I haven’t written a post for a long time now but that is because I was away on a 3-day citybreak with my husband, in Athens. All our weekends this summer are busy and the weekend of 27th of May until 30th of May was the only free time we could go on a short trip abroad together. So once the decision was made I started looking for something to book last minute, not too expensive, a place where none of us had been before and a place with both things to do and things to visit, to please us both :D. You know, some people prefer relaxation whereas others (like me) like to be active and like walking a lot, visiting, history, museums, culture and so on.
So I decided on Athens. I wrote to the embassy also and they were fast with their reply telling me that my husband didn’t need a visa as he was married to an EU citizen, but I brought with us to the airport, besides passports, his residence card and a copy of our marriage certificate.
Our plane tickets and the accommodation with breakfast included (3 nights) cost 439 Euro. I think that was a pretty good deal, very reasonable. I booked the citybreak through an agency, the flight was with Ryanair, our hotel was called Achillion and we had a great time! The breakfast at the hotel was varied every day, delicious food and the front desk staff deserve all the praises in the world. Such helpful people!
The night we arrived we took a taxi from the airport and we were very pleasantly surprised to see taxis lined up, one in front of each other and all the people wishing to take a cab also standing in a queue and whoever’s turn was next that person(s) would just jump in the car first in the line. If anyone tried to pick one of the taxis in the back or middle of the line he or she would politely be turned down and told to wait in line and take the taxi that was next in line. I mean, wow! You will never see that system and politeness and respect that taxi drivers have for each other and for the people in Romania. That for me was something unseen before and at the same time a proof it can work…although realistically probably never will in my country. It is sad but here people would jump in front of each other, cut each other’s way, steal clients and so on. Taking a taxi though was a mistake, one we will definitely avoid in the future and just do better research and more preparations before a trip! We had a friendly taxi driver but it cost us 55E for about 20 minutes of drive. We later found out (and also used) that one could take a metro from and to the airport for 10E. We did that on the way back. That is so much cheaper, the only downside being that you need to change 3 metros to reach the airport, there is no direct one (or at least there wasn’t one from where we stayed). There’s no rush though, there are many directions, both in Greek and English, everyone is extremely friendly and helpful, metros come every 15 mins or less. As a tip, make sure to have many small bancnotes and coins too if you can. Metro tickets are paid in coins. Only the 10 E you can also pay with bancnotes (5,10,20). And people don’t have change to give you, so better be prepared 🙂 from that point of view.
Our hotel was located like 1.5 km away from the Acropolis and like a 5 minute walk from the Omonia Square/Metro Station. In the same place there are different lines/companies you can buy a tour from, open bus tour/double decker style :), sightseeing either objectives in Athens, or the port, beaches or maybe even further, depending on how much time you got. We did an Athens tour that cost 17 E per person but we later regretted it since we saw from the bus all the objectives we had previously seen by just walking to each one of them. So for us it seemed like wasted money. Maybe an idea is to do a tour first, then walk around, enter, take photos and so on. Or just make sure the tour is farther away and including objectives you haven’t seen.
The walk to Acropolis was just catharsis! It was pain and relief, it was like a pilgrimmage. We really weren’t prepared for the hot weather in Athens. besides short sleeved shirts, we had long pants, no sunglasses, no hats, nothing. So the day we decided to visit the Acropolis we took the metro from Omonia Station until Monistiraki (I think one station only). And we arrived in this amazing market…the fruits! Oh God, the cherries…I really didn’t think I would leave Athens without eating like a kilo of fresh dark red cherries…but I did :(. I had a Greek Frozen Yoghurt though with honey and many fresh rasberries on top…one of the most delicious things I have ever tried! All Greek food is delicious…seafood, fried squid, shrimps, fish…feta cheese, the olive oil..the grilled cheese. Everything tastes amazing. We tried several restaurants while there, we had both Greek food and Indian cusine! The Indian food we tried was in a small restaurant nearby our hotel, Royal Curry House – Malaysia & Asia Region.That place was most certainly a family business if you take into consideration the fact that besides the owners and a couple of neighbours we were the only clients :). The decoration was hmm very Indian and it is not my intention to offend anyone. There was a TV running Indian music and Indian soap operas in the background, the waiter that served us was just amazing, really welcoming and he explained us everything we wanted to know, he made us recommendations. It took like an hour for all our food to be ready but the good thing is that everything was fresh, cooked on the spot as we ordered it. We had mix salad, Indian Soup, Lentils Daal Curry, Chicken Curry and Lamb Curry. We both like spicy food so we decided to go for a medium spicy…if what we had was medium we really do not want to imagine what very spicy is, haha. It was crazy! Our mouths have been on fire for days :D, but the food was one of the most delicious we ever tried, and oh, everything on the menu is Halal Food.
Regarding food a big disappointment and mistake was eating at the restaurant on the 2nd floor of the Acropolis Museum. I mean there are so many restaurants, terraces, bistros outside on every single narrow street in the area…but since we were inside the museum, we thought why not. We expected the prices to be higher than in any other restaurant we tried..you know, fancy place, great view, good location…but we expected perfectly cooked, tasty food. And what we got was totally tasteless, a super tiny portion, enough for a kid, not an adult and a 36 E bill. I mean compared to our first night in Athens when we ordered food in our room from the city and we paid 13 E, I now advise anyone going there to not go to this restaurant. It is really not worth it!
Museums tickets can be quite expensive too, but you can buy a 20 E or 30 E ticket for Acropolis + 7 other objectives or for all of them, or you can just pay entrance fee for each one of them as you go. Some of them close at 15.00 o’clock though so keep that in mind, like the changing of the guards (similar to Buckingham Palace one, but different!), so many people gathering to watch that one, I heard it takes place every 30 mins, but I might be wrong.
Back to walking to the Acropolis, we were unprepared and clueless but maybe it was better that way because slowly and with lots of sweat and pain we made it to the top! The rocks pavement was extremely slippery but we made it…and the experience was so special (not counting the huge line for the tickets), great view, many people, in that place one travels back in time, one “feels” and “lives” history and those times…those temples, I was just stunned by the grandeur, the immensity of the place and of the buildings. It was so long ago when the temples were built and yet they are so big and perfect, they make you feel so small, so insignificat, so powerless. At the same time, even though they were built in the past, it feels like at the present with all technology and machines, people are no longer able to recreate such perfection! Same feelings we had when we decided to go to the highest point in Athens, Lycabettus Hill :). We managed to walk on narrow streets until like half way..the streets were not only narrow but they also seemed vertical. We then found a taxi that accepted to take us a bit more up and from that point we followed the taxi driver’s instructions “it’s easy, only 200 meters up, 5 minutes walk”. We really thought we would die climbing that mountain but we didn’t stop until we reached the peak :). I wanted to catch the sunset on that mountain! And we did. There’s a church and 2 restaurants on top..plus the amazing without equal view. Both on the way up and down (we didn’t know this from the start haha) one can take a cable car (Teleferik) on the Ploutarchou Street, but the cable car goes every 30 minutes and it’s a train inside a tunnel, one cannot enjoy any view while going up or down and it costs 7.50 E per person.
Another thing we did during our stay in Athens is that we tried 2 escape rooms. I mentioned in a previous post that escape rooms is our latest hobby and we want to try as many as possible in as many places as possible so we couldn’t miss Great Escape Rooms Athens where we did Circus and Schindler’s List rooms. These themes were so fun, complex, interesting and different from anything we tried before. Each of these rooms was made of like 4-5 rooms and involved so many skills, games, puzzles, special effects. It was just a crazy experience in a good way, of course! A bit expensive..but maybe because it was just 2 of us, more precisely 38 E for both of us.
We had a great holidays, short but intense, we saw so many interesting things, we tried new things, we ate such delicious food..we walked a lot, we laughed, we argued, we made mistakes..we learnt a lot and with the next vacations we will definitely do better :), for instance we will buy sunglasses and hats and all the necesary equipement before getting sunburnt :D.
I took so many photographs, I just can’t upload them all tonight :). I will leave some for a future post.
Just a few words as a conclusion, 3 good things that made me smile in my short trip in Athens: the orange trees that are growing in the street, the glass/bottle of cold water that you receive as soon as you enter in any terrace/restaurant/bistro/bar in Greece and their hospitality!