled eggs — something my mother will be thrilled to hear.
We met Claude and James downstairs at 11 a.m. Claude wanted to join us for our free day at the Acropolis. The night before James was going to say his goodbyes but decided he'd stop by with Claude in the morning to see us one more time. He fully intended to part ways there and go lay on a beach, but we're just so awesome he ended up hanging out with us for the rest of the day. What's a Greek beach next to the company of six fun American girls?
As we walked to the Acropolis, Bethany and James bickered over Mr. Darcy and the expectations he has set for British men. Thanks to Mr. Darcy, James said, women assume every British man will be exactly like the character, but in reality "we're all scumbags." It was entertaining.
We climbed the stairs to the Acropolis and got our free Sunday tickets. Free Sundays is possibly the greatest idea ever.
We passed through the turnstiles and started up the hill, trying not to slip on the smooth rock. To our right was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which we had seen from below the day before.

Saturday's tour guide said the only way to see it from the inside is to attend a concert during the summer. I wish that was an option. He made sure to note that only serious artists would be playing there. "Nothing like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears or what's the one? Justin Bieber."

Photo by Bethany 
Next up: into the actual Acropolis. The Acropolis is the name for the entire flat-topped rock that towers above the city where the Greeks constructed architectural masterpieces.
The name is used to refer to both the rock itself and everything built on top of it. The purpose of the Acropolis changed frequently throughout history.
We walked through the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis. The white marble columns were brilliantly contrasted with the sky. Athens knows how to do weather.


Photo courtesy of Caitlin
At first, there was not much to do but stand in front of the Parthenon. I've seen it in pictures hundreds upon hundreds of times, but seeing it tower above me was surreal.

We sat on the ledge for a while, chatting and looking out over the city. Everyone else sat with their backs to the city, legs safely facing the Parthenon, craning their necks. Per usual, I swung my legs to the outside and made them all nervous. It's what I do. But I couldn't resist when this was the view:

Below we could see the remains of another theater.

Temenos of Dionysus Eleuthereus
We meandered our way up to a huge lookout point for more photos. I was still in awe of the city. I felt like I was living on a postcard. Thank you again, Greek Gods, for that weather.

We looped around the other side of the Acropolis to the Erechtheion. 

We sat there for a while before eventually leaving the Acropolis. Saturday I had seen frozen lemonade advertised across from the entrance, so obviously that was the next destination. I really miss lemonade, but not enough to pay €4.50 for one, so I split it.

Photo by Amy
We headed to the rock once more before walking down to the Ancient Agora of Athens.

Photo by Jess
Agora of Athens

The Temple of Hephaestus sits on the far end of the Agora. Constructed around 400 B.C., it's the most well-preserved ancient Greek temple. Constructing something with such longevity seems unimaginable today.

Before we knew it, it was 2:30 p.m. The Temple of Zeus and other famous archeological sites — also all free Sundays — closed at 3 p.m. and were on the other side of the Acropolis. We hopelessly decided we'd try to make it. After about 15 minutes of power walking that seemed to lead us no closer to our goals, we gave up and headed back to Monastiraki Square. James and Claude came with me to the same sandwich shop I had gone to Saturday. The rest of the girls went to get gyros again. The crowds were unbearable. I squeezed my way out of the shop, veggie sandwich in hand, and scanned the crowd as I started to walk. I would have missed Claude and James if they didn't yell at me as I was passing. We wedged ourselves onto a small concrete ledge and ate our lunch, elbows clutched to our sides. Completely stuffed and covered in sandwich crumbs, I followed them as we looked for the others.
Eventually we did. They all waited near an overpriced shoe shop as Amy and I left to get a new suitcase. I found one for €15, snatched it up and ran back.
We started back to the hostels as a group but were quickly consumed by the massive hordes of people. I have no idea where they all came from. It was as if they got bored inside so decided to stand in the middle of the road shoulder to shoulder to block anyone needing to pass just for fun. It didn't appear that any of them had destinations. I threw some elbows and used my new suitcase to try to create a path, but every gap I created closed right behind me. I imagine it's similar to drowning.
After a good 15 minutes, I emerged with Caitlin and James in tow. The crowd had swallowed the rest of our friends. We shrugged and continued toward the hostel. Every man for himself. James carried the suitcase for a while — not too much of a scumbag — and we made it home. He had to head out to see a "footy" game, which turned into a riot that ended the match early. It's strange that something like that happened just a few miles from me. We were all clueless.

We spent the next couple of hours perusing shops and buying pointless souvenirs. Around 8 p.m. we decided to venture out to find a restaurant. As much as we loved the burgers at the fish cafe downstairs, we wanted something new. As usual, Kate made friends with one of the stray dogs. He loyally followed us around until we found a restaurant. 

We were the first and last inside with choice seating right in front of the live music. At first it was awkward, but soon a large group of people filed in and took up the table behind us.
The waiters were all absolutely delightful. They were my vision of happy Greek grandfathers. Somehow one of them overheard Jessica say the word "dance" and immediately pulled her up in front of the musicians. He guided her through the simple steps of a traditional Greek dance, and before we knew it, we were all up there kicking our feet and spinning in a circle, arms around each others' backs. The other table sat and idly watched while we had a blast. Every time we sat down, they gave us about two minutes before pulling us up again. We were always clapping, dancing or listening to Jessica sing with the band. twice.
It was a pretty slow night I think largely due to the football match. Every sports bar we passed was overflowing with people. A couple of other tables came and left. One particularly obnoxious group of about 20 Americans came in, ordered shots of Ouzo and left without ordering anything else, dirtying an entire table for the poor staff to clean for nothing. It irritated me.
But they loved us. They brought us fresh apple and orange slices and smiled every time we yelled OPA!  

When the room was back down to the six of us, the waiters and the band, the manager yelled into the back. I didn't catch his name, but this guy came running out to show us how to move our hips. He was hilarious. He got up on a chair and started gyrating like it was his last day on Earth. Caitlin took her turn on the chair next, and I was near tears laughing.

It started getting late, and we kept trying to leave, but every time they'd start a new song. Eventually things slowed down, and we said our goodbyes. 

Photo courtesy of Amy
We left the restaurant and walked over to the Temple of Zeus and the Panathinaiko.  Seeing ancient masterpieces at night is still so much more powerful. I absolutely love it. I couldn't have asked for a better final night in Athens.

Monday we had to be on the metro to the airport by 11:30 a.m. to catch our flight to Santorini! I didn't want to waste the morning, so I talked Amy into packing the night before and getting up early enough to go inside the gates of the Temple of Zeus. 

We had hoped to see the Panathinaiko, but we were out of time. We had to run back to the hostel to catch the metro. We made it to the airport with plenty of time and relaxed until boarding time. After a short 25-minute plane ride, one gumdrop candy and a glass of orange juice, we landed in Santorini!

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