Our third day in Greece was a long one, and I took about a million photos throughout — most of them featuring some kind of columns. I’ve got your Doric, your Ionic, your Corinthian. I’ve got columns in all states of repair or disrepair, including columns covered with scaffolding, fallen to the ground and in pieces. It’s a real Greek column party over here, and you are invited. But that’s not all!
Before I get into my recap of day three, I’ve got to fill you in on a little detail I forgot yesterday: my Tourist Hat. I don’t know what it is, but I have some kind of disorder that cause me, when on vacation, to make ill-considered hat purchases. I just try on tons of hats and I think I look good in every one of them (“I look so good in hats! I should be a hat person!”) and I decide to buy one and wear it for some small number of days before regretting it, hating it, and never wearing it again. Of course, though, I still transport the stupid hat back home, because what if I need to wear it? Well, the foolish purchase of a Tourist Hat took place on day two, which is why you will see it appear in photos today. I could go on — the style I wanted to buy, why I didn’t buy it, why I bought the one I bought and now don’t like, why I thought I needed it in the first place (the sun) — but I will try to let the whole Hat Situation go. Hat: I bought one. There.
Day three started with another incredible breakfast on our hotel’s rooftop.
I mean, can you even?
After we had fueled up for the day ahead we headed out toward the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and more. The Acropolis is one of the highest spot in Athens, so it was going to be a bit of a climb (but far from being our highest climb while in Greece!). We made our way up by starting at the Theater of Dionysos and climbing up the rows of amphitheater seats.
With every step of the climb, we were treated to even more exciting views of the city below.
As we wound our way around the toward the entrance to the top, we passed by the incredible Odeon of Herodes Atticus, another theater that is still in use today.
Look at the way the upper walls of the Odeon break up the view of the city below:
Wouldn’t that be an awesome place to see a production? Can you imagine?
As we got to the top of the hill, we had to pass through the Proplyaea, which serves as the main entry point. This was about where we realized just how crowded the site was going to be. Dozens of huge tour groups and individuals were swarming the entrance, and we basically just had to fall in line with the traffic and go with the flow. The crowds of pushy people and the many stairs had me feeling a little anxious, but I supposed if I wanted to see the famous citadel I had to just suck it up and deal, which I did. It was worth it. When we emerged, the Parthenon stood before us, lit by the blinding sun, covered by scaffolding, and surrounded by people.
Once we were able to move around a little more freely as the crowd by the entrance started breaking up, we could see it from better angles and try to take some photos.
I had been most excited about seeing the Erechtheion, another temple atop the Acropolis, because it houses the Porch of the Caryatids, which is one of my favorite ancient architectural things. And there it was:
After we got our fill of gazing at the ancient temples (which took a while — there is a lot to take in and it can feel overwhelming, in a good way), we walked around the outer edge of the hilltop to appreciate the view of the city and see just how far up we’d climbed. It was beautiful up there.
See the Temple of Zeus in the center below? That’s right by our hotel.
Or, it was beautiful up there until this Horrible Woman started loudly speculating about what would happen to a person who fell from the wall. “If someone fell from up here, do you think they would survive? I mean, what would happen to them? Would they survive? What do you think,” she kept repeatedly asking her friend in a loud and obnoxious manner, just at the exact time that my husband was sitting on the wall so I could take his picture. What the HELL, lady? My slight fear of walls/ledges in high places kicked in and I was ready to push her over the edge. Sheesh. Keep your thoughts to yourself!
Unrelatedly, our hike back down the hill seemed to take forever because I don’t think I’d ever felt so thirsty in my life. I began cursing the tiny European water glasses at breakfast (“It’s so hard to get ENOUGH!”) and hallucinating beverage kiosks around every turn (“Is that one? Oh NO, it’s just a damned INFORMATION kiosk!”), but you will be happy to know that I survived. When we came to a beverage kiosk, I bought TWO bottles of water (only 0.50 Euros!) and downed one immediately.
Then, it was time for my husband to buy his own Tourist Hat. I will refrain from giving you a detailed recap of his shopping procedure (it would take another thousand words; the man is selective) and simply show you the hats:
We were ready and outfitted for a day of tourism in the hot Aegean sun. A couple of cappuccino freddos (cappuccini freddi?) sealed the deal. Also, please allow me to show you this cool method for managing receipts on a windy day — Greek cafés all seemed to have smart ways of doing it, this being just one example:
After coffee, we walked through two more ancient sites before lunch: The Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora. Here are some more columns and ancient rocks in the Library of Hadrian:
And in the Roman Agora:
We had wanted to see the Ancient [Greek] Agora, but sort of got confused by the presence of the Roman Agora, so on the way out we asked where the Greek Agora was and found our way there. Once inside, we realized it was much more expansive than either of the two sites we’d just seen, and we really didn’t have enough time to appreciate it at that moment. (We were already “late” for lunch, i.e. hungry, and didn’t quite have the energy to soak up yet more ancient wonders.) We decided we would have to come back to get a better look at the grounds, which we did do on our last day in Greece. For now, I’ll show you a couple of photos from the Agora, but I’ve got a lot more for later:
Our lunch plan was to take the Red Tourist Bus (not the actual name) to the port city of Piraeus to check out the coastline and get some seafood*. We had bought tickets for a hop-on-hop-off bus for both Athens and Rome, thinking it would be an easy way to get transport to sites that were farther away than we wanted to walk. It worked out nicely in Athens, getting us to the port city of Piraeus (about 8 miles outside of Athens) quickly and easily.
(Just a random photo of a scooter and flowers that I snapped on the way to the bus because I loved it.)
Piraeus’ port area is scenic and busy with a strip of restaurants and cafés down by the water’s edge, and CW had wanted to eat some fresh seafood, so it was definitely the place to be. Except that the first place where we sat down brought us a menu without a single seafood dish on it. Whoops. We awkwardly said goodbye to the waiter and chose again — a pretty, partly open-air restaurant across the street with a view to the marina. This time, we chose a winner:
The lunch we ate at Varoulko will go down as probably the best meal I ate in Greece. We asked the waiter to bring us a dry white wine, which turned out to be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Moschofilero and it was wonderful. We had a bowl of olives and pickled peppers and cucumbers to go with our bread, then we shared two seafood starters, one warm (the grilled octopus with fava bean purée below) and a pickled fish thing (?) served with caramelized onions. It was incredible. The wall behind us was covered in dozens of culinary awards (including a Michelin star). It appeared that we had stumbled into one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the city. Definitely recommended.
*I know, seafood. I wanted to eat some on this trip and I most definitely did. Don’t give me any guff, please.
We were on a great food buzz after lunch and took our time strolling back to the bus stop and taking photos of the lovely blue water in the marina. We goofed off a bit waiting for the bus and acting like tourist rubes.
On the way back to the hotel for our siesta, we stopped into a pâtisserie that was selling delicious pastries (obviously) and wine. Perfect combination of things to sell, am I right? Pastries and wine? Why do I live in Alabama where there are no pâtisseries? At any rate, a dip in the pool and a nap in the sun and a glass of bubbly while getting ready for dinner was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. We need to work this kind of siesta into our normal lives at home, I think.
On the way to dinner, we discovered one of my favorite areas in Athens, the Secret Alleyways (my name for them) through a little hidden neighborhood high on the side of the Acropolis hill. These are little paths and stairs between small houses that sit all stacked up on the hillside with barely any space between them. To get through, you have to follow all the twists and turns, just inches away from people’s doors and windows, until you pop out on the other side.
When we emerged, we caught a view of the sun setting over the city.
Winding our way down the hill just a bit, we came to the taverna area of town, where restaurants/cafés/bars sit all stacked up the hill with tables out in the street, so crowded you can barely get through. Again, a persistent maître d’ at a restaurant called Sissifos beckoned us in and told us her boss would show us the rooftop seating area. This very old man (above) proceeded to walk us up three flights of stairs to the roof, which, as promised, had a beautiful view of the city. As my husband put it later on, how could we say no after he walked us up all those stairs?
So we ate a lovely dinner at Sissifos. (CW ordered a whole fish of some kind and our waiter, assisted by his apprentice with a pen light, did this elaborate de-boning performance at the table. It was impressive.) And guess who was eating at the table behind us? A big group of Americans. They looked kind of rock-and-roll-ish and were talking about band drama that had taken place on Facebook (fairly amusing to listen to), and then told their waiter they had to leave soon because they had a gig that night at the Fuzz Club. Thanks to google, we were able to determine that we had eaten dinner next to the Brian Jonestown Massacre. If only I’d ever watched that documentary, Dig!, I would have been able to identify Anton Newcombe by sight. (Shameful of me.)
Leaving the restaurant, I managed to quickly snap this shot of the taverna area at night — if you look, you can see Sissifos himself standing and talking to the maître d’ at the top of the hill. Yes, Sissifos is his real name. When he introduced himself, my husband asked, “So, you push the rock up the hill,” to which he just laughed.
My travel journal tells me we finished the day with a Kinder Bueno in bed. Basically a banner day in Greece and worthy of the ~250 photos I took. You can see the rest of the photos from day three here.