A major stop on any Mediterranean cruise itinerary, Athens still retains its charm while throngs of sweating tourists invade it on a daily basis. There is so much to see here, that a couple of days, let alone a couple of hours off of the ship just aren’t going to completely cut it, but it will give you a good taste! Here’s a couple of choices on how to see and experience Athens in two days and if you are only doing a stopover, in one day.
We started our time here happy to be able to take an easy and cheap bus ride to the center of the city, or specifically to Syntagma Square. It’s the last stop and the cost of the ticket was only 3.20 Euros. Many of the sights and hotels are found in that area, so once there we could walk to just about everywhere. There is also a great metro system that will take you to things a little more far-flung.
Like every other tourist in Athens, we wanted to be ready for the famous changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (everyday at 11:00 am). There was a small crowd who took turns having their photos taken with the not-by-accident, attractive guards, then the show began. For the next ten minutes, the audience was awed by the high-kicking, toe-touching synchronization of the ceremony. It was well worth it. My favorite part was when the guards’ supervisor wiped the sweat off of their brows when it was all over. I was schwetzing, and all I did was push a button on my camera. Where was my complimentary refreshing wipe?
Next, just like everyone else, we headed straight for the Acropolis. It was hot and steamy 97 degrees Fahrenheit, so needless to say we were a bit ripe as we climbed. It seemed that there were no less than 50,000 tourists climbing that hill. All of them trying to wrestle you for the best photograph spot. Although the site self-proclaims that it is the “most important site in the world,” and it was impressive, dealing with hordes of tourists on a hot, summer day is not my idea of fun.
On top of that the area was, and probably always is, under reconstruction. There were cranes and other machines everywhere. I quickly developed a love-hate or awestruck-annoyed attitude towards the place. Was it awesome? Yes. Was it beautiful? Yes. Is the fact that Socrates and other notables live there impressive? Yes. Would I go again during cruise boat and tourist season? Hell no! (Seriously, you’d think I’d know better.)
Cutting through my whining, I did enjoy the Acropolis, and now we had to hike around and get the most out of our combination ticket. On to the agora and the Temple of Hephaestus. Inside the completely rebuilt agora was a fantastic museum, with humorous stories and really fun to read info. The best was how ancient Greece had the first “vote them off the island” system. To get rid of someone, probably your political opponent, was to have as many people as possible scratch his name on a shard of ceramic; enough votes and wham! He’s out of there!
We walked completely around the hill that day, marveling and sweating, sweating and marveling. We took in Hadrian’s library, the Temple of Zeus, and the Roman agora and were rightly impressed at every step of the way. However the highlight, and I mean after the what? PORK gyros! The highlight was our getting to talk to the bass guitarist, albeit very shortly, from Metallica! Yes, the band! Too cool, right? Although, I can’t promise you that Robert Trujillo, Metallica‘s newest bass guitarist will be there, the marketplace in Athens is a happening place.