Stepping off the plane the heat hit us before the sunlight did - Athens. Historic Athens. We'd made it to the Greek Islands and were so ready for the sun after spending 3 weeks in mostly cold(ish) tempretures and sometimes rain that is the UK. We seem to have let go of expectations and first impressions as things always change and cities will always surprise you in the most amazing ways - which was no exception with Athens. We had been told - by everybody - every.body that Athens wasn't even worth visiting and that even 2 nights would be too long. When we got there, every other young tourist that we got chatting to, said the exact same thing. Never being ones to listen to other people's opinions however we still went ahead and booked our two nights in this now seemingly mysterious town - namely, to see the Akropolis, and you know what? 2 nights wasn't enough!
We loved it, all of it. The people, the gyro's - that's kebabs for you Aussies back home - the history, oh the history, the sights, the adventures, all.of.it.
Admittedly, I think we struck it lucky. When planning the trip Athens got put on the Greek Islands hopping map because of the want to visit the Acropolis - so when booking accommodation, I had researched places close by, and our apartment literally ended up being a 5 minute walk from there - if that. There were cobble stoned & marble streets - evidently you can't escape them over here and I love it! - all around our area full of bustling restaurants and cafe's and some of the best ice cream we've eaten all trip.
We visited a roof top bar - sipping cocktails whilst watching the sun set over the Acropolis, and that was just night one! Our first day there we decided to embrace the overwhelming but welcoming heat and do a walking tour of Athens - 3 hours with a traditional guide that cost only...6 euro. I learnt more on history in that 3 hours of walking Greece than any school or textbook has ever taught me.
I fell in love with the story of the battle of Marathon - where the Persians almost took Greece but cunning battle strategy saw the Greeks win. The Persians were quick to try to outwit the Grecians though & started to sail around the island to the front gates tricking the city in to opening their gates for them even though they had lost. The army head was aware of what they were trying to do so sent a young warrior boy who had just finished battle to run 42km to the city gates to let the people know they'd won, and to not open the gates for the Persians. He made it. He never stopped running and with his last breathe he got out "we were victorious" before he died from exhaustion. The city gates were never opened and the victory was still held by the Greeks. They say this is where Marathons now come from - the battle of Marathon, to celebrate human spirit and life in the courageous 42km run the boy did to save his country.
With a new determined spirit we finished our walking tour & decided to tackle the highest hill in Greece - with the most spectacular views over the whole city. It was breathtaking and worth every step that we took in the overbearing heat. You could sit, in wonder and stare across the whole of Athens in the comforting shade a church offers at the very top.
Our final 'to do' in Athens was the sole reason that we came - The Acropolis. Most, in fact all historical archaeological sites across Athens shut at 3pm to tourists...except the Acropolis - that shuts at 8pm, so we knew exactly when we were going to go to that... for sunset. The walk up is nothing compared to the hill we had done earlier so most able bodied persons could do it with ease and like most raised areas in Greece the view was well - spectacular. As you walk through all the ruins from many many many grandparents ago - i.e eons of years - you can't help imagine what went on here, the feasts, the battles, the prayers, the traditions, it's incredible to visit & more incredible to just sit and soak up the atmosphere of Athens from there.
At the end of our two nights we were quietly wishing we maybe had just one more night - for what? Who knows, but in a city so full of music and laughter and history - I'm sure we could have found our own new adventure.
So promise, if you are headed to Greece, and you haven't heard the best things about Athens, let go of your pre determined opinions and give it a go - slap it on your travel map and create your own beautiful adventures in a city that is willing to let you.
P.s If you are going to head there, we can't recommend where we stayed enough! Amazing area, fantastic accommodation & tonnes of things to do around there. Here is where we stayed - just in case it's made your travel list.
[ It reminded me of 'the secret garden' - A gorgeous park in old Athens where you can seek peace & quiet in an otherwise buzzing city ]
[ A top the highest point in Athens - we walked, but you can get a cable car up .. Morgs snapped this as I was quietly contemplating life & the universe ]
[ A view from the highest point in all of Athens - it is so breathtaking up there, and bright! So so bright ]
[ A pic snapped whilst exploring the Acropolis - so many beautiful ruins up there ]
[ Waiting for the sun to set exploring every inch of the Acropolis & all of it's old ruins ]
[ Relaxing a top the Acropolis ]
[ The Pantheon - in all her glory ]