We were sad to leave Italy and everything pizza. However, the sadness didn’t last long, as we were very excited to be heading to Greece. A two-hour plane trip from Rome to Athens was all it took to arrive at one of the most ancient places on earth. Again, we didn’t know what to expect as the recent news showed Athens plagued with chaos, tear gas and riots. We were lucky in that we experienced nothing of the sort- no riots, protests or any mishaps whatsoever. What we did experience was more of that European heat. We didn’t get a day below 37 degrees and when concrete and stone surround most of the city – it didn’t take long for us to decide most of our sightseeing would take place before midday.
We had a total of three days in Athens. The first day we woke up at 8am and headed to the Acropolis’ Parthenon. Tickets were 12 Euro each and we bought them at the ticket office that morning. Gus had a great tip from Rick Steve’s European guide on how to avoid lines at the ticket office. The answer was pretty straightforward: Get there before the tour buses and cruises, which come in at 11am. We avoided the lines, but got stung with a pretty hefty drink bill of 19 euro for two ice slushy drinks and a bottle of water. So don’t buy drinks outside the entrance to this place – rip off! Once we got through the main gates the sites were amazing. We saw Odeon of Herodes Atticus amphitheatre, where famous people such as Andre Rieu and Yanni have performed (if you consider them famous! :)) and of course the VERY famous Parthenon. The walk took about 20 minutes, it was up hill and pretty slippery in thongs – but it was simply stunning.
Later on that day we headed to the port of Athens, Piraeus. We needed to buy ferry tickets to Santorini and being on a budget decided to buy the seven hour ferry ride to the island. We figured that we’d achieved for the day so headed back to the hotel. Our hotel was probably one of the best ones we’ve had in Europe. It was a four star hotel near Victoria square – quite central to the metro and was just awesome service.
We got some rest before heading up to the highest peak in Athens – Mount Lykavittos. We should have again researched how far we actually had to walk, as it ended up being a two-hour walk – and in the relentless summer sun it seemed like four. We got off at the closest metro stop and headed towards the mountain. Walking through the high-end fashion part of the city called “Kolonaki”, with their gorgeous boutiques and your never fail Prada and Chanel boutiques. We walked straight passed these and onto the gigantic staircase awaiting us.
A total of 500 steps to get to the Funicular that would take us to the top of Lykavittos. We arrived at the funicular sweating, cheeks flushed and in considerable distress. I asked for two tickets and the lady behind the counter said that she didn’t have change for 50 Euro. I showed her my Visa – they take Credit right? Wrong! No Credit card – I would have to use the ATM behind me – which was of course out of order. At this point there were people getting onto the funicular. We weren’t. The lady behind the counter must have seen my crazy eyes or sensed Gus’ pacing the room as a sure sign of distress and miraculously came up with some change for our 50 Euros.
Fifteen minutes later and we were at the top. You can see views of then entire city from the top, an ocean of white roofs upon mountainous terrains. There is a little chapel at the top of the mountain, a restaurant (that was not open) and street vendors. Three of them selling ice cold water and jewellery. We would definitely recommend getting a taxi up to the funicular here, as the walk was quiet long and on a hot day seems to take forever.
Athens was ridiculously cheap, compared to the rest of Europe. We loved the food here and don’t think we paid more than 30 Euro for a meal. Wish we had more time to explore and minus the strikes that do stop public transport and taxis from running it’s such a great city to get around. The people here are amazing, so lovely and happy to help even though we didn’t know a word of Greek. Efharisto Athens!