athens in july would be fine, i thought. it will be fun, i thought.
alright, actually no, that’s a lie. every piece of travel information i have ever received actually says “avoid athens in high summer”. but it’s tough to pass through an exciting european capital without wanting to spend a few days there getting to know it.
we took the blue star ferry from santorini to athens, which is an eight hour journey. i chose the ferry because we had flown in, and the price of flights, by the time i actually went to go buy them, had sky-rocketed. (buyearlybuyearly) but also, what’s not to like about the idea of cruising through the cyclades on the way back to athens?
i really adored the first part of the journey. because economy seat-assignments were surprisingly sold out by the time i went to book, i upgraded us to business class. now, after waiting in the hottest, sweatiest queue of your life, nice empty business class was a welcome event. they checked our tickets to make sure we had business being there (har) and enjoyed the table service that was provided.
this…. was until about 5 hours in the journey. sunset had finally fallen and the pleasant area became more and more crowded. by hour seven or eight, i felt at a breaking point. everything about the situation was assaulting every one of my senses. i felt slightly nauseous, the lights were far too bright, people were far too “in my bubble”, and the noise level from the chatter had reached an impossible din. i coped with this by wrapping myself in my “travel scarf” (ie. emotionally and physically barrier from all foreign things around me; photo not available), donned sunglasses, and actually put in ear plugs. imagine an exasperated film star.
then the chaos of piraeus port. it was near midnight and the place was all a-buzz. there is actually a queue for taxis (which we treated ourselves to, vs. the metro) so you can’t just go grabbing a taxi or a police officer will put you in your place. there must be order! (i guess) after getting our assigned taxi, it appeared that our driver was actually batman making a getaway in the bat-mobile. WHERE’S THE FIRE?, i thought, biting my nails manically. (i don’t even bite my nails) i was so thankful to have arrived into athens alive. really.
i really enjoyed our cute little studio apartment; it was absolutely perfect for a couple. and had air conditioning, which we would realize we would sorely need over the next three days. the heat was absolutely the most oppressive i have ever experienced in my life. this may not mean too much coming from a northwest girl, but i’ve never been in such temperatures that you start sweating immediately after stepping outside the house. sight-seeing during the day was basically right out. i would have laughed at someone for saying this but until i have been in this situation, i didn’t know quite how dire it was.
we spent a lot of time staying in during the sweltering afternoons, greek-style, and poking our heads out only in the morning and evening (when we were still pouring with sweat) because it was all we could do!
of course, we made the best ever plan to visit the acropolis: wake up early and be out of the house by 7:00. grab pies and juice on the way and eat them on a bench. (the greeks love their breakfast pies!)
then, make the walk halfway up and stand in the queue, of which we were one of the first there, with the line soon winding around the pavilion by opening time at 8:00. and then: lighting-quick sightseeing! it was fantastic and so surreal to experience acropolis hill before hardly any tourists were there. all of my photos have very few people in them, and besides the sun already burning at 8:30, it was wonderful.
it really doesn’t take long to see the main sights– definitely under an hour! i made sure to linger a bit at the theater of dionysus. for someone not so into ancient history, i can appreciate one of the oldest theaters in the world as a high school drama kid.
by 9:00, the heat was becoming an unbearable near 35°C/95°F (isn’t that just kind of sick?) so when i discovered the oasis that is terra carpo near the foot of acropolis, it became my new favorite coffee shop. a bag of greek pumpkin seeds and a freshly brewed iced earl grey tea for me and greek peanuts and an iced coffee for alex, we headed to retreat.
my favorite parts of athens were exploring the plaka and monastiraki at dusk. a leisurely dinner on a beautiful outdoor terrace and trying all of the greek specialties we could muster. i adored the picturesque lanes and balconies of the old town… the friendly locals who would offer to help you find your way even if you looked the slightest bit lost… and sampling the local beverages. this was the end of our honeymoon after all– we had to go out in style before returning back to the czech republic!
“come home drachma”
my favorite dinner we had was at paradosiako at voulis 44, a small hole-in-the-wall taverna in north plaka which is popular with locals and tourists alike, run by a young and enthusiastic man who was always eager to explain everything to us. although it wasn’t my favorite meal i had in greece, the taverna made up for this with its ambiance and good vibes. the burger joint next store was playing classic rock hits (queen, CSNY, eric clapton) which put me in a great mood with my glass of ouzo, that cloudy anise-flavored liquor i had waited so long to try and was just sampling for the first time. a huge smile appeared on the waiter’s face when i first asked about it, and i loved every sip.
“let’s have another ouzo!” i exclaimed, when the waiter came around.
“ohhhh, i don’t know,” alex said.
“YES, another ouzo!”, the waiter chimed in, both of us conspiring to get alex to agree to more drinks. "or i will bring you a glass of tsipouro… on the house!“
”……. okay.“ said alex.
we stayed later into the evening after plenty of dinners had come and gone, enjoying the hot greek evening. my favorite athens memory.
a lot of people asked me prior to the trip, "are you still going to greece?” well, of course! it’s going to take more than a little economic collapse to keep me from greece, especially when it is clear that if anything, greece needs your tourism now more than ever. athens, in my opinion, was one of the most affordable capitals i have ever been to with nice accommodation easily found at a fraction of the price in another city. nothing bad happened to me– no attempted thefts– and even our taxi drivers never tried to stiff us. i adore the greek language and found myself speaking it almost better than my czech after only ten days!
another thing i admired about athens was the way it mixes modern with ancient, and it actually works! it was beautiful to walk past hadrian’s arch every day and see the taxis and trucks whizzing around it. i’ve never been to anywhere this old!
although our sightseeing was limited this visit, i saw enough of athens to get a good idea of what makes the city great. and it is great. there is so much to explore. but next time, i will be going in shoulder season.
thanks for following along with our honeymoon series of posts! it was absolutely unforgettable. onward, to the next adventure!
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