Athens: Day 1

November 17, 2014

"I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world," the great Socrates once said. Correct as Socrates may be, I must point out that for the week, I am not only a citizen of the world, but a visitor and tourist of Athens as well.

Much like everyone else, the first thing that comes into my mind when the name 'Athens' is mentioned is the Acropolis. Indeed, that was the first thing on our Athenian agenda. Yes, but let me get to that later. Seeing as we couldn't leave our lives behind in the Philippines, my parents and I were up before the sun, working, studying, and catching up on what we've missed back home. It wasn't much of a chore since we could see the lit-up Parthenon outside our apartment window. Then again, barely anything is a chore when you're abroad.

After a few hours, it was decided that it was once and for all time to get ready for our first day in Athens. We agreed to leave the apartment at 8 in the morning, but ended up leaving at 9 30. Typical.

We walked down Ermou street to find our way to the base of the Acropolis. Whilst trotting down Ermou, we stumbled upon Saturday markets. Naturally, we had to stop and take a look. There were old Greek men selling antiques and collectibles out of there car's trunks. There were lots of stuff I've never seen before: from ancient radios to telephones from a century or two ago, there were plenty of collector's items.

The base of the Acropolis was now within plain sight. Yay! The next part of the journey was the walk up the hill to the actual gate which allows you to enter the ancient city. Said walk wasn't too difficult in all. The climb was easy and there were lots of ancient ruins to keep us entertained. Take this for example, the Sanctuary of Pan.

Alas, we were at the gate, the main entryway of the Acropolis. When you get inside (and if you're somewhat a geek like I am), your insides will get all jumpy at the sight of street signs leading you to the many historic places you simply must visit. We chose to visit the Parthenon first, because that's what really takes the cake.

The trek up the hill was a teensy bit arduous. Read: stairs. But to say it was worth it would be an understatement.

The first thing we saw was the Theatre of Herodes Atticus. Not only is it such a grand, picturesque structure, it is also still being used!

Then there was the Temple of Athena Nike. Unlike the others, this temple was mostly intact. This beauty got me outrageously chuffed for the next few things we were about to see.

And then, there it was: the Parthenon! It was everything I imagined it to be and more. It exuded such grandeur and elegance. It was like stepping into a time machine, zooming through time and finally setting foot on Athens, a handful of centuries ago. I could only imagine how magical this temple would have been had it not experienced such destruction and looting. As expected, we took tons of photos. So here is a very guilty Parthenon photo dump.

I think one of the best feelings is actually seeing what you learn about in school, because you know so much about it and truly understand its significance. That being said, it was such a pleasure to see the Parthenon because we studied ancient civilisations the year before, and my favourite one was that of the Greeks. I was trying to imagine what went on here and what life was like during this period.

I also believe that when traveling, it is essential to stop and look. Stop taking photos, checking for wifi, and whatever else people do nowadays, and take in your surroundings. It's really important to stop for a moment, take everything in and make sure you don't forget it because you don't know if you'll ever feel that way again. You don't know what the future holds: if you'll ever get the chance to see what takes your breath away ever again. I was obliged to do this with the Parthenon.

Anyway, back to the Acropolis. To the right of the Parthenon is Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena and other gods and goddesses. What is most striking are the columns shaped like females (trust me, you won't miss it).

There is also a great viewing point right under the Greek flag on the Acropolis, which offers stunning landscapes of Athens.

From the Parthenon, we went up another hill from which Athens spreads as far as your eyes can go.

We then went to the Theatre of Dionysus which is nothing short of amazing. Some of the chairs in the first row of seats are still intact! It was rejuvenating to just take a seat and reflect on the deep passages of life (haha!). But seriously, this theatre was breathtaking and is definitely one of my favourite parts of the Acropolis.

Lunch was up next. After a full morning (+ a bit of the afternoon) of sightseeing, it was time to chow down on some unmissable Greek food. We had gyros and souvlaki.

We took a walk around the city, and stumbled upon the Temple of Olympian Zeus. What a gem. We saw the Roman baths and everything.

Nearby were the Zappeion and the Panathenaic Stadium (which I will talk about in another post!). We decided not to visit the stadium that day since it would close in just around twenty minutes, which was far from enough time.

We sat down by the Zappeion to take a rest from all the walking. After, we visited Zara along Ermou Street. We went home to rest for a while.

Since I was so insistent on discovering the nightlife of Athens, we got out of bed at around 10pm and had lunch at Moma, which is a restaurant right beside the agora. As expected, the heart of the city was bustling.

It was such an eventful day, if you ask me. The perfect way to start our Athens excursion.