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!