european adventures: athens, greece

For some reason I journaled about every city except for Athens.  Maybe it was as a test for the near-future me to see just how much I could remember?  Well, here goes nothing...

We took a 17 hour ferry to Athens.  Yep, that happened.  And it went surprisingly well.  I have to admit, the ferry was quite nice.  However, being the broke travelers we were, we had reserved the lowest class of seats, fondly dubbed "the deck seats"... Well, that didn't sound promising at all, especially after walking through the absolutely bonkers wind from the ??? to the Blue Star building.  In my research, I read that we'd be able to set up camp in a lounge or reception area, so I held out hope for our poor souls.  Thankfully, the internet did not lie--we very comfortably slept on each other, on a long wrap-around couch, also holding a old Greek man with friends and prayer beads.  The only downside of being in the reception area was that there were TVs (I believe a bad American action movie was played before it was turned off) and we were near public bathrooms (where I saw within minutes, the product of someone's seasickness).  Ted and I were fortunate enough to not get seasick with the help of ferry-provided meds.  

I passed the time sleeping and catching up on blogs--it had been too long.  It was during this long ferry ride that I started to miss my more domestic side.  You know, the side of me who isn't off gallivanting in foreign lands, taking planes, trains, buses, ferries, and walking, walking, walking anywhere and everywhere my tiny feet can take me.  I started thinking fondly of baking, crafting, and just being at home.  Of course I never for a minute didn't want to be traveling, but there comes a point where home doesn't look so bad.  It actually looks pretty damn good.  When I woke up the next morning, I stumbled to the dining room and bought myself a yogurt (mmm, Greek yogurt!) and found a little honey to mix in.  I then proceeded to have the most satisfying breakfast of my life on the deck of the ferry, alone, the wind in my face, and the beautiful blue sea stretched out ahead of me, studded with islands.  That's what I call a blissful breakfast.  

However, the best part of the ferry ride might have been the old couple that befriended us in the last 20 minutes or so of the journey.  They sat down near our spot--littered with our backpacks, the grocery bag from Amsterdam that now carried the mustard from Austria, a bag of fun-sized Bountys, and who knows what other random stuff--and when the woman caught my eye and smiled, she started speaking to us in Greek.  Her husband tried to translate in Italian.  After some confusion, we realized they were trying to tell us their love story.  What a surreal moment.
To be honest, our first impression of Athens wasn't the shiniest.  The main train station is probably in the worst part of town.  We felt immediately discouraged when we saw the rows of towering, dilapidated buildings.  Fortunately, as we walked further toward our hostel, things looked up.  Yet despite the improvements, Athens is definitely a tough city.  It wasn't until we ventured towards the Acropolis that I started to see the Greece I envisioned, with the majestic Acropolis overlooking the sprawling city.  I've got to say, it was quite awe-inspiring. 

As you might have heard in the news, Greece isn't doing so hot right now.  Although I knew this going in, I didn't anticipate the extent.  Everywhere in Europe there are people on the streets trying to make money selling souvenirs, street performing, or begging for money.  Athens was definitely the worst though.  Even children as young as 6 or 7 (maybe even younger) were walking around trying their best to make money.  It pained me to see them, knowing there were adults out there using their youth as a ploy to get money.  It was very humbling, and at times disturbing, being surrounded by this.  Not to mention the droves of stray dogs wandering around.  They mostly hung out in the ruins.  My faith in humanity was restored when I started noticing big bowls of water left out for them.  

After popping into a Vodafone that I spotted--we had two places we always ended up in each country--Starbucks (everywhere except Italy of course) and phone stores--we found our hostel.  We got buzzed in, we took a sketchy elevator up to our hostel, and you know what?  It actually ended up being quite nice for how dirt-cheap it was.  I mean, 12 euros for a decent bed and breakfast?  What a steal!  It was also conveniently located not too far from the Acropolis.  The family who owned the place was super nice, and the shower was only a little inconvenient. 
Unlike Ancient Rome, we actually got to interact with some of the ruins!  I mean, I stepped on SOME REALLY OLD FLOORS.  I touched some REALLY OLD STONE.  REALLY OLD, MAN.  We're talking 2,000 years old.  I mean, I guess it was okay.  The great thing about these ruins--we could use our international student IDs to get in free everywhere.  As broke, traveling college students on our last stretch of funds, this was a god-send.  Or should I say, gods-send.  Yeah, I'm funny.

My favorite moment was sitting in the audience of the Theatre of Dionysus.  AKA, the birthplace of THEATRE.  That was pretty incredible, to say the least.  It felt quite surreal.  Being a theatre major, I couldn't help but geek out a bit.  When we made it up to the Acropolis, we were in awe of the beautiful white stone work. Those Greeks sure knew how to work those pillars.  It was quite something walking up those large steps. Once we walked through the entrance, we walked around to see the Parthenon.  Unfortunately they have been restoring it for quite some time, so there was scaffolding every angle.  I can't complain though--I feel very fortunate that there are people out there preserving our rich history.  

Let's just say that Greek food officially has a very, very, very special place in my heart after our visit to Athens.  Every single thing we put into our mouths was so delicious, right down to the multiple frozen Greek yogurts we tried (of course the winner was during our very last night when we were already stuffed with other delicious food).  We visited two restaurants twice because we were so smitten with their dishes.


Natalie said...

I really love reading all of your recaps! 17 hours on the ferry definitely sounds rough, but it sounds like you guys made the most out of it and it definitely sounds worth it to be able to say that you touched some 2000 freaking year old floors. PRETTY COOL. Also, I want to know how Actual Official Greek yogurt from Greece tastes...

Maggie Shirley said...

REALLY OLD, MAN. You are great. I love all your recaps!

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