We didn’t consider how much fun Greece would be until we ate gyros in a Greek neighborhood near Melbourne, Australia. Once we saw how communal people behaved and how tasty the food was, we couldn’t wait to get to the real thing.
So having just had a rough couple of weeks in southern Italy, we had high hopes from Greece. We were not dissapointed.
We arrived in Athens during a city-wide bike race. Unfortunately our cab driver wasn’t prepared to navigate the road blockages and told us we had to walk the last 15 minutes of the journey (we reported his behavior and received a free ride in Rome). He dropped us off in a neighborhood where we ended up literally walking through an alley with 10 or so junkies shooting and snorting drugs (forgot to take pictures of this part, sorry but Vice has a great documentary on it).
Anyway, after the exciting start to our stay we made it to our airbnb and settled in for a Greek adventure.
Wow wow wow! How else do you describe the place where it all started? The Agora, the Acropolis, Zeus’ temple? Everything you’ve seen in the movies is as stunning in real life. The only real bummer is the amount of people roaming the streets. We visited in May and the tourists were thick for not technically being in season.
We started off by literally running to see the changing of the guard. We weren’t surprised by the crowd.
After that we settled into our airbnb and made a plan to see the rest of Athens. Over the next several days we explored all kinds of historical sights and food. Who knew the food would be so good?
The Acropolis is a must see – no doubt about it. But it’s crowded with people. The Greeks recently finished the Acropolis Museum, which is also highly recommended. It’s where the infamous “lady pillars” reside. The ones at the site by the Acropolis are replicas. If you like audio tours, we listened to a few free ones from the Rick Steves Audio Europe app that provided great background information on many Athens sites.
Next we swung down to Zeus’ temple. A little less crowded but fascinating none the less.
While the Acropolis and Zeus’ Temple were iconic, the Agora was our favorite. It had few people and had even more incredible history soaked in it. Where else could you go that Alexander the Great and Socrates roamed the street? It had the very foundation of the building that developed democracy. This place, more than any other, felt like stepping in history.
Athens has been so much fun. The weather was perfect, the history is unique and engaging, the people are friendly, and the food is sinfully delicious. Can’t wait to visit again.
Our day trip to Delphi was certainly a treat. For a little background on what exactly Delphi was, I’ll let Wikipedia take over:
Delphi (/ˈdɛlfaɪ/ or /ˈdɛlfi/; Greek: Δελφοί [ðelˈfi]) is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of Pythia, the oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. Moreover, the Greeks considered Delphi the navel (or centre) of the world, as represented by the stone monument known as the Omphalos of Delphi.
It takes a few hours to get through the grounds and museum, but for the price it was well worth the money. As you look at the pictures below, use the painting above as a reference. You’ll notice the real versions of the painted subjects, including: Apollo’s temple, the amphitheater, the multi-columned building in the middle, and winged mythological beast at the top of a tall pillar.
This stadium isn’t in the painting above but it’s well worth seeing. Ancient Greeks packed thousands of people into this for all sorts of running games.
Hayley and I love watching the Olympics, so a trip to where it all began was a must for us. You only really need a day to explore the excavated site but it has tons of information. We used a free audio guide. Although it had some odd pacing to it, it was still informative and a pleasure to listen to.
Olympia, though we only spent one night there, was so much fun. The drive there was easy, our airbnb was fantastic and close to the excavation site, and the history was bountiful. High marks for Olympia!
Since we were already this far south in Greece, we decided to add Nafplio to the list. Like most European cities of note, it has an old town, a fortress, old churches, that sort of thing. But we were there for only one reason: the amphitheater. It’s the most well-preserved – and probably largest – Greek amphitheater in the world. You can learn more about it here.
People still hold performances here, too. The acoustics are incredible. Someone in the last row can hear someone on-stage whispering. At first I didn’t believe it but then a tour guide demonstrated it. Incredible!
Santorini is the most popular Greek island, especially for folks on vacation. It’s the most accessible and the easiest for tourists to explore. So all things considered, we penciled it in on our schedule. This may sound ridiculous, but after so much running around we needed a vacation. One week in Santorini doing nothing but laying by the poolside was in order.
Whew! That was a long post but we had a lot to share. And for as much as we ended up doing, we felt like our time here when by in a flash. That’s probably a sign of a successful visit. Without a doubt we loved Greece and would certainly come back given the opportunity.
We rate it…
Have you been to Greece? Did you love it? Did you hate it? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.