Two Week Vacation: Stop #1 - Athens

Trip Start Mar 29, 2007
Trip End Sep 30, 2009

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Woo hoo!  It's vacation time!  I've been looking forward to the next two weeks for a few months now...and the day has finally arrived.  The plan is as to Athens on 23-March (via Doha) and meet my friend Step from the States.  Spend a couple days in Athens and then ferry to Mykonos in the Greek Islands.  Spend a few days there then ferry to Kusadasi Turkey for a few days exploring the sites around Kusadasi (namely Ephesus and Pamukkale).  Bus up to Istanbul and wrap up the trip with 4 days there.

Wrapped up work around midnight Thursday night....good thing as my flight was at 4AM on Friday morning.  Got to the new Hyderabad airport for my first international departure out of it.  Can't believe there is a Hard Rock Cafe in the international departure lounge of the Hyderabad airport.  After falling asleep a few times, it was finally time to board my Qatar Airways flight to Doha (capital of Qatar).  Qatar Airways is a relatively new airline...but it's already been rated 5 star by and I can attest...even in coach it was great service.  I loved it that the in-flight monitor would occasionally show you which direction Mecca was in case you need a quick in-flight prayer.  After fours hours and many naps we arrived into Doha where I had two hours to kill before catching my connecting flight to Athens.  There was an A&W restaurant in the Doha airport so I had some breakfast and then boarding my connecting Qatar Airways flight.  Four hours later we were in Athens.  Took the train into the city and caught a metro which dumped me off at the front door of our hotel...Athens Studios.  It's associated with one of the larger hostels in town (Athens Backpackers), but the studios are separate mini-apartments...fully furnished just like any hotel.  Dumped my stuff off and took a walk around the neighborhood which is conveniently close to the  Acropolis....home to the Parthenon.  Took a look around the site without going in (saving that for tomorrow), found a nice lunch spot in a neighborhood called Plaka where the restaurant owner recommended a delicious dish called Pastichio...which was basically a baked pasta dish...damn good.  Wrapped up the walk near a Starbucks (yay) and bought some necessary supplies (beer and water) for the hotel room for later that evening.  Because the hotel room is associated with a large hostel...we get to use the hostel bar which is on the rooftop and has great views of the Acropolis.  The bartender was an American kid named Justin who made drinks like I like them...strong and cheap.  Met some cool people then left around 9PM to go collect Step who's flight landed and found him walking down a sidewalk towards the hotel.  Back at the hotel bar around 10, we made new friends and left on a pub crawl around 1AM with Justin leading us all thru a maze of streets to some bar called Spirit.  After a an hour, I was hungry and tired...Step was still going strong.  I left to grab a Gyro in the street...wandered around a bit, got way lost, took the wrong metro line, ended up in a taxi...and somehow got home around 3.
Day 2 was our only full day in Athens and it was dedicated to sightseeing...namely the Acropolis and the Parthenon.  We were blessed with amazing weather for the entire trip...highs in the 80's with no rain and nice the climb to the top wasn't too bad.  What can I say about the Acropolis...amazing to see it in person finally and to climb around the various buildings.  You can read more about it at the link above.  After climbing around for a few hours we were famished.  Walked back down to Plaka and found a cafe in a good people watching spot and had a decent meal and a couple beers.  Did I mention that Greece is effin' expensive...I think lunch was around $60USD.  We questioned a $3 charge on the bill and the waiter said it was for bread...we said we didn't have any bread...he said: "Hey...this is-a Greece-a." (say it in a Greek accent).  That would become a constant saying for Step and I the rest of the trip.  After lunch we walked to a travel agency to book our ferry tickets and then to the Temple of Zeus (built in 515 BC and originally had 104 fluted columns...not only a few remain standing).  After that we walked to first stadium of the modern Olympic era, the Panathinaiko Olympic Stadium.  First used in the 1870 Olympics, it's the only stadium in the world made entirely out of white marble and was even used a few years ago when the Olympics were in Athens.  We were invited by some other tourists to participate in a fake Olympic foot race for a photo opportunity which was fun.  I thought the guy that asked us to join in the race looked I asked Step if he looked like Jason Biggs from the American Pie movies.  Step said no way and then yelled his name "JASON!"...when the guy turned around Step said "Hey!  It is you!".  So we had to go in and do the obligatory photo with a random US actor in Athens who was planning on renting a sail boat and sailing around the Greek Islands with his new wife and friends...must be nice.  Not quite sure what we did for dinner that night, but of course we ended up at the hostel bar for happy hour and strong drinks made by Justin.  We met a bunch of cool people that night include some Aussies, Americans and Canadians and we all eventually ended up at Club Spirit.  The party ended there and then we made our way down to a Hookah Bar where there was more drinking, arm wrestling (WTF?) and hookah to be shared.  Back to crash at the hotel around 3 which was a bummer...because at 7 we need to be out and on the way to catch out 8AM ferry to Mykonos...ugh....too early.
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