Day three in Athens was definitely my favourite day. This is, in my opinion, the one day that you absolutely need if you ever visit Athens. It was nothing short of incredible!
We started the day with a visit to an ancient Greek agora – basically, the ruins of an ancient city centre. Based in lush green gardens, filled with winding paths and towering trees, and littered with the most wonderful statues and plaques everywhere; it was exactly how i’d imagined ancient Athens to be. The stuff they leave lying around here is nothing short of unbelievable! Everywhere you look, there’s the remnants of what once were imposing statues, some much larger than lifesize, and plaques commemorating individuals of long, long ago, and pieces of columns and decorations that once ornamented the dozens of buildings that used to be there.
We visited the museum inside the agora, which was filled with some of the best statues I saw the entire trip. Everywhere were figures of Aphrodite, Athena and Eros, my personal favourites. I couldn’t stop snapping away! When I finally managed to tear myself away, we decided to take a quick selfie at the balcony overlooking the rest of the gardens – it was only then that we noticed the absolutely enormous ruin of a temple right behind us! Almost entirely invisible from ground level, the temple was nothing but incredible. We found out it was the Temple of Hephaestus, and is one of the best-preserved ancient temple ruins around. Even the roof is still intact! It was being explored by archaeologists when we got closer, but we still managed to get a good look around.
Once we were sure we’d seen everything the agora had to offer, the real excitement began; we began walking up the winding hill towards the Acropolis. Looming over the city and visible from almost everywhere, I’d been excited for months (probably years, actually) about visiting it, and I couldn’t quite believe it as we climbed ever closer.
The hill was exciting in itself; at every turn there was something new to look at, including the ruins of an ancient stadium (above), and the most wonderful panoramic view across the city. And then we got to the top and I don’t have words.
Even though the temples are all ruins, and the remaining statues are replicas, it was magnificent. A proper, once-in-a-lifetime, pinch-me experience. We took hundreds of photos to make sure we could savour every second of our time up there, to make sure we caught every tiny detail. It was amazing to see these ruins and imagine what they must have been like in their glory days, free of the scaffolding that covered large sections of them. Even the way back down was astounding, with the hill littered with statues and plaques and a second stadium, this one with statues and friezes still in place. If you ever do one thing in Greece, make it this. This is such a short paragraph to describe something so monumental, but that’s literally because it was indescribable.
To be honest, the rest of the third day faded into oblivion after this, (how could anything compare?!) so we’ll skip into day four, our final day in Athens. There was only one more thing we wanted to see; the National Archaeological Museum. This place was fascinating; it’s packed (and I mean packed) with the statues and relics that you’ve only ever seen in history books. Incredible pieces like the infamous bronze statue of Zeus – found in a shipwreck by the way, what the hell?! – and the most gorgeous marble statues of all of the gods and goddesses. I particularly loved this one, which was a miniature replica of the giant statue of Athena which once adorned the Acropolis, standing 12 meters high and towering above the skyline. It was just as good as the British Museum, if not better – after all, what could be better than seeing these masterpieces in the city that they were made to adorn?
So, with aching feet and happy hearts, it was time to wave goodbye to a city that truly gripped us. We’ve already made a pact to return in a few years (more like 20 or so) to see the Acropolis again, hopefully without its scaffolding and restored back to some of its former glory. Although our taxi driver informed us that the scaffolding has been there since the 1970s, so it might take a wee bit longer than 2034….
It might not be the most glamorous city, or the slickest, or the prettiest – but Athens was definitely had the most captivating places I’ve ever been lucky enough to visit.