Athens is a surprising city, capable of joining the ancient with the modern in order to create beauty
I took a trip to Greece about 2 and a half years ago in the spring of 2009 with some of my friends in the Masters program at Saint Louis University, Madrid. We flew to Athens from Madrid on an evening flight and by the time we arrived, all we could do was go to the hotel and hope that they had a vending machine to buy some water. We learned on the taxi ride to the hotel that it was not located in the world´s best neighborhood, but seeing as how the price was right and everything looked clean, we decided to make a go of it.
The next morning we got up early in order to make the most of our time. The hotel offered a complimentary breakfast which consisted of fresh bread, yogurt, ham and other lunch meats, cheese, a hard boiled egg, tea or coffee and juice. After we ate, we set off to see the National Archeological Museum. Inside there were endless rooms of statues and tile work that dated back thousands of years. I think the most interesting were the bowls and tiny vessels to hold water. It made you realize that things were made not only for their purpose, but also to be decorative.
After the museum we hopped on a tram. This sounds easy, but quite frankly, it was difficult to figure out how much it cost to get on the tram, which tram to take, and where to get off said tram in order to arrive at the area with all the famous ruins. We finally made our way to theruins at the Temple of Zeus. The area consisted of a bunch of pillars and an archway. Alone, this might not have been so impressive, but we were able to see the Parthenon looking up and to the left, which gave you a feel for what Athens must have been like years and years ago.
We continued on to see the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Of course, it was a time for lots of photographs and we were joined by tons of tourists, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the famous orators that must have walked those same steps and seen Athens from the top of the famous hill. We walked down the hill on the other side, passing the Agora , or marketplace. I can only imagine the haggeling for prices that must have gone on there.
By this time we were starving and decided to stop at a restaurant for lunch. We ordered authentic greek salad with fresh feta cheese, black olives, lettuce, green and red pepper, onion and olive oil dressing as well as spinach pie with its super flaky buttery pastry layers and soulvaki (a lamb kabob served with rice) and shared everything.
After our lunch we found a small shopping area with lots of tiny shops and stalls in a neighborhood called Monastiraki. While we were there we even saw a marching band playing some pop songs in a square. After a quick coffee in a little café we made our way back to the hotel to rest before having dinner at a restaurant located about 15 minutes from the hotel.
That night we shared an appetizer of little fried cheese balls and some bread with olive paste. For my main dish, I had seafood pasta which was basically linguini with red sauce and shrimp, mussels and scallops. We all toasted to our Greek vacation and the owner of the restaurant invited us to try a bit of ouzo (the licorice flavored liquor famous in Greece). With that we called it a night and returned to our hotel to rest up for the following day´s adventures.