Athens, known throughout western history as the center of the arts and thinking, as the birthplace of democracy.
I didn’t have huge expectations of Athens, knowing the financial state of Greece and that it’ll be a big tourism city, but I liked it more than I thought!
As I drove around the city, it was a bit disheartening to see the buildings, hundreds of years old in various beautiful architectural styles, in ruin, vacantly waiting for a demolition that may not come. The streets also smelled, though this was due to a garbage man strike which held the city for three days. Trash piled on the streets, though this, the strikes, are not unusual in Europe.
Aside from my initial observations, the few sites I saw were:
- Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: Similar to the one in Arlington, Virginia, the tomb is guarded by soldiers, or Evzoni. The Evzoni are a bit unique, in that they wear a kilt-like uniform for their ceremonial duty.
- The Acropolis: The pride of the city, set high above the other buildings, was The Acropolis. When I visited in the morning, the sun was already scorching because on the Acropolis there is no shade… whatsoever. The walk up is also more difficult than one’d imagine, especially because the stone walkways, most remaining from the Classical period, was extremely slippery. My mom ate it on the way back down. It was pretty incredible though, just how close you could come to seeing the ruins. It was especially fun to have learned about it before (AP Art History perks I guess), and then seeing it in person. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be.
- Panathenaic Stadium: This massive stadium hosted the very first of the revived Olympic Games.
Walking back from the Acropolis, I recommend stopping by the Acropolis Museum. Yes, there are lots of sculptures recovered from the Acropolis there, more than the vast majority would care to see, but the restaurant on the second floor was particularly nice. It also offered a very pretty, uninterrupted view of the Acropolis.
Athens truly offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the remains of history, though I do believe, you only really need to visit once in your lifetime.