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A European Engagement: Athens

Our journey from London to Athens was a bit hectic since we flew out of Stansted Airport instead of the major Heathrow airport we had flown in. 

Stansted airport was voted one of the top worst airports in the world (and now I see why)  and if you are flying out of it, here are some things to keep in mind...
•Every individual flying only gets one small ziploc bag to put every single tiny thing that may or may not be a liquid or gel in to (including mascara, chapstick, toothpaste... EVERYTHING).
• Even if everything you think is a liquid or gel is in that ziploc bag (it's probably not), your bag will probably get searched anyways and everything pulled out of it (that you have to put back in). 
•If you make it out of security alive, you then are led theme park style, single file through a series of gift shops that you can't get out of. 
•If you finally make it through that, you can sit in the very small waiting area to find your gate numbers, which are not assigned to you until 30 minutes before your gate boarding time ENDS, oh and also the gates are about a ten minute walk to get to, so in the end, you'll probably have to run. 

So needless to say, it was a bit stressful, BUT in the end, we made it to Athens and that's all that matters.

When we landed in Athens, we took the metro to our air bnb location and met up with our host who walked us through the beautiful space we'd be staying in (that had air condition!). She also was kind enough to make us a really great guide book to help us find some of the hidden and not so hidden treasures of the area we'd be staying in, since it was more of a local area and English was not easy to come by. After we had unpacked a bit, we headed out in search of some food. We ended up in Monastiraki Square, where you could see an amazing little sneak peek of the Acropolis.

Monastiraki Square is a a small marketplace where you can buy lots of little souvenirs and cheap Greek goodies.

At a small candy shop called Hanzel and Gretel where they had some incredible looking chimney cake cones.

Dinner was a cute little garden restaurant we happened to walk by called Bonintiko Teinoypaoiko Otov Yveen (most of these are Greek letters not actual letters) but it was delicious! We had some traditional Greek food like mosaka (similar to an eggplant lasagna) and a Greek salad, all while listening to some live Greek music.

Our only real exploration day in Athens was Saturday, where of course we woke up incredibly early. At this point in the trip was when I realized I was probably going to be permanently sleep deprived this whole month, but it's worth it to  make sure to get to the more popular places first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and the heat. 

We hiked to the top of the Acropolis with a small stop at Areopagus Hill first to look out over the city. The view was absolutely incredible and this ended up being one of my favorite things we chose to do the entire time in Athens.

We got to the Acropolis and waited about ten minutes at the ticket counter before it opened, which was totally worth it because we were some of the first people to the top, allowing our pictures to be crowd free.

The Acropolis consists of a few major structures, including the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Theatre of Dionysos, which I remember learning a bit about in college (guess a Musical Theatre degree can have practical use, ha).


Theater of Dionysos

Newer, renovated theatre (they were putting on a production of Sweeney Todd also)

A few tortoises were climbing around this area as well (I was constantly worried they were going to call over the ledge!)

"One Grecian urn, two Grecian urn, three Grecian urn" (Had this line from Music Man stuck in my head most of the time while we were up there).

The ruins were amazing but the view from the top is literally unbeatable because you can see for miles in absolutely every direction.

We bought a ticket for 30 euros that allowed us to enter the Temple of Zeus as well, which was located at the bottom of the Acropolis. Naturally while at the Temple of Zeus, I sang Hercules the entire time. (If I had to do one thing over again it would be to not purchase the 30 Euro pass, because most of the sights included in this pass are either free already or in an area where they can be viewed easily without actually going inside).

"I am on my way, I can go the distance."

Hercules and his muse

Up next was a small walk to the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first Olympic Games in 330/329 BC were held. Most of the games at that time were nude male athletes competing in track events. Our tickets did not cover the entry cost here, however, it was only an additional 5 Euros.

Previous Olympic torches always lit at this stadium first.

After the stadium, we were ready for lunch, so we walked a bit more to Syntagma Square.

The sun was in full swing at this point in the day and it was about 96 degrees out. We were in dire need of a coke, so we stopped at McDonald's in Syntagma Square to grab one and saw they had a Greek Mac unique to McDonald's in Greece and had to try it. The Greek Mac had Big Mac sauce and a hamburger patty, but also tzatziki sauce and was wrapped in a pita.

After our McDonalds snack it was time for real lunch. We had been looking for a place I read about, which I thought was called "Apieton" but turns out it was a Greek letter throwing me off, and actually called Artison. We got a meat pie, a traditional cheese pie, and a cherry-almond pie. The cherry-almond was easily my favorite, the taste reminding me of a cherry turnover.

We also got a traditional Koulori off a cart in the street for about 50 cents! The Koulori is very similar to a thicker version of a sesame bagel.

Since we had accomplished just about everything we wanted to see, and it was only just now getting to the hottest point of the day, we decided to go back to our air bnb to rest for a bit {pro tip: the best way to travel anywhere is always get up early and move quickly to get things done so you can go back to rest in the afternoon before going back out for the evening. It just makes everything more enjoyable for everyone when you're not in the heat and the crowds all day long}. Also, our airbnb was beautiful!

Around dinner time, we had asked our host for the best gyro recommendation in the area and she did not disappoint! We went back to Monastiraki Square and found Bairaktaris, and ordered the chicken gyro. The Greeks put french fries right on their gyros and I am a huge fan! We got our gyro souvlaki (or cut up in small pieces) and should have asked for it to be "apola" (full of tzarziki, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions), but sadly did not remember. Dinner was so delicious though and I really recommend checking this place out.

Sunday morning was another early morning, but this time starting with an uber ride to the Blue Star Ferry.

We had purposely chose our air bnb's to be close to the touristy areas so we would be able to walk to everything and not have to waste money on the metro or other forms of transportation. {pro tip: some cities are much smaller and condensed than they seem, so double check on your trip that you absolutely need transportation over walking to where you are heading.}

ευχαριστώ(thank you) Athens for our wonderful accommodation and sights. And now onto more Greece, Santorini!

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