I’ve been dreaming of visiting Greece since I was about 5 years old. It all started with my obsession with Greek mythology, that not only had great stories but also celebrated kick ass goddesses like Athena and Artemis. But my fascination with Greek culture expanded when I ate gyros, read the Odyssey, learned about the birthplace of democracy and the first place that made public universal education a thing. When I went to college, I joined a sorority and served on Panhellenic. I also went to a few toga parties… I religiously watch the Olympics every other year. Everything from philosophy to mathematics was developed in Ancient Greece. This great civilization had such a profound impact on our world, that humanity can attribute so many positive things in their daily lives to the Greeks.
The first evening we decided to climb Mt. Lycabbetus. What a way to start our trip. I had been dreaming of Athens for so long and then I got to see the city and the ocean transform at twilight.
After a few hours in the sun, we saw people walking up on top of the cliff. So of course, we had to go.
That night, we went up to the rooftop bar of our hostel for beautiful night views of the Acropolis and to hang out with our new friends. This hostel was fantastic in that it really fostered a community-like culture. We met an Australian couple who are now teachers in London going on a 6 month sabbatical to travel through Europe. A Brazilian guy traveling alone for a week through Europe, another in Athens for work. An American guy traveling through Greek islands after his semester abroad. A pair of best friends from Australia traveling before their graduation. We had a tremendously fun night with them, singing karaoke classics and laughing the whole way.
The next day we went on a free walking tour of the city.
One of my favorite things was just walking up and down the winding streets in the hot sun accompanied by groups of musicians on the street playing traditional music.
This is where we decided to stop for lunch.
Eating in Greece is like eating in Italy. We peasants didn’t really know what Greek food is until we’re eating fresh Tzatziki with fresh out of the oven pita covered in herbs. It was amazing. Every meal we ate was better than the last. Ughhhh this is making me hungry.
We finished up the day with a visit to the Acropolis museum. Here we learned about the history of the Acropolis and a number of rare Greek sculptures and original pieces of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis that are kept in the museum to better protect them.
The Parthenon has a really complicated history that has lasted over 25 centuries. Did you know originally was in color? We think of classical sculpture as white marble, simple and clean. That’s how we’ve modeled so much of our architecture in the US, including government buildings like the White House and the Capitol Building. But that’s not what the Greeks intended! The Parthenon is huge and was adorned with large Metopes that surrounded the building with stories of wars and other myths. The two large triangle shaped pediments on the east and west side of the buildings also told different stories through exquisite sculpture, one of the birth of Athena and the other the contest between Athena and Poseidon. What’s interesting is that in the past 25 centuries, the Parthenon has suffered arson, looting, and destruction. It has been converted into a church and a mosque. What is left of the metopes and pediments, to me, looked like just incomprehensible mush. But the historians, analysts, and artists have been able to recreate these magnificent parts and show how they might have looked in their glory days. To see science and art and history come together in this way is truly amazing.
After a long day of walking and visiting we were pooped. We got a good night’s rest before our next day, where we visited the island of Aegina.
Aegina is a small island that a number of Greeks visit when they are on holiday. We didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t really have a plan. We walked along the docks for a bit in the morning and I told Liza and Nicolle there was a cool temple on the other side of the island that we should visit before hitting up the beach. But how to get there? We spontaneously decided to rent these.
We scootered around the little island for absolutely breathtaking and pristine views of the mountains, ocean, little houses, and farms.
We found the island’s famous monastery.
We got lost a few times. Beautifully lost.
We rode back across the island for the most delicious lunch I’ve ever had.
Something about the spontaneity of the day and discovering treasures across the island on our own and not through a guidebook made this day so special. We took some risks and didn’t have a plan and it ended up being a fantastic day. We got lost, but through the kindness of a nice Greek family, we got right back on track. It’ll be a day I’ll always remember and I can’t wait to go back and see other Greek islands.
The next day, we finally made it on top of the Acropolis.
The Parthenon is majestic. That’s the best way I can describe it. Despite the centuries of destruction and conversion, it still is an awe-inspiring piece of original Greek architecture. It makes me think, what will the famous buildings of our time look like hundreds of years down the road? Will our history reach a certain point where the White House is destroyed and international (maybe even intergalactic!!!) tourists come and visit the remains?
We also went to the Theater of Dionysius, the world’s first theater.
Next stop was the buzzing Monastiraki Sunday flea market.
At one point Liza and Nicolle were separated from me. I saw them walking towards me and then as they were talking they quickly turned around and started walking away. I thought, what are they doing?! Well, they thought they were approaching me but they actually instead found my adorable twin from Utah.
Last stop- the stadium one more time to see what it’s like to sit inside.
This has been my favorite trip so far. There were so many things to do, the history was rich and engaging, the food filling and delicious, the people warm and inviting. We were able to lay at the lake and hike for beautiful views. We learned about Ancient Greece and all of the things in our lives that we enjoy today that came from this civilization. Yes, my dream of coming to Greece came true. But I left only wanting to come back again very soon and to explore every inch of that beautiful country.