Athens, the capital of Greece is about 1,700 km from our home in Munich in the South Easterly direction, as the crow flies. Due to its warmer climate (relative to Munich), we decided to leave Athens as a destination until at least the late autumn or early winter as we understood that the city in notorous for hot summers, with temperatures soaring up to 40°C for long periods of time.

We found Athens delightfully easy to get around, with good public transport between the airport and city, whilst accomodation in the city was plentiful. We have always booked accomodation close to public transport and in Athens, this is no different - our hotel was close to street trams, bus stops and the underground system. We soon discovered though that this wasn't necessary as it will become apparent to you soon that we toured the entire city on foot. That weekend, we must have grazed Athens 5 times covering a distance of about 30km.

Although Eglish was quite common, reading roadsigns in greek to Get from A to B was interesting but enjoyable, nevertheless.

Our first stop, due to its proximity to our hotel was the Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as Olympieion, a temple dedicated to Zeus who was king of the Olympic gods. The temple sits alone in a large field, where other ruins were discovered - including that of an ancient roman bath house. Apparrently, the bath house was discovered while a shaft was being constructed from the underground rail network to the surface.

The Acropolis is perhaps Athens' most famous attraction. Perched at the top of a mountain in the middle of the Athen's old city, it features three temples each depicting a different aspect of the Goddess Athena, two Amphitheatres and the Acropolis Museum. Because of the pominence of the Acropolis, most hotels are able to see it and hereby breed a feature common to most Athenean hotels - rooftop terraces and balconies featuring views to the Acropolis - all chargable of course. In the evenings, brightly coloured spotlights add dramatism to the brightly lit monument.

Getting to the Acropolis is only possible on foot via stairs but the trek is made interesting as you walk past two Amphitheatres - Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysos which had seats moulded into the hillside. We did this is 30°C heat ! Don't worry - the latter had strong fencing to protect crowds from falling off the mountain by accident although depending on the production, one might consider doing it on purpose.

Off the many temples and other structures on the Acropolis, the largest was of course the famous Parthanon but it was closed to the public (and under restoration, so our pictures show lots of scaffolding around the structure). We understood that it is now only opened once a year to the public. The Acropolis also commands a fantastic view of modern Athens - where literally hundreds of thousands of homes can be seen. Most of the homes were coloured brightly - white or beige being the most popular colours - I guess to reflect the heat away during the hot summer months.

We also visited the ancient Agora (marketplace). It was clear that this seems to be an ancient village as was evident by the numbers of ruins of ancient homes, temples and other structures systematically located in that area. The agora is now a large park of ruins and home also to the Ancient Agora Museum, Most impressive however was the Thission, the doric Temple of Hephaestus perched on the top of a hill. It was a very interesting place to visit. Today, many taverns, restaurants and cafe's litter around the ancient agora, making this zone a really pleasant one to be around.

Ohher ruins also exist, inviting casual walks along these artifacts. We visited what used to be the Forum (The Roman Agora), the Tower of Winds and spent some time in the Plaka's district - checking out the many streets of quaint "bric a brac" shopping. We noticed that like Turkey, there were lots of Nazar Boncuk (aka the "evil eye" amulet) of different sizes and configurations sold. These modern day bazaars we most interesting - selling things from arts and craft, t-shirts, jewellery, domestic foodstuff through to tourist sourvenires. Again, plenty of taverns for one to rest, relax with the local cuisine and soak in the Greek atmostphere all around you.

We mustn't forget to mention the changing of the guards which occured in front of the Parliament. It was a tiring but rewarding 3 days in Athens - we were ready and glad to return home to Munch at the end of it all.

 


Images of Athens
Images of Athens

 

Note that images have a 24 bit colour depth, requiring both Adobe Flash and Shockwave to work. It works best when viewed through systems appropriately configured.

 


In the 3 days of our trip, we didn't find the greek people particularly friendly or helpful, except for one street vendors we bought water from and a shop owner - we found out later she was Australian. We did enjoy talking to some Indian tourists although we discovered they came from Brisbane and were in Athens as part of a European cruise.

The famous souvlaki was rather uninteresting - we prefer to one back one in Melbourne - but the gyros was tastier although the vegetable broth soup wasn't so bad. Having a meal ourside at one of their taverns wasn't so bad but we noted that Atheneans like Iced Nescafe - where ultra sweetened Nescafe blended with ice and topped with cream was enjoyed by many. The cheese pie was also common and so was a kind of sweet pretzel, sold again by street vendors.

We visited the main Agora (market) in Athens, where meat was in its abundance. The entire market seemed to be hosted by butchers of every creed - expertly displaying their neat cuts of meat. Interestingly enough, we did not see too many vegetable stalls. Each supply group had their own section: meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts, grains etc..

All in all, Athens was a very enjoyable place. Touring was really easy thanks to the close proximity of the sights, restaurants and nightlife. Running out of time in the end, we missed the greek islands and more of ancient Greece outside Athens city.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

 

November 29th, 2008

Greek Royal Guard
Presidential Guard
The "Changing of the Guards" ceremony ouside
the Greek Pariament.

 

People
People generally kept to themselves and weren't friendly. We met an Australian shop owner that gave us lots of information on the tourist sites and also gave us some souvenirs from her shop - that was pleasantly surprising. We were warned of pickpockets but didn't encouter any we could talk about. We rate this 2 out of 5.

Service
Stores were OK, spoke English but generally no service. You had a wait around for a long time before being noticed. I would rate this 1 out of 5 for Service.

Culture
Oh yes, culture was everywhere with lots to see and do, especially window shopping through the quaint streets of Athens. The changing of the guards is certainly interesting, at best. We rate this 3 out of 5.

Attractiveness
Stockholm as its charm. As mentioned, we only saw a little of Stockholm but liked it. Lots of museums, nice people, good public transportation with a lot more to discover. People speaking English helps a ton. We rate this a 3.5 out of 5.

Food
Being spoilt in Australia, we didn't like the food that much. The souvlaki and gyros did not top the ones at home. We rate this 2 out of 5.

Cost
We found Athens moderately expensive, compared to other cities but the accomodation was of great quality and close to all sights. A good attitude adjustment may be in order if they wish to compete with other cities for the tourist dollar... lots of Americans I found mainly because of the large Greek community that exists there.
Thanks also to Lufthansa for their €99.00 return tickets to Athens and €3.20 bus fare to the airport, pricing was reasonable but to people outside the Euroland, thanks to the currency crisis, everything in Europe now takes a new meaning for the word "expensive". The next McCurrency index serves as a guide but it too is a bit outdated thanks to the effects of the financial crisis currently looming in the world.
We rate this 3.5 out of 5.

Overall
Everything considered; the sights, experience, food and cost - we still had a fun time and would rate this 3 out of 5.

Athens, GR

People

Service

Culture

Attractiveness

Food

Cost

Overall Score


BigCurrencyIndex
ref: July 24th, 2008

Malaysia $1.70
Singapore $2.92
Australia $3.36
Europe (EU) $5.34