We’re baaaack! Bronze, sun-kissed, and very relaxed, too, I might add. We took a week long trip to Greece and realized that it was the vacation we’ve been dreaming about for months now. We’ve been doing a lot of checking big cities off our European bucket list and haven’t really taken any time to relax. This trip was both busy and realaxing – we checked off a big city and we got to lay on a beach. It was perfection.
It was Owen’s first long trip and he did fantastic. We are blessed with a little man who likes to be on the go. All.the.time.
We started our week-long trip in Athens, a city we’ve been anxious to get to for a while now. As we flew in, we could see just how sprawling the city is. Once we got in our rental car and drove to the apartment, we could see just how congested the city is. We started our day early with a pastry and Greek frappe from a nearby bakery and hit the streets.
Our city tour began in the posh, modern Syntagma Square where just above the square the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is carefully watched by the Evzone Guards.
The guards are an elite infantry unit of the Greek army. We conveniently got there in time to see the changing for the guard. They march in slow-motion with a very high-step and stand ramrod straight.
Their traditional pleated kilts, white britches, and pom-pom shoes certainly look goofy, but these guards are taken quite seriously and their mothers and girlfriends are very proud. The skirts have 400 pleats…one for each year of Ottoman occupation.
After wandering the streets we stopped at Restaurant Hermion just off the traffic-free street of Pandrossou. I highly recommend this place. We dined under a canvas canopy surrounded by plants serenaded by live Greek music, we almost forgot we were in a big city.
Owen ate most of my Greek spaghetti and immediately worked it off chasing “gucks.”
That energy, however, didn’t last long.
He slept right through our walk around some old rocks.
These old rocks are actually the remains of the Arch of Hadrian (shown above), a gate build in A.D. 132 to celebrate the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus (shown below).
The large ancient temple took almost 700 years to finish. It began in the late 6th-century B.C. The temple was finished in A.D. 131 at a whopping 360 feet by 145 feet consisting of two rows of 20 columns on each of the long sides and three rows of eight columns along each end. That’s a lot of columns.
Only 15 of the 104 original Corinthian columns remain standing at 56 feet high. The fallen column that looks like a stack of bottle caps, was toppled by a storm in 1852. Old rocks, I’m telling you. From there we began our climb/crawl/hike/meander to the Acropolis.
The walk to the old city on the hill takes you through an incredibly Greek neighborhood called Anafiotika. Tiny lanes and homes builty by people from the tiny Cycladic island of Anafi, who came to Athens looking for work after Greece gained independence from the Ottomans. It’s a delightful spot, nestled below the hill of Acropolis and the big city seemed miles away.
The Acropolis is huge and boasts an incredible view in every direction. On the up-ward climb to the gate, we saw the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Really, it’s a theater, but Greeks know it is technically an odeon. It is a 5,000-seat amphitheater built during Roman times and is still used for performances. A wealthy landowner had it built in A.D. 161 in memory of his wife. It was destroyed a century after it was built and reconstructed in the 1950s to its current state. You know Yanni? He’s performed here.
Climbing up just a few more steps (I was gasping for air by now) we reached the Propylaea, the grandest gate ever built. It’s the entrance of the Acropolis.
The place is swarming with tourists of every culture (and one hunk of a babywearing dad). As you (carefully) stand on the steps of the entrance, you literally feel on top of the world. Or, at least, Athens.
The nearly square Temple of Athena Nike towers over the Propylaea. Greeks pronounce is NEEK-ee, by the way. However you say it, just do it. 😉
And also a nice view of Mars Hill. This is the spot where Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians.