Athens, Greece

IMG_0631It feels like I haven’t written about a trip in a long while!  Well, we just went on a doozy of a holiday!  We took a cruise along the Adriatic Sea and it was spectacular!  Jamie had to work in Geneva a couple days before the trip so we decided to start the trip a day early.  We were to port in Athens (Piraeus) so we spent one night there so we could see all the historical sites before taking off on the boat.

Tip:  if you want to go to Europe, I wouldn’t recommend going in August.  I know the summer months are easy times to take holidays, but it is very hot and crowded during these months.  However, if it’s the only time you have, do it!  Don’t let me discourage you.

I got there a few hours before Jamie and decided to wander around Old Town Athens, called Plaka, which was walking distance from our hotel.  IMG_5383Plaka is a pedestrian only area of cafes and shops with the occasional medieval church scattered about.  I stopped at a cafe recommended by the hotel concierge and had some greek meatballs and potatoes.  They also served me a shot of ouzo with my lunch – 2 actually.  Ouzo is a Greek liquor served as an aperitif at most Greek cafes.  It tasted like straight kerosene.  It burned my insides.  Then I had another, didn’t want to be rude.  They serve it in a shot glass.  I read somewhere later that it is meant to be sipped, but coming from a Texas background, I shot it like a shot of tequila.  I was immediately drunk.  Good luck to you if you are given a shot of ouzo – bottoms up!IMG_5396

I kept the party-of-one going into the evening and went to the rooftop bar at my hotel for a a couple sundowners.  They had a perfect view of the Acropolis from up there!  It didn’t look real to me, but it was!  A glass of sparkling rose and a couple Greek red wines later Jamie arrived!  We had room service then went right to sleep in order to start our big, next day.

We got up early this next day and ordered overly expensive room service before heading to the Acropolis.IMG_0643

Go early!

Tip:  if you are planning to visit these historical sites in Athens, and I don’t know why you are there otherwise, GO EARLY!  The line for tickets took about 20 minutes to go through when we got there at 9 am (when it opens).  After we came out about an hour or so later, the line was at least 2 hours in the blazing heat.  And that was just for tickets!  Could you imagine the amount of people walking around with you on those old ruins by then??  Just look how many people were there with us at the early time!

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Another tip:  it is a CLIMB to get to the Acropolis (think about it – it’s basically a 3000 year old fort meant to keep people out).  If you have a hard time with climbs/altitude or have limited mobility, unfortunately there are no easier entrances than just climbing steps and rocks.  Also, once you are up there it’s a very uneven surface with hoards of people around you.  Watch your step and your surroundings.

The tickets for the Acropolis are kind of expensive at 20 Euros a piece, but definitely worth it, no doubt.  It was windy as all get out up there and I decided to wear a flowy skirt like a dummy.  The sites were unbelievable.  We were just mesmerized that these stones and buildings were done 2000-3000 years ago, some before Jesus!  Jesus!  Amazing.  We had never seen anything that old before.  After we were done at the Acropolis we walked to the Acropolis Museum.  DEFINITELY A MUST DO!  It will give you so much perspective to what you just saw.  And I would recommend doing it after you see the actual Acropolis, otherwise the way they have the museum laid out won’t make any sense.  They have done a really fine job with the museum and the gift shop is one of a kind, too.  The museum entrance fee is cheap, only 5 Euros a piece.

IMG_5411After that it was time to eat so we stopped at this Greek street vendor on the walk back to our hotel.  We got beef Souvlaki in pitas…you talk about something good!  My gosh!  I would do anything to have another one of those.  Then it was time to head to the hotel, collect our things, head to the port in Piraeus, about a 20 min drive, to get on the cruise ship and meet up with Jamie’ parents.  Stay tuned for that story soon!

 

Here are some other tips I recommend when going to Greece and other European countries:

  1. Bring Euros!  Lots of places don’t accept credit cards and if you have a card that charges you with foreign transaction fees, you’re in for a world of hurt.  Double check with your hotel or cruise ship where are appropriate ATMs to get more cash if needed.  Not all ATMs are created equal there!  Also, a lot of countries have foreign currency exchange shops in frequent and convenient areas.
    1. Side note:  Croatia uses the Kuna, not the Euro.  Some people accept the Euro, but most don’t.  Here there are currency exchanges everywhere you look, so not a big deal to swap your Kuna for Euro and visa versa.
  2. Tipping is acceptable at 10-15%, depending on the service.
  3. If you go in summer, drink lots of water.  It is HOT.
  4. Try to learn some basic phrases in the language of the country you are going.  Most people speak English, so no worries on a language barrier, but it’s a sign of respect.