Getting back to the Classics in Athens

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Armed with the joy of three hours of sleep due to a case of bad jet lag, I set out early yesterday morning to have a stroll and discover the sights and sounds of Athens. The first objective of the day – get up to the Acropolis. Easier said than done as I realised, “walking in the general direction of that big hill over there” is not how one navigates the back streets of Plaka. It took me about an hour of circling, winding up in practically the bad yards of inner city apartments to admit defeat, retrace my steps to Syntagma Square and ask for directions. In my defence, you’d think a city would advertise sign posts leading tourists to their number one attraction. There are none. I saw more signs for the “Museum of Folk Art” than the Acropolis.

With a true purpose in mind, I finally made it to the gates and began my ascent up the hill to one of the most important structures of the Ancient World. I’d been warned not to arrive at midday due to crowds, but as I puffed my way up the incline, sweaty and bright pink, I found the amount of people manageable, not as overwhelming as they can get in other parts of Europe. Though it is a ruin and though there is scaffolding over one side of the Parthenon, I can safely say, my breath was literally taken away. I don’t remember the last time I audibly sighed due to the sheer magnitude of presence this structure delivers to onlookers. As I laid my hand against the cold marble column (couldn’t resist despite the signs, I suggest do this for anyone visiting the site) I felt transported to Ancient Greece or if not that, at least back to 7th form Classical Studies.

My history high was quickly shattered due to what will be forever remembered as simply, “The Walk.” It took place from my hotel to my hostel and was embarked upon after encouragement by the hotel concierge (“It’s a short walk” she said, “It will be easy” she said).

*5 minutes later* I’m lost in Athens with 30kg of luggage hanging off the back, front and side of my body.

Part exhaustion, part mild heat stroke, I collapsed on the stoop of a pastry shop and cried, then fell over trying to get up from the ground because my luggage was so heavy I could not balance or get my legs to lift me up properly. That will forever be known as the “Low Point”. By the “Low Point” I had truly realised the exact severity of detriment my over packing would incur. I felt bleak.

Fortunately a really kind middle aged Greek man rescued me and escorted me to the hostel so I wouldn’t get lost again. Kind strangers are the best types of humans. Needless to say I dragged myself onto my hostel bed and passed out in the room sans air conditioning turned on, woke up sweating uncontrollably and thinking I was having visions of a large Argentinian man in the room.* Before once again, falling back into a weird sleep where I strangely kept thinking about how I needed to protect my sunglasses from being stolen – blatantly a premonition brought on by the closest I’ll ever be to a Native American sweat tent.

*This was in fact confirmed as not a vision, there indeed was a large Argentinian man in the room. He returned during the night at 3am and departed the room at 6am. He was mysterious to say the least.

Luggage disasters aside, I’m still thoroughly enjoying Athens. One of my favourite features are all the Tavernas which from observation, I think are outdoor casual restaurants. Many are located under a canopy of trees with additional large sun umbrellas to provide further respite from the endless heat. Nestled between crumbling buildings and Ancient ruins, I can’t really think of a more pleasant way to have a meal.

Monastiraki Square is a particularly buzzing spot during dusk as the sun dips low and the heat becomes bearable, strolling down through the flea markets is a great way to spend the evening before settling down at a Taverna for a huge serving of food. My meal was 10 euro but could easily have been shared between two people – I couldn’t even finish half of my lamb.

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This morning I woke up torn between visiting the Acropolis Museum or taking a bus ride to the coast to visit the Temple of Poseidon. Upon the single most thorough search of my possessions, I came to realise a sinking fact: my Ray Ban Wayfarers were gone.

What I could not believe this morning as I searched the city for a replacement pair, was the shocking deficit of stores selling sunglasses. In a city where the sun shines brighter than I have ever seen and walking through the main shopping district, I found only one store that sold Ray Bans – it was an optometrist and had just three different styles in stock. All of the shop mannequins are displayed wearing sunglasses which was both ironic and irritatingly taunting. Anybody who feels like relocating to Greece, set up a Sunglass Hut franchise and you will be away laughing. The search for my beloved Wayfarers continues.**

**Sunglasses have been found, returned to the hostel room after typing this, it had been cleaned and the sunglasses case was just lying on the bed. Their reappearance was as strange and as sudden as their disappearance, but I’m just happy to have them back.

I spent the rest of my day in the Acropolis Museum that I took the Athens Metro to reach and as it has become a habit in this city, I got lost at every station. Made mistakes the whole way and had to backtrack. What should have been 2 subway rides, turned into over 6 or 7 or 8, I feel as though I lost count. Let’s just say signage is poor. And in Greek. The confusion and multiple staircase climbs were worth it when I got to the museum. It’s absolutely beautiful, excellent exhibitions and the utilisation of space was one of the most impressive I have seen. Not to mention the glorious air conditioning. I loved it and once again, it felt as though my classics class had come to life! There were many impressive sculptures, but I have to admit seeing the vases and plates that I had studied got me the most excited of all. There was a no photo rule, but I managed to sneak a few in after I saw heaps of other tourists doing the same.

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The Busabout Greek Island Hopper begins tomorrow, starting off with Mykonos! I’ve really enjoyed Athens, but I can’t wait to get settled into island life and hopefully developing a golden summer glow (fingers crossed on that one!).

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