Thursday, July 18, 2013

Athens in a day? Really, it can be done!

Wednesday, June 12th, Athens

Today was a very early morning! I was up before 5 am! Again, I think it’s the anticipation of the upcoming day, but we also had to meet our guide at 7:30 am to see Athens! I do like a little quiet time before getting our little group of four going in the morning. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to get Megan out of bed. She’s never been what I’d call a morning person!

This morning we thought we’d give room service a try. I liked that you could order a hot breakfast and this worked out well for us. Although there’s not a lot of room for trays or plates, we managed to juggle everything and quite enjoyed eating on our balcony as we waited to go to our meeting spot.

Today we’d be joining Catherine and Ger again, as well as another family from England who we’d also met on Cruise Critic. Jan, Shane, their son Andrew and their grandson, Harry – from England. Again we arranged to meet at the Champagne Bar about 15 minutes to our scheduled tour so we could walk off the ship together to find our guide all as one group. We did so and easily found our guide Georgia and our driver, Paul, from PK Travel, (Athens by Taxi). The port was a crazy mess out there, but they very quickly whisked us into a nice large van and off we went! As we drove through Plantaris, Georgia started to tell us about what we were seeing and the history of the area. We paid a bit extra for a guide for the day, in addition to just a driver and it was very well worth it! 

As our driver started, we drove past one of the stadiums used in the most recent Olympics.

Our first stop was the Acropolis. Yes, we had heard that private tours often arrive before the crowds, and it seemed to be true! When we arrived the parking lot was almost empty! We waited while Georgia went to get our tickets for us.

And then a group of Greek Army men marched by - what was going on? Well, turns out they were just raising the flag for the day. Georgia said it gives the Army something to do.  Apparently they do this every single day!

Pretty dramatic isn't it?

Georgia gave us an overview of what we’d be seeing and first we stopped at the Acropolis Theater. This was a little bit of a surprise at first for me. I almost had forgotten that this ancient theater was still in use for current performances! 

Then we made our way up to the Temple of Athena Nike. Every step was even more impressive.

You can't really grasp the size of the temple, but once you get right up there - you really can appreciate it!  

I'll just make a mention now, that all of this - the ruins, the history, the whole ancient era - it's all absolutely fascinating to me - so I could have honestly spent DAYS here in Athens poking around the ruins!  And actually the next day as well.  Really all of Europe!  There is so much ancient history!  Everywhere you turn there is something that has been excavated!  There's an archaeologist or an ancient European historian somewhere inside me screaming for more!  That is part of what made this trip even more of that "trip of a life time for me"!  Not only the perfect quaint towns, but the ancient history surrounding where we went!  

Back to the story!

Next, we walked through the Propylaea and saw the Parthenon!

Georgia gave us so much information and made the whole Acropolis come alive for us. Telling us stories of what it would have been like back in its heyday! I can not imagine being there without a guide. We had a good amount of time with her where she explained what each of the major temples were and told us more and more about each one. And then she gave us about 25 minutes to explore on our own. 

I think the sheer size alone is striking! The fact that so much still stands today is also amazing. The restoration is going on right in front of you and that’s quite interesting. 

Much of what you see on the temples are replicas – some of the original pieces are in the New Acropolis Museum, which we would visit later this day, other pieces are in the British Museum in England! For example, all of these godesses are replicas. But that doesn't take away from the beauty of what you see here at all.

The views from the Acropolis are stunning.

Below we could see the Temple of Zeus. This would be our next stop. 

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