The first thing that you notice about this city is that it is simply dominated by the acropolis which looks out over the city from its highest point. The other thing is that as you walk through the city you see the very new building that co-exist right next to ancient ruins that are left as they are for the most part.
Arriving here the transport is quite nice and it is easy to get to my hostel which just happens to be run by a couple from Perth which made things easier. With this and the fact that the kitchen was closed or accommodation I decided to try bargain down the price, but instead they upgraded the room. The upgraded room is actually a dorm bed inside an apartment which is quite nice having your own kitchen and bathroom for the price of dorm bed. The kitchen came in handy here as eating cheap in Greece is only possible by eating gyros (kebabs) which are ~$3 each, two gyros initially is a godsend for a meal but after a few you really want something different. The one great thing here though is that because the delivery guys use scooters (and the footpaths) any kebab order over 5 euros includes free delivery - brilliant because you don't even have to leave the bar to get a kebab. Since my mate behind the bar ordered one everytime he worked it became hard to avoid. Other food here sets you back in the vicinity of $20, whilst cooking is not much cheaper than the gyros it does offer some variety.
They also have a nice little sports bar that became a regular haunt of mine especially with regular coverage of the cricket,rugby union, champions league, NFL and NHL. People were amazed at how I would go from talking football, to hockey, to soccer, to union and then attempt to explain cricket to them.
They also have a quiz once a week that I managed to finish second one week and win the next (continuing my good run overseas), not bad when I was up against teams of 4! Unsurprisingly to everyone there I was 5/5 after sport, and 9/10 after movies and sport. I then finished with 13/20 quite sad really even sadder for that to be the winning score. Predictably the winning prize was ouzo with a kicker of dodgy bubbly.
The good (and bad) thing about getting to know the bar staff well was that I paid for roughly every second drink there. The biggest problem this created was their willingness to provide the free beers with free shots of ouzo, especially after I indicated my dislike for it. Seriously terrible stuff even when it’s free!
The Acropolis is the main attraction here with its dominant Parthenon which combined with the much smaller temple of Athena are used to navigate the city as they are visible from just about everywhere, indeed it becomes quite disorientating when you can’t see it. When you walk up to the Acropolis you cannot help but be amazed by the engineering achievement that is best shown by the Parthenon. All the columns are made without any cement or the like so the column pieces fit perfectly on top of each other with only slight convex deviations from the straight line for strength, but so slight are they that unless you are aware of the fact they look perfectly straight. The sheer size of the temple which is just awe inspiring and makes you wonder just how this could have been achieved roughly 2500 years ago! But perhaps the most impressive thing is the intricate detail to which they carved the tops of the Corinthian columns and also the head pieces right through to the ceiling – just incredible. The temple of the Athena which also remains on top of the Acropolis is equally impressive with its intricate design but is much smaller roughly a third the size of the Parthenon. The only sad thing is that the country is undertaking extensive renovations of the ruins and it is impossible to get a picture without some scaffolding in it but this seems to be a bit of a theme around the world now with all the major attractions. Perhaps by the end of my trip I can bring out a calendar of the “scaffolds of the great wonders of the world”.
The ticket also includes access to the temple of Zeus, the roman and greek agoras and a few other ruins. The temple of Zues despite being mostly collapsed has some columns that remain giving you an idea of the sheer size of this construction, they certainly didn’t do things in half measures. It also has one column that fell that they have not removed so that you can gain an appreciation of the way the columns are formed by the pieces. The two agoras (which roughly translate to town squares) are impressive more so in their size that what remains however there is one temple that remains and is the most complete with everything except part of the roof intact.
Getting out of Athens is also hard with seemingly no cheap transport options and also the fact that the destinations you want to see are rarely on train lines. Couple that with the fact that other than Athens there are not really any hostels that exist so you are forced to go down the route of cheap single hotels which is also annoying (not to mention pricier that you would like). At the moment it is very off season which is good because it means that you can negotiate room prices a bit more but also means that bus & train timetables are limited and there are very few tourists around.
Managed to get myself to a football or as it should be known soccer game in Greece that was supposed to be incredible with the passion of the crowd as easy to see as the flares that they were lighting. The game was between one of the local Athens giant teams, Panathiniakos and a team from out of town. This helped a bit as it meant that the only fans there were the local ones and thus the crowd would be well behaved. Yes, but this was Greece and well behaved has a slightly different meaning here and with only one side of the grandstand packed there was plenty of noise, plenty of passion, plenty of abuse at the ref and a deafening silence when the away team scored, then they started on their own players! But all was forgiven when the home team scored to tie the game which signalled the time to light what seemed like a couple of hundred flares to the point where parts of the grandstand dissappeared and made the air almost unbreathable. After this we experienced a lot of time wasting by the away team which ofcourse required much abuse but at the end of the game the 1-1 scoreline was not what the fans wanted and didn't they let everyone from the ref to their own players know about it. All a great experience and one that should definitely be experienced but the recommendation I got to spend 2 euro on the home scarf was a worth while investment - certainly would be interesting with both sets of fans here. The other thing it did allow me to do was see the olympic stadium which like everything in Greece looks really nice but fails to function well and with the athletic track between the grandstand and the gal some atmosphere is lost, but it does atleast stop the flares going on to the ground.
The other thing in Athens is that even after a week I am yet to figure where you can actually walk here. The roads belong to the cars, the footpath belongs to the scooters and as far as I can tell the zebra crossing belongs to the cars that are turning right. Add to that the fact that the pedestrian crossings here are ridiculously short and as a result you end up running across the crossing as the light it starting to go red.