Exploring Athens

 

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You’ll be glad to know that we all made it back to the U.S. safe and sound, after many hours in airports and on planes.  Now comes the time to decompress a little and reflect on the entirety of the trip, although before I do that I thought I should spend some time writing about our time in Athens and the trip back.  So here goes.

Athens is an interesting city, to say the least.  Like much of the rest of the world, Athens is a mix of ancient and modern; Athens is filled with ruins, souvlaki, churches, and tourists.  Walking down the street one will see people from all over the world marveling at the Acropolis, or buying cheap imitation statues of scantily clad ancient Greeks.  Wandering around the different neighborhoods it’s quite easy to go off the beaten track and explore the less touristy areas, where you can find the real life of Athens.  While I didn’t have a great experience on the Metro due to the theft of my phone, it is actually quite convenient to get around on.  For €4 euro you can get a 24 hour pass for the metro, which you can also use for the buses and other modes of transportation around the city.  So on Sunday after Liturgy at the beautiful church of St. George near Aghia Pareskevi metro stop, I grabbed my pass and my camera and wandered off to see the city.

St. George Church near Aghia Paraskevi stop on the Metro.

St. George Church near Aghia Paraskevi stop on the Metro.

Given that I’d yet to have lunch I thought my first stop should be somewhere to grab a gyro.  I mean, I couldn’t have gone to Greece and not had one!  Although, alas, that’s what ended up happening.  I looked up this one place that a friend had recommended, a place named Kostas (there are two of them, actually, but one is closed on Sundays) and wrote down the directions after checking on Google (Hail, Google), but when I got to where the directions said it should be it was nowhere to be found!  So I set off again around the area and ended up walking down to Monastiraki to the plethora of souvenir shops and overrated souvlaki stands.  No dice on Kostas.  So I wandered around some more, stopped to ask directions a couple times, and finally found it!  As luck would have it, it had just closed.  Foiled again, I made my way back to Monastiraki to look at all the shops (no, I didn’t buy anything) and get a Fanta.

Looking up one of the streets near Monastiraki toward the Acropolis

Looking up one of the streets near Monastiraki toward the Acropolis.  Ah, a Starbucks.

After a couple hours of walking I realized with a start that I only had about a little over an hour before I had to be back at the Acropolis metro station to meet the rest of the guys and head back to meet Fr. Stephanos at his church and then to dinner with him.  So with a burst of determination (and surprising speed) I grabbed a train to the Acropolis stop and started the walk up to the top.  What I didn’t realize is that the entrance to the Acropolis is actually quite a ways from the metro stop, so picking up speed I made my way to the ticket booth near the entrance while enjoying the music of a fantastic trio (saxophone, tuba, and hammer dulcimer; it’s as weird yet awesome as it sounds).  Once at the entrance I made the climb up to the Acropolis and walked around the Parthenon and other buildings.

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At dinner a few of the guys made the same comment about being up there: while the ruins are incredible, the views are even more so.  There’s no way to capture how stunning the city looks from the top of the Acropolis.  The sun reflecting off the roofs of tens of thousands of buildings, glinting off domes of churches.  Looking out you can see the Areopagus where St. Paul preached to the Athenians, you can see the ancient theatres and the columns standing like sentinels around the city.  It’s just breathtaking.

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Well, that’s all for now because I need to run a few errands and grab some lunch.  I’m debating between a burger or some Chinese food (two things I was craving toward the end of our trip…).  I’ll be posting more about our time in Athens, as well as the wild ride back to the U.S.  More pictures to come as well!

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