I’m sure I’m not alone in having a list of places that I’d like to visit in my lifetime, and I’m sure all of us have a few ‘ultimate’ places that we’d love to travel to more than anywhere else. For me, Athens was at the top of that list, one of my ultimate destinations. Ever since we learned about the mythological tales of Olympus and the gods and goddesses in primary school, I’ve always been desperate to visit and see the sights for myself, so I was more than excited when we booked a trip to this ancient city on a whim back in the summer.
We arrived last Monday, in the midst of an annual protest(!) so we didn’t get a chance to see any of the sights. We were advised to stay in our hotel for the rest of the day to avoid any of the clashes in the streets surrounding us, so I decided to make the most of it by booking a Swedish massage in the hotel’s rooftop spa, looking out on to the most incredible view, of the Acropolis itself!
Tuesday dawned and we couldn’t wait to get out and make up for Monday’s lost time. We wandered up through Athens’ city centre, past the university and parks, and down to something I’ve been waiting to see for years; the ruins of the Temple of Zeus.
Photos can’t really show just how enormous this was, and how incredible it was to see. I almost couldn’t imagine what it must have been like when it stood complete. Scattered around the columns were pieces of the temple; some still beautifully carved, some even still engraved. The way it was placed was so well thought-out too; when we later visited the Acropolis we could see the temple perfectly from the top.
Later in the afternoon, we visited the Acropolis Museum. You might remember that we recently visited the British Museum here in London, to get an idea of what we could expect from Athens, and sadly, I think the British Museum was the better experience. All of the best bits seem to be over in London, with what feels a little bit like the leftovers in Athens. They still had some amazing pieces, such as the remaining real Caryatids (one in London, five in Athens), and countless sculptures and statues that were unbelievably well-preserved. It was still a great experience and it was amazing to see so much history in one place, but I couldn’t help but feel that the museum could be so much more.
After a wander around the city centre again, we headed out to dinner at a cocktail bar in the Plaka area, called Ciccus. This place was located in a strip of classic tourist restaurants, but this was one of the only ones filled with Athenians enjoying their evenings; I think we were the only tourists in there! The food and the cocktails were amazing, and it overlooked a fantastic ancient Greek agora that we couldn’t wait to explore the next day. I highly recommend Ciccus if you’re visiting Athens – I also insist that you have the chocolate mousse (easily one of the best things I’ve ever, ever eaten…)
We tumbled back into bed at the hotel exhausted after a long days’ exploring, but super excited for Wednesday’s activity – a trip to the Acropolis itself…