Our first stop in Greece had to be Athens. While it is the easiest to fly into, the city’s rich history spanning more than 3,400 years is something you can’t miss when traveling through Greece and Europe in general. While Athens is pictured in countless action movies and TV shows, many people forget it is one of the world’s oldest cities, widely considered the birthplace of democracy (sorry all of you who thought ‘merica was) and for thousands of years has been a hub for financial, political, industrial and economic power (sans the last few years). All of this gives the city a unique feeling and life to it we wanted to see for ourselves.
We stayed near the city center just a few minutes from the Omonia metro station. This allowed easy access from the airport and put us within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to see and do. We didn’t have a lot of time here (2.5 days) so we decided to make the most of it and cram as much sight seeing in as possible. First and foremost, we went to see the Acropolis i.e. what people usually picture when they think of Athens. Giant stone pillared buildings standing on top of a plateau overlooking the city. While it was a pretty epic sight, thank god we read reviews about how many people from cruise ships get funneled here. So we showed up before the place opened and were let in with the first two hundred or so people. With some quick walking, common sense and ninja-like skills, we managed to be in the first 50 or so to actually reach the top of the plateau where you get all the awesome pictures against the blue sky without all the people in the background. You may be thinking, this is silly and we should have slept in. Ha! Go ahead and try that and be stuck an hour later with a couple thousand honey boo-boos getting herded around like sheep by their cruise team leader moms. I almost want to start a blog like “People of Walmart” but instead call it “People of Cruise Ships.”
So I realize I’m coming across as a hater of people on cruise ships, so let me explain. I definitely don’t have any problem with cruise ships whatsoever. They are actually a pretty awesome concept and way to see places. Plus they are all you can eat which is a huge plus in my book. What I can’t stand is how much they fill up awesome destinations all at once and how a vast majority of people I’ve seen seem to just turn off all thinking and common sense when on an excursion. When people come on land they are literally walked around by people with signs held above their head. Full grown ass adults being treated like 4th graders who are fully okay with it. To me, I just wonder why they don’t break off, go get pictures and do things away from the masses then meet back up when the boat is about to leave. It’s not like the one guide shuttling around 75 people is actually teaching them much and half the time is spent waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Rant over and don’t judge me when in 20 years I’m that cruise ship guy.
Sorry, back to the post. After the Acropolis we spent some time in the Acropolis Museum. This is a definite must do in Athens. The place is really well put together, had tons of statues, art, and history to check out and best of all it is translated in English so you actually know what everything is. We were both shocked at how many pieces there were to see.
In addition to the main must-see tourist things, we walked around and checked out a few different city parks/squares and dove into the local Greek cuisine. Two things we learned. One, gyros are a gift from heaven. Two, there is no limit on how many you can have per day. Seriously, they are so damn good AND cost less than $3. This means you can always justify having two each time you order…at least I like to think so. For those of you who haven’t tasted a gyro, let me explain what it is. First, it is pronounced “euro” just like the currency. It is not a “ji-row.” To make, you first get a freshly baked warm pita bread and put a healthy dollop of tzatziki on it. Then you pile on freshly shaved meat (pork, chicken or lamb) and top it with tomatoes, some lettuce or cabbage, onions and French fries. Right before it gets wrapped up some spices are thrown on as well. At that point all you have left to do is devour it and pretend it doesn’t have any calories.
While I would have eaten gyros for every meal, we also ventured out and had one of the best meals of the entire trip. We looked on TripAdvisor and found that the 4th highest ranked restaurant in the city, Karamanlidika, was not too far from us. With almost 2800 great reviews and an awesome price point ($8-$15 a dish) we had to give it a try. Let’s just say it blew us away. Each dish we had was impeccable. It was so good we actually went back the last night we were there to have more dishes. I highly recommend it to anyone going to Athens. If you do go, make sure you get the baklava for dessert. It was a love child between a cinnamon roll, a pecan pie and traditional plain baklava.
If you plan to make a stop in the city definitely don’t spend more than 2 days. While there is a lot to see, you can check most off in a day or two and still leave time to eat good food in between. So get in, see things and get out.