Part 6 (Athens, Greece) – Cruising Venice, The Greek Isles, and the Eastern Mediterranean

Ah, Athens.  If you are at all interested in history, mythology, government, religion, finance, politics, heck almost any subject can tie back to this ancient city in some way.  And no surprise, it has been inhabited for the last 7000 years continuously.  And not just inhabited, but a cultural, economical, and social centerpiece of the ancient world.  I had been looking forward to this port for FOREVER!  This city is in my bucket list top three.  Once again, we used The Travel Insiders as our tour and after our amazing experience in Katakolon, I was nearly giddy with anticipation!

Athens map

The port at Piraeus is very…very busy.  In addition to the cruise ships, ferries from all over use Piraeus as  their port to bring tourists, students, cars, etc. to Athens from all around the Isles. I was not prepared for that, and it probably threw me off a bit, but since we docked around 6am and did not have to meet our guide until 9am, I had plenty of time to put on my big girl panties and get over it!

We chose the Ultimate Athens Experience which was an 8 hour tour to include the Acropolis, the Olympic Stadium, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and some free time that we could choose to use shopping in Plaka or visiting the amazing Acropolis Museum.  Once all of our tour participants arrived, our tour guide decided to head straight to the Acropolis to try and beat the other tour buses there.  On our way, we passed though the heart of the city of Athens, you know, the real part where people work and live?  It is bustling to say the least, traffic can be challenging so having an experienced driver is an absolute.

We arrived at the Acropolis and I thought it was crazy busy already.  We bought some water and got our tickets.  The line was about 5 minutes long…compared to when we came out, the place was empty!  This was the first of our really challenging ports, mobility wise.  Olympia is quite a bit of walking, but flat for the most part.  Athens is not.  We climbed up, stopping at various sites to hear about different tidbits of history.

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I absolutely love ancient amphitheaters!  I love how important the Arts were to the people and the communities.  I absolutely feel we have gone backwards in that area.  But!  I got to see so many examples in so many ancient sites on this trip.  This one is standing at the Acropolis looking down the hill.  You can’t see it, but the Parthanon is behind me, can you imagine watching a show from there?  Incredible.

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So here is my view when I turn around.  Amazing, right? The detail and engineering that had to go in to something like this is mind boggling.  There was quite a bit of scaffolding and work going on around the other side.  Our guide assured us that there was not any attempt to restore any of these monuments, the repair work was really just to make sure it did not crumble any more.  As many tourists that flock there on a daily basis, I can imagine there is a vested interest in keeping it safely intact as it is.

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This is a much better picture of the difference between the original stone and the stone that has needed to be reinforced.  The white is new.

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And of course the most important tree in the world according to the ancient Greeks, the olive tree.

Our next stop took us to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and of course it was timed perfectly with the changing of the guard.  According to our guide, the soldiers chosen for this have very exacting standards, down to they have to be a certain height.

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We then moved to the new Olympic stadium…since we’d already seen the Original one in Olympia!  I am not totally sure that it is an improvement, but it certainly is impressive.

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We then headed towards Plaka, the old city.  This is where the best shopping and cafes were rumored to be, also the award winning Acropolis Museum was near here.  I was interested in seeing that, but I took pity on TJ, who is not a museum (or history) fan and we skipped it this time. Instead we wandered around the old city.  We started here:

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Hadrian’s Arch.  It is believed that this marked the old city from the new…the new being around 131 AD so…

We moved on from here into Plaka which is behind me in this picture, up the hill.  This area has been continuously inhabited since antiquity (really just means a long, long time but makes me sound like a smarty pants!).

I did not take any pictures in and around Plaka except of my food…but I can assure you that it is really a cute place to wander around!  The shopping was very good and all the merchants were hagglers!  I got some really great prices on clothes!!  Don’t underestimate the power of learning just a few words in the native language of whatever country you are visiting.  I promise you that a simple “Kalimera” will go a long way in Plaka!!

Oh…and the Baklava!!!

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Ah-May-Zing!!  I need to find a Yia Yia near me for the hook up on some local baklava!!  I am headed to the Yiasou Greek Festival today…maybe I can find some there!  I am really excited to go to this festival since I have been there so recently.  I will tell you all about it in my next post!!

Also next up, we visit Thessoloniki, Greece.  And the Chef’s Table dinner on the Rhapsody!  It has been my favorite experience on both the Freedom and the Enchantment…How will this one compare??

 

 

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