Thursday, November 13, 2014

11/5/14 Day 293 Athens

Flying with easyJet from Berlin to Athens was relatively straightforward, we bought our tickets less than two weeks in advance, and paid 35€ each, plus another 35€ at the airport because we tried to get away with both of our bags flying as carryon items. We should have known better, and we paid 12€ more than we would have prepaid online. After flying both Ryanair and easyJet I honestly think we have a preference for Ryanair, sure the fees are outrageous, but if you read the fine print, and play by their rules you won't have to pay them. You get more in cabin luggage because they allow a personal item (easyJet was being absolute sticklers on their 1 cabin item policy and forcing everyone to measure in the cabin bag dimension crate), their fleet seems to be of higher quality as easyJet uses AirBus planes (which have a tendency to cause excruciating pressure problems) and lastly Ryanair routes are generally far more comprehensive and abundant as an extra credit point Ryanair is actually famous for being early or on-time. Arriving sluggish at 11:00 after a night sleeping on airport benches we stepped into the fluorescent lighting and onto the bus heading for Athens center. Only 2.50€ for the ninety minute ride with the student rate of 50% off.
We rushed off the bus in order to take full advantage of the First Sunday freebies! It used to be that every first Sunday of every month, the majority of museums and historical sites throughout the city were free to attend, but since the economic crisis hit this perk is now only offered in the low season. October rings in the first opportunity of the year for free Athens sightseeing. We started our exploration at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, staring in fascination at the huge columns, 15 and a half of them still standing of the original 104 original columns, a beautiful and well preserved site. Next on the must see list, we walked across the street to the Acropolis of Athens but before we began our ascent we stopped in at the tourist office for maps and luckily we did because the amazing attendant offered to store our heavy backpacks for free while we visited the monuments! Feeling refreshed and light as air we scampered up the steps to the top of the Acropolis, it probably only took us a half hour to get up to the top and when we arrived we were amazed by the breathtaking...scaffolding. Most of the Parthenon is being restored, and is covered in chunks laid out like an unsolved puzzle, with paint cans and ladders strewn about. It really clouds the majesty of the view for me a little bit. With the financial situation I wonder when and if the restoration will ever conclude, they have been in the process for 39 years now as this project started in 1975! There are a few rows which slightly obscure enough of the revision work so that a nice photo can be taken, but when you are there and can see  the whole structure it looks like a contract construction job gone awry. Maybe this decade they can finish what they started in time for the 50 year restoration anniversary. 
On our last day in Athens Sarah (Another surfer at our host, Nico's place) invited us to join her at the beach. We thought it would be a quick metro ride to the sandy shores, but nearly 90 minutes later a switch from metro to tram and we were just arriving to the first beach stop, naturally each progressive beach will be a little bit nicer than the last so we still had a while to go. We hopped off the tram with the intention of finding some fabulous Greek cuisine for lunch while we walked to the nicer beaches. We searched everyhwhere for a Greek restaurant, or some authentic street food, how hard can it be to find a gyro?! The area was saturated with Italian restaurants, burger places, sweet shops and fast food so we finally settled and ordered flaky pastry cheese pies at Everest (local coffee chain that sells sandwiches and pastry snacks). Most all of the storefronts this far out of the city are shut down, the houses begging for renovation, graffiti tags on everything. Once we finally got to the beaches they were filthy, actually the dirtiest beaches I have ever been on. All of the seaside restaurants and parks are boarded shut, looted and tagged. You can really feel the crunch of the economic crisis after you leave city center, here they do not have the tourists flooding money into the community and it is obvious. We walked all the way to last last beach we could reasonably get to and still make it the 2 hours back to Athens at a reasonable time. We got back to the city and enjoyed one last gyro before heading back to Nico's place to pack up for our train journey to Thessaloniki. 

Smoking booths-Unfortunately this was the first and last time we saw one of these gems
Temple of Zeus

The Acropolis of Athens, featuring the Parthenon
The varying colors of marble reveals the new reconstructions and the original pieces blended together

Casual pieces of temple awaiting assembly

The theatre of Dionysus

Bottled water for only .35€, yes please
Savva's Gyros, definitely one of our top picks
Pork, chicken, or lamb/beef so many options

Traditional Greek street food, Koulouri or Simit
Spanikopita (spinach and feta pastry) from Ariston, yum!

Riot patrols for the protest against capitalism

Hike up Lycabetus for sunset

The beaches of greater Athens

Sarah, myself and Kevin

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