Aug 27, 2013

Athens: An Intro


Freshman year of college I took an art history class. For at least 2 weeks out of that 16-week course, we talked about Greek architecture...and more specifically, about the ancient Acropolis in Athens. I remember sitting on the second row of that classroom, wide eyed and completely enthralled by ionic columns, stories of Greek gods & goddesses, and the overall creativity of the Hellenic people. It was there, amidst the lines of my mid-term blue book that I fell in love with Greece and its fascinating history and architecture. I made a promise to myself that if given the chance, I'd visit Athens and see the wonders of the Greek world with my own eyes someday. Happily (and just 7 short years later), that someday came while we were sailing on our first Mediterranean cruise. Guys, it was everything I'd thought it be...and more.

We started our day bright and early docking in at the port a short 20-minute drive from Athens. We booked an 8-hour tour of the Athens, the Acropolis, and Cape Sounion through Nikos at Private Greece Tours and tour shared with two wonderful families I found on Cruise Critic. Let me tell you, friends, if you want an authentic, culturally-rich tour of any city you visit on a cruise, never book one of the tours offered by the ship. There are so many excellent private tours and guides out there that can give you smaller touring groups and personalized attention. Don't waste your money sight-seeing with insanely large groups of people and hurried touring. With the limited time you have in each port, you want to get the best bang for your buck...and private touring is the way to go.

So, our driver, Billy (who was FABULOUS), picked the 8 of us up at the port and began our tour of bustling Athens. Of course, it was another rainy, cloudy day (what's up with that, Mediterranean?!), but we didn't let that get in the way of our time exploring. We first made a stop at the Temple of Olympian Zeus (as seen in the temple photos midway through above) and Hadrian's Arch. It was a quick stop seeing as this one temple stands alone, in ruins, just a thousand feet below the Acropolis. From there, we made another quick photo stop at the Panathenaic Stadium just a few stoplights away. This stadium, built entirely of white marble in 329 BC, held the first modern Olympic games in Athens in 1896. What I think was most fascinating to me upon the start of our time jetting around Athens was the juxtaposition of modern Athens to ancient Athens. Ruins seemed to pop up randomly amongst even the densest of modern city areas. It was surreal to see a metro line pass right by the remains of temple. I absolutely love that past-meets-present vibe, and Athens was chock full of it.

More from the Acropolis, coming soon!

[Linking up for Travel Tuesday with Belinda & Bonnie!]

35 comments:

  1. You're actually the first person I meet (even if it's just in the blogosphere) who liked Athens! And your photos look great! I had no clue that Athens would be so big! Houses just seem to go on forever and the ruins still look magnificent.
    You really did have a fantastic time cruising he Mediterranean :)
    Have a great day, Casey!

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  2. Absolutely amazing! I really want to go there myself one day.
    Looks like you had an amazing time sight seeing and visiting all the places you learned about :)

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    1. We loved every second of our time in Greece. I really do adore that country...even just from the short 3 days we had visiting various cities there! I'm positive you'd adore it, too! :)

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  3. Looks stunning! And I'm so glad that it lived up to your expectations of it!

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed Athens! I've been seeing so many negative posts about it lately and when we were there in July I really, really liked it. I thought the mix between ancient and modern made it such a unique city, and the occasional graffiti was interesting in the sense that it tells the story of Athen's disgruntled youth. We also went through a new private tour company made up of college students and a girl took Jurgen and I around the city on our own for 6 hours. It was amazing and so much more personal! I'm starting my re-caps next week :)

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    1. Jenna - I've seen a few negative comments about Athens too and they leave me a little perplexed. We were really taken by the city!

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  5. Beautiful photos Casey. We spent a few hours in Athens but I'm convinced it needs a full trip on it's own - there is just so much to see and learn in that ancient city and the history - definitely deserves at minimum, a few days!

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  6. Casey, I was totally gobsmacked by Athens, too! I loved walking through those ancient ruins and imagining what it looked like in its prime with all the brightly painted buildings. Your photos are making me want to go back and discover all the things I missed :)

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    1. Awesome! Glad to know I wasn't the only one who loved it so much! I'd definitely take a trip back there someday...when I find that money tree, of course. :)

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  7. Casey, These pictures are wonderful. Thanks for the tour information. I can't wait to go there one day.

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  8. I would like to visit Athens one day. I have been to Olympia and that was pretty amazing. Great pics.

    Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo

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    1. Oh you must go! We're heading to Olympia on our next Med cruise...so I'm looking forward to exploring more of ancient Greece myself. Thanks, Louisa!

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  9. I took art history my first semester of college. I enjoyed it up until the first exam which I failed miserably. I panicked, called my mom crying and dropped the class! haha.... Your photos are beautiful and I'm so envious of all of your travels!! I hope you're having a wonderful time!

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  10. Gah cannot believe I have not made it to Greece yet! Stunning pictures - your photography always blows my mind. And totally agree with you on finding a good private tour guide

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  11. Oh. My. Gosh! I fell in love with Greece 10 years ago taking a Greek Language and Culture class. I've wanted to visit ever since, like you. Fortunately I married a guy who dies to visit Santorini so I know that one day we will, because we're both equally invested in it. :) I think that the day I land in Greece I'm going to cry.

    xo,
    Ana Paula
    {Visit me at Mommyhood, PhD}

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  12. Athens is very high on my bucket list of places to visit!

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  13. I am dying to go to Greece, especially Athens and Santorini! Can't wait to see your pics from the Acropolis!

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  14. Wow! This is so beautiful! Random question, but where did you go to college?
    www.radiant-joy.blogspot.com

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  15. So jealous, I'm dying to visit Greece. Your pictures are stunning too.

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  16. Athens is such an interesting place to me. When I went, I didn't realize it would be a gritty, industrial city. They do have the Acropolis, but outside of that the city is a true working town, not the idyllic countryside you think of when you see pictures of the Greek Islands. I loved the juxtaposition!
    http://liveitinerantly.com

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  17. ahh I fell in love with your photos again. *sigh* one day I want to visit Greece too (:
    I can't wait to see more.

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  18. Beautiful photos! We've only spent a day in Athens. It was always a stopping point to get elsewhere. It was REALLY hot when we were there and it's a bit of a concrete jungle, but I really enjoyed it! Stopping by from the link up.

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  19. Wow, it looks like you had such a great time! I too, am obsessed with Greek everything and am so glad you were able to experience the amazing culture!

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  20. Athens looks so amazing, mixing the old & the new. I've only been to Greek islands, never the mainland but after seeing these pictures, i'm not quite sure why I've always missed it out!

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  21. these pictures are stunning, Casey! Truly gorgeous! I am dying to get to Greece. My fiancé has family out there so I'm itching to go visit!

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  22. Beautiful pictures of a picture city!!

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  23. These pictures are gorgeous. I had the chance to visit Greece for 11 days in 2009. It was amazing! Absolutely spectacular.

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  24. Wow just amazing! This is on my bucket list of places to see. :)

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  25. i absolutely love cities where you can see old and new collide. that's the kind of city that i would love to live in one day! and i agree about the tours. small tours, no problem. huge tours where you spend your time following the flag, umbrella or what ever other object they have to hold up in the air for you to see? uh huh, no thanks.

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  26. Gorgeous photos! This reminds me so much of my trip to Athens a few years back. It really is great to see all these ancient buildings amidst the modern architecture.

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  27. I'm dying to go back to Athens. We weren't at port there very long, but I was happy with what we did get to see. My favorite was walking along a regular street and running into ruins out of nowhere.

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  28. You definitely went the right route with a semi-private tour! We did a cruise tour when we visited Athens and it ended up being my least favorite stop. I need a do-over! :) Beautiful photos!

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  29. I went to Greece as a young girl and your photos brought me right back to that trip. Would love to see it again soon! Thank you for linking up with me for Travel Tuesdays!

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose an expat lifestyle blog

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