After the fairly absurd laid-back bliss of the Greek Isles, we were a little reticent about our final 3 days in Athens. Big city, hustle and bustle, all that. No place to swim when I get hot. But, of course, it was great. We got an amazing AirBNB in the Plaka neighborhood with a view of the acropolis.
The thing about Athens is, there is a lot of history here. I mean an absolute shit-ton of it. 30-odd centuries of war, wine, women, song, poets, philosophers, statesmen, citizens, conquests, construction, destruction, a brief democracy, dictatorship, and demagoguery. You really can't overstate the significance of was invented here. Gyros? Democracy for sure. And the classical Greek architecture as perfected on the Acropolis which is still the standard for grandeur all over the world, particularly in the U.S. Just have a look at the McMansions anywhere in America: Doric columns. Washington DC – all Greek. When you think about it, that's quite a legacy for what was a quick couple of centuries 500 years before Christ. Respect.
That said; there is no reason one needs to spend a lot of of precious tourist time learning about all this while in Athens. As long as you’re willing to suffer a bit (and we are) why not just history-slam it in one super charged power-day? LFG Athens!
We leave the apartment and are the very first ones in line at gate of the Acropolis (The High City). 2-hour Acropolis jam with a Rick Steves audio tour. I recommend this video to see what a true wonder it was. Fun fact, the columns of the Parthenon tilt ever, ever so slightly inward (mere millimeters on 34' columns) to create the illusion that they are true vertical, which compensates for our eye's tendency to want to see them as tilting outward. Genius.
As a bonus, I photo-bomb about 500 Instas that should have never been taken in the first place. Lori politely skirted around a similar number.
We hike back to Syntagma Square and queue up Rick’s Athens City Walk which covers key thoroughfares, neighborhoods, squares, and Medieval churches over a bunch of hard hot miles through choked city streets. BTW a rule of thumb: motorists have the right of way in Greece, not pedestrians. They will run you down, simply for the sport of it. The walk signals at busy, wide streets are comically short. Don’t even think about walking at a senior pace.
We stop for a quick beer in the shade and then finish the city tour at Monastiraki Square, walking the flea market and nearby shopping streets. I know tourists like a knick-knack or seven, but how is it possible for this many stores filled with the same schlock to stay open?
We buy a couple of gyros at a street stand.
Did you know that they put French fries right into the gyros here? Mmmm.
Partially restored, we walk to and then attack the Ancient Agora, which once housed soaring temples, theatres, shops, government buildings, and tavernas, but is now largely sunbaked Greek and Roman rubble. But with imagination and another Rick audio tour, we recreate the glory days of Socrates, Plato, the Emperor Hadrian, etc. as they strolled these grand avenues.
We buy beer on our way back to the AirB, shower, and collapse.
A 9-hour marathon absolutely crushing the tourist trail. We suffered, but it was all for history. Sadly, I don't remember any of it now.
I thought I would crash but incredibly, we rally for a time-appropriate 10PM seating at a great restaurant in the funky and hip Psyri neighborhood. We’re so Greek now.
As of this writing, I find myself back outside of Stanley, somewhere in Tennessee, back on the open American road. How come no one warned me about gas prices while we were away? Did anything else big happen?, Supreme Court decisions or whatever...? :)
Looking forward to see a bunch of you soon.