Geia sas friends. Making a dream trip is always on everyone’s bucket list. I had one for myself for a very very long time. A lot of that has to be credited to the grand sagas depicted in cinema from the ancient times. Greece, as I wondered, is one that destination if not the only one that oozes of rich heritage and never ending fascinating story telling. The trip to Athens had to be meticulously planned well in advance going by the sheer number of must visit sites in hand. Me and my wife had this in our thoughts and the research started in around Feb 2015 itself. I highly recommend Tripadvisor as reference to do the homework details about itinerary. As recommended in several travel forums, I kept my option simple and resolved. We were to stay as close to a centrally located locality which is easily accessible via public transport and does not require much wandering around. What I had read and later learnt during our trip is that taking the public metro as much as possible during our trip. Its very convenient and reaches out to almost all the key sites that one would have on your their visit list. Going by this idea, I made reservations at Hotel Centrotel in Peoniou, which is close to Victoria Square. We had reserved a stay for 3 days and 3 night at the hotel. I wasn’t very sure about the location of the hotel but went ahead with the reviews and ratings on Tripadvisor. And they turned out to be very true to the value . From Athens International Airport, there are several ways to reach up to the city and one of them is a direct metro line that runs in. We were also suggested to hire a cab for the transport, however, if one is not in a rush, the Airport Metro Line 3 could also be availed. The journey to our hotel required us to change our metro lines at Monastriaki Square and pick up line 1. Monastriaki Square is one of the very busy square in the heart of Athens. Its also a junction where metro lines 1 and 3 cross which makes it even busier with transit commuters. We reached Monastriaki and switched over to the other line. It was around 9:00 a.m. and the place had just started preparing itself for the busy day ahead. We wanted to take a walk around for a while but we reserved it for later and headed on to the next destination, Viktoria Square. Centrotel Hotel is just a walking distance from Viktoria station. As like Monastriaki Square, Viktoria square is also a buzzing place, with more street side eateries and joints. After a short walk, we reached the hotel and waited for our rooms to get prepared as we had checked in early. The Hotel is located on a street and it is in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. It is surrounded by grocery stores, restaurants and small utility stores. The surroundings are safe, peaceful and calm. Our room was on the second floor and faced to the street. Due to this it had occasional street traffic noise coming through and had no view whatsoever other than that of the street. After resting for a while, we head out in the evening to Monastriaki. It is very much like many other city centers in Athens. Its full of artists performing, street side eateries and shopping stalls. And very close to Plaka. Yay..!! The favorite destination for many when it comes to go shopping and just be around. Plaka is one of the top tourists destination neighbourhoods which are very classical in the way it is located and inhabited. Also as a general notion, Plaka is more recommended to go for any street side shopping, however, as it swells of tourists, so does the prices. I found Monastriaki not as big as Plaka but evenly good in terms of stuff available and its little easy on your pocket. But shopping aside, it’s worth spending the evening at.
Byzantine Kapnikarea orthodox church
Monastriaki is very well surrounded by key attractions around. One can easily walk from here to Acropolis and around places. We started our evening by visiting Library of Hadrian, which is almost right there at the square. Most of the excavated sites in Athens offer free entrance for tourists. So we set out to explore wasting no time.
Priest Profile from Library of Hadrain Museum
Statue of Nike – Library of Hadrian
What I observed during our visit to Athens is that mostly, pillars have been the architectural pieces which have stood the test of times as we still find them standing, and after following the Library of Hadrian, this impression was even more convincing. There is a small Museum of Library of Hadrian in the premises as well.
Post this we walked over to Roman Agora. Roman Agora functioned as first ever major business center in Greece during old times and was the first Architectural building in Greece. It was past 8 in the evening and Roman Agora was closed for visitors. We roamed around the premises and decided to revisit it the next day.
We had landed in Athens in the morning only and it was already a long day for us. After roaming around more for a while, we decided to keep our reserves for the next day and hence we decided to head back to hotel and catch up with some rest. The glimpses of city and people had already given us much food to expect wonderful days ahead. We stopped by at Victoria Square on our way back and had our dinner @ Goddys. We were starving and Goody’s has good Veg and Non Veg preparations on the menu. My wife is a hard core vegan but we never faced any issues finding great vegan food anywhere during our stay like we had faced in some other places we have travelled.
The next day started with the English Breakfast at the hotel. Since we had to do a lot of walking we filled ourselves up with some feisty diet and set out. The breakfast was a buffet which was charged @ 7 Euros /person exclusively and seemed to be preferred by most of the guests.
It was 18 May (International Museums Day) which offers free entrances to all archeological sites. As it turned out to be a free ride, the first on itinerary for the day was Roman Agora, that we missed out because of missing the closing times the previous day. Roman Agora is also surrounded by several flea market shops so we kept on checking into the random stores on our way to the site.
A few street side stores and eateries
A view of the Acropolis from the streets
The gates of Roman Agora
A short walk from Roman Agora, is located, Ancient Agora, is also known by the name of Agoraios Kolonos. Agora is an ancient greek term used for open places where public operations or business could be held. The huge premises of Ancient Agora does justice to the literal meaning of it. As soon as one enters the premises of Ancient Agoras, we had the information booth and the Church of the Holy Apostles on the left and the Ancient Agora Museum on the right. Its convenient to visit the museum first and then carry on further into the Agora to the Temple of Hephaestus in the far end.
Dome of Church of the Holy Apostles
Ivory statuette of Apollo lykeios
Bust of Antoninus Pius
View of the Temple of Hephaestus from first level of Agora Museum
Relief with victorious apobates racers
The corridor of the Museum of Ancient Agoras
This was our first museum that we visited in Athens and I have to say, I was very much impressed with the way the museum has been articulating the history telling through the means of sculptures and artifacts. I am not a guy who receives history lessons easily but museums in Athens are definitely some of the most well managed and informative museums for even not a regular visitor like me.
Moving on, we kept on taking short strides into other parts of the Agoras as Middle Stoa, Temple of Ares, Statue of Hadrian, and finally to the Temple of Hephaistos over the Agoraios Kolonos hill. Below are a few of the ancient marvels from the Agoras.
Temple of Hephaistos
Temple of Hephaistos Pillar Columns
The Odeion of Agrippa
Temple of Hephaistos
Stele which records the annual report of the auctioneers for leasing the mines of Layrion
Next on the cards was the very symbolic structure of whole of Athens, the Acropolis. Its a short walk slightly up the hill from Ancient Agoras to the Acropolis. Its as magnificent from up close as it is from distance. The Acropolis, like a crown settles over the top of a flat bedrock overlooking the city of Athens in distance. It’s faced by Hill of Pnyx Athens which provides a scenic panoramic view of the city and the Acropolis. Once you reach the gates of the Acropolis, the way to Hill of Pnyx Athens is on your right. Surprisingly, the rocks of the Hill of Pnyx Athens were shining like they have been polished. And slippery one, if I dare to mention. There are two stairs that will take you to the top of the hill, one is a steel framed artificial staircase, and other is the stone staircase. Just by the look of it, the later one looked like little too much to take a risk so we opted to go the steel framed ones. The view from the top of the hill is memorable, It offers the unhindered view of the city on one side and Acropolis on the other side. We stayed there for a while, took some shots and headed back to the marvel in the foresight.
A top Hill of Pnyx Athens
Panoramic View from Hill of Pnyx Athens, Acropolis in the backdrop
As mentioned earlier, 18 May is International Museums Day and the entrance for the Acropolis was free. On other days it is 12 Euros per person. Acropolis is most probably the most iconic monument in entire Greece that has been seen and written about uncountable times. While we entered through the Propylaea, we could feel like walking into an era of supernatural significance. I could not hide my excitement to be just there and watch those grand gates open and welcome you. It was phenomenal.
On our climb up the hill towards the Acropolis first comes Odeon of Herodes Atticus to the right. This is a huge open air amphitheater which is reminiscent to the Grand Colosseum in Rome. It was built by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife,Aspasia Annia Regilla.
As we walked into the Acropolis, the maintenance work was going on and hence the premises had a lot of machines and maintenance work in full swing. The Acropolis consists of few of the most important buildings from the era, the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike.
The Parthenon, covers the maximum space in Acropolis and is assumed to be the Temple of Athena in ancient times. One was not allowed to move inside the temple structure and it was chained from all sides due to maintenance work. The Acropolis is located on a flatbed hill top and thus it provides an unhindered 360 deg view all around.
The span of Athens city dominates majority of the view that Acropolis has to offer. The Grand Gates of Propylaia welcomes you over the top of the hill where Acropolis is located. Its little climb up walk of stairs.
The flash light put at random places can only help in guessing how beautiful it would be to stand there in the night and live the monument. Though it soon was going to be time for us to leave as Acropolis closes down by 7.00 in the evening. We spent the remaining day appreciating the history that we had relived in last few days. Its nothing less then being part of some feature and as if we played our part in keeping the history alive.
These were the most memorable days spent a midst phenomenal history and exotic lineage.