Friday, May 27, 2011

Cruising the Mediterranean and the Port of Athens

Athens....the birthplace of democracy and home to some of the wisest men of ancient times. A city watched over by the ancient gods, Athena, Zeus, Poseidon to name a few, and where their memory is preserved. It is no wonder that in modern day people from all over the world look forward to visiting this city!

You can find some of the most famous archaeological monuments in all of Europe within the city of Athens. We wanted to see as much as possible in our 8 hours in port so we pre-arranged for a taxi for the day. Cabs are lined up where the ship docks in Piraeus (or you can take the subway to the city center, Syntagma Square). You can see so much more this way as opposed to a big bus tour. By 8am we were off the ship and on our way to to the Acropolis. It gets hot and so very crowded here that it's a wise move to make it your first stop. For 12 euro your ticket includes the Acropolis as well as several other sites, so don't throw it out if you have a day of touring planned. At the base of the site there are licensed guides for hire that can give you a brief history of Athens, the mythology, and what you are seeing. The sites at the Acropolis include the Propylaea, the Erectheion, the Temple of Athena Nike, and of course, the Parthenon. Using the guide, we went through the area in an hour.

Tip: Negotiate your rate and ask other people looking for a guide to join you and split the cost. We joined up with a family we met there that brought the cost down to
15 euro per person.

The Acropolis museum is small but so worth a visit. Lots of important pieces from the Acropolis were moved here to protect them. There are also archeologists on site to chat with and watch them work.

We then made a quick picture stop at the Kalimarmaro Stadium, home of the first modern day olympics, before heading to both the Greek and Roman agora. Then it was time for lunch.

Hint: Don't eat in the tourist areas. Ask someone who lives there to recommend their favorite spot.
We wanted an authentic Greek lunch and our driver took us away from the tourist area to a little taverna. We ordered 5 different dishes to share...I can't spell or pronounce their names, but it was a delicious lunch.

Timing was perfect because we were right on time for the changing of the guard at the president's palace. That whole ceremony takes about 20 minutes but is really interesting to see. If you don't have the time at least pass by for a picture of the guard. The uniform they where is quite unique.

The Plaka is where all the shopping is. Leather sandals, olive oil products, jewelry etc. Amongst a bunch of typical, cheesey souvenir shops are a few really nice places. There are also places to eat.

There is lots of traffic in Athens so leave yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. You don't want to swim to the next port!

Tomorrow: Ephesus

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