Trip Start May 05, 2012
54Trip End Mar 01, 2013
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Where I stayed
Hotel Aristoteles Athens
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
The atmosphere of Athens was very charged that day. As we were walking, separate protest groups were gathering to march to Omonia Square where from 5 pm, a big march was planned on Syntagma square (outside the parliament offices). This day the parliament was voting on the latest round of austerity cuts to gain more bailout loans - policies that are deeply unpopular with the Greek population, so much so that many are calling their government illegitimate as they are not listening to the population. The protest at this stage was very peaceful, but having said that there was a huge police presence and riot buses filled with police in riot gear were making the rounds of the streets. There were also lots of people on the street, and while the area our hotel was in wasn't a terrible neighbourhood, we only walked a couple of blocks until we stumbled upon a junkie den. We quickly decided that the best idea for us was to return to the restaurant across the road, get something nice and easy to eat and then watch whatever was going to happen unfold through the BBC. After two chicken souvlakis (they put fries in the souvlaki - how weird is that? Good though!) and a beer we called it a night (about 5.30/6). We were asleep by about 8 pm and so missed all the drama that happened in Syntagma square.
Catching up on the news the next morning (we woke about 5- yuck) we saw that the protest of last night did not stay peaceful
On the plus side, our hotel provided free breakfast which included PROPER BREAD! You have no idea how exciting this was for us after six months of the sweet stuff in China - absolute heaven!
We headed off to Monastiraki square to meet with our tour guide from Athens Free Walking Tours, which despite the rain was going ahead. Our guide was called Walter and he was a classics major and knew a lot about Athens from living there for quite a long time. He took us for a 3 hour walk and we covered Hadrian's Library, the Roman Agora/forum, Ancient Agora, Aeropagus, the Acropolis, Dionysus' theatre, Hadrian's Arch, the temple of Zeus, Zappos house and the Parliament building. More information on these in the pics. You would never have been able to tell that a riot had broken out last night in front of the Parliament!
At the end of our "free" walking tour we decided to give Walter a tip (we were the only people on the tour, and while they don't pressure you to give a tip, it is nice to do so!), as he had been a fantastic tour guide. We would really recommend this tour - by far the best we took on our trip.
We spent the rest of the day eating, sleeping, walking and more eating before heading back to the hotel for another early night
The next day we decided to spend taking a closer look at the attractions that we didn't go into on the walking tour. Our Acropolis ticket gave us entry into these so off we went. The weather was really warm, beautifully sunny and we had lots of fun wandering around Hadrian's library, the Roman forum and Ancient Agora. I particularly liked the Ancient Agora - standing in the birthplace of democracy and pretending to be Socrates like the political science geek I am!
We then headed up and over the hill and saw Dionysis' theatre before finding a nearby place for lunch. We saw the Acropolis museum in the afternoon and then walked home through Plaka - the tourist part of Athens (it's very beautiful and clean with very little graffiti compared to the rest of the city). We had dinner in Monastiraki square where we got kebabs and frozen yoghurt (mine with quince topping - delicious!) and watched a group of drummers beat out rhythms (they were really good) and a crazy drugged guy dance with an umbrella. We have a video which we will try to put up.
Our final full day in Athens was spent looking at the Greek archaeological museum (where we got completely lost
We thought that seeing Pireus port would be a good thing to do, so we got a train out there to get lunch. Unfortunately it isn't a very pretty place (not quite sure what I was expecting, it is a modern functioning port after all!) and was frankly quite depressing and run down. We had a quick look then got back on the train to go back to town. We had lunch in Plaka and then spent the afternoon looking at shops, souvenirs and beginning our fridge magnet collection.
We flew out the next morning after taking the very simple option of the train out to the airport. Next stop Rome!
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