Yes, that is totally a clickbait title but this post does have a dick theme so stay with me.
Technically I went to Athens three times on this trip. I flew in from Vienna for one night before taking the ferry to Santorini with my Aussie mates the next morning. Then I got the ferry back for one more night—where I met @martibis—before we left for Delphi the next morning. Both areas I stayed in left me slightly underwhelmed so I was hoping it was going to be a case of third time lucky.
My friends Sue and Pras flew back into Athens the same day I arrived from Meteora. We met up later that afternoon to start on the sightseeing since we only had a day and a half to get it done.
First up was the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Seriously, all these Greek temples are so huge. How tall were the Greek Gods? Cos I'm pretty sure they were all single story buildings since I don't recall seeing any broken stairs lying around. For scale, I am 152cm in top left photo.
Temple of Zeus
Bottom left: Hadrion's Gate, which is at the entrance.
Bottom right photo taken from the Acropolis.
That's about as far as we got on Day 1 since it started pissing down rain as we left. Obviously, this meant wine time started early and off to a bar in Plaka—the tourist area—we went.
Shit tour, great tour
After a few wines and the rain had stopped, we decided to go on the Happy Train. The audio was terrible and/or the woman pointing out stuff was terrible. This turned out to be €5 not well spent and made none of us happy. Pass on the
Happy Sad Train if you're in Athens.
The next day I did the Athens Free Walking Tour while Sue and Pras did the segway tour. Every time I've done a free walking tour—even though it's not free cos it's based on tips—it's been excellent. This makes sense cos they want to get paid. The guide, Michael, was awesome. I think he used to be an archaeologist or something and now he does the tours. His knowledge of the ruins was excellent. I really should review him on Tripadvisor.
Bottom right: Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, which is one of the oldest functioning churches in Athens/Greece. Not sure which.
There's literally ruins everywhere in Athens. Michael did tell us about them all as we walked around but I can't remember all the things and I've already forgotten most of what he said.
Luckily, Google tracked my every move, so now when I click on 'info' in the photos, I can see exactly where I was on Google maps and can work out what the photo is of. Thanks Google, you big, handy, privacy-invading stalker!
WTF is an agora?
Agora means marketplace and there are two in central Athens—the Ancient Agora of Athens and the Roman Agora. Obviously you can't buy anything in them now, but don't worry, there are plenty of souvenir shops surrounding them that will sell you all the crap you can fit into your baggage allowance.
Top middle and right: Tower of the Winds is an octagonal clock tower and the world's first meteorological station.
Bottom left: Gate of Athena Archegetis.
Ancient Agora of Athens
Left, top middle and top right: Church of the Holy Apostles and one of the frescoes.
The Church of the Holy Apostles in the Athens Agora is the oldest church in Greece. Michael said something about the Apostle Paul bringing Christianity to Greece and I think there was some reference to this church. More interesting though, was back in the day, there were a lot of religions in Greece and everyone was sceptical of Paul and Christianity. Now it's the exact opposite. About 98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox, which is a Christian religion, and sceptical of everything else.
Where happened to all the dicks?
There's a pretty cool onsite museum in the Athens Agora, which is included in the entry price. One thing I noticed both here and in Delphi is all the male statues are missing their dicks. Where did they go? Sure, I can see how some might break off over time, but every single one of them? Come on! That's getting a bit suss. I feel like a big pile of dicks is going to get dug up at some point, meaning archaeologists can have some fun playing pin the dick on the statue!
Hephaisteion Temple in the Ancient Agora of Athens
Hephaisteion is the only fully intact temple in Greece.
Bottom middle photo taken from the Acropolis.
If you're Aussie and old enough you'll probably know what that means. For everyone else it was a tv show in the late 80s/early 90s. I don't remember if it was good or not but there were a lot of mullets and big hair, and that is always funny.
Right now, the Acropolis is pretty much visible from everywhere in central Athens, including the Airbnb I stayed in.
Bottom left: view from my Airbnb.
Left: The Acropolis from the Acropolis Museum.
Right: The Acropolis from Monastiraki.
I love the view of the Acropolis from this rooftop bar we were in. I think it was also a gay bar—continuing my dick theme—cos there were a lot of attractive guys there and there was no straight vibe. The Monastiraki Flea Market is in the foreground. There were a bunch of fruit vendors here and I bought a kilo of apricots hoping they were going to be super sweet like the ones I had in Delphi. They weren't.
The term acropolis means 'upper city'. They are built on top of hills and were typically places of refuge during times of invasion. For this reason a city's most sacred buildings are usually found on the acropolis. The Athens Acropolis is the most famous one, being home to a bunch of important buildings including the Parthenon.
The dicks who destroyed the Parthenon (and then stole from it)
The Parthenon took nine years to build in 438 BC and was originally a temple for the goddess Athena. It then became the city's treasury, a Christian church, and a Catholic church. Then—when Greece was under the rule of the Ottoman empire—it was turned into a mosque.
In its quest for world dominance, the Ottoman Empire tried to take Venice at some point, which caused some Venetians to retaliate and attempt to take some of Greece. The Turks—who were part of the Ottoman Empire—decided to store their gunpowder in the Parthenon thinking the Venetians wouldn't attack a place of such historical significance. Wrong! The Venetians fired a cannonball at the temple, and thanks to all the gunpowder lying around, KABOOM!
To add insult to injury the Venetian dude in charge of the attack then removed a bunch of sculptures to take back to Venice. However, his moving skills were not great and he broke them all. His actions also paved the way for further pillaging of the Parthenon.
So, in 1770 when Captain Cook was busy claiming Australia for Great Britain, some other Poms including Lord Elgin, began
stealing rescuing the remaining marble artifacts from the Parthenon ruins. A bunch of crap went on, but eventually all/most? of them ended up in the British Museum.
For the past couple of hundred years Britain has refused to give Greece back its stuff. But in an interesting recent twist, Greece could potentially hold Britain to ransom and demand the return of its statues—including their dicks if they are still attached—or it could be "no deal" on Brexit. Exciting times!
Restorations of the Parthenon started in 1975. However, despite all our modern technology, restorers can't figure out how the ancient Greeks built this place, let alone in nine years. Putting it back together appears to be the world's hardest jigsaw puzzle because the ancient Greeks made every part so precise and these skills don't exist anymore.
The only time scaffolding has not been up in the past 40-odd years was during the 2004 Olympics, when it was removed for two weeks. At this rate, it will probably be up for another 20 years at least.
Bottom: Propylaea and the temple of Athena Nike—the Goddess of Victory. Obviously, this is the inspiration for the Nike brand.
There is a bunch of other stuff around the Acropolis, like this amphitheater, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It is still in use as there were rehearsals going on when we were there. It was pretty cool seeing modern sound technology being used in an ancient setting.
Top: Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
Bottom: ruins around the Acropolis.
It was definitely a case of saving the best til last when talking about vegan food in Greece. As expected, there are a bunch of vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Athens and I managed to get to three of them.
First up was Peas. This was a pretty good lunch spot, serving wraps, juices, and some raw items. I didn't think it was too fancy, but I was starving so I ordered a couple of things and they were all tasty.
Next up was Vegan Nation. This was just up the road from where I was staying in Monastiraki, just off the main square. I had a burger, a dessert, and a juice here and they were all good. Everything is pre-made and ready to eat so its good if you're in a hurry and/or starving.
My favourite place—and the one I was most excited about trying—was Lime Bistro. This was actually the first vegan place I went to when I got off the train from Meteora, but I didn't realise they open at 2pm. If you're a late luncher this might be fine, but I like eating around 12pm so this was too late for me and how I ended up at Peas.
I came back the next evening for dinner, which ended up being my last meal in Greece. I'm so glad I did. The restaurant is really nice and the menu is awesome. I ended up having some type of Buddha bowl with lentils, hummus, salsa, kale, and a raw flatbread. It was SO good. I wish I'd been hungrier cos I would have liked to have tried a dessert too. Oh well.
Amazingly, I remembered to take some photos. So here is Lime Bistro and my last meal.
I'd recommend all three of these places since they are 100% vegan and were very easy to find/ get to. As a bonus—since you have to take the metro to get to them—you also get to be in a smoke-free environment for a bit. Well, at least until you leave the metro station.
All good things come to an end
After my dinner I headed back to Plaka to meet up with Sue and Pras for the last time. My flight was at 6am on the Saturday morning so we stayed out until 11pm and then I got the bus to the airport, which conveniently runs 24-hours. Since the airport is an hour away, and international check-in is two hours, I was not going to pay for a room only to get up at 2:00–2:30.
So basically I went from staying in luxury villa in Santorini at the start of my trip to slumming it at the airport at the end. Urgh!
Thumbs up or thumbs down?
In all honesty, outside of the touristy areas, I didn't think much of Athens. It comes across as a bit run down and dirty, which isn't unexpected given Greece's economic situation. I didn't get a great vibe and it was probably my least favourite destination on this trip. So thumbs down on that. However, I'm obviously speaking as a tourist and not as someone who's spent a great deal of time there.
My unenthusiasm aside, the ruins are very cool, it's easy to get around, and there are some great vegan options. So that all gets a thumbs up.
I didn't hate Athens by any means, but I definitely liked Santorini, Delphi and Meteora more. But, since it's the city you're most likely to fly in/out of, you might as well take advantage of the good things it has to offer. And who knows, maybe you'll be lucky enough to find some dicks in the process!
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