Athens, Greece

Today was a mind-blowing, life-changing day for all of us.  We arrived in Piraeus, Greece early this morning and Neil got some great shots of the sunrise...

We usually explore cities on our own and have no interest in ever doing group tours, but we knew we wanted to see as much of Athens as possible.  So, about a month ago, we made arrangements for a full-day, private tour of the city.  Renee - thank you so much for recommending Paul.  His son, Nick, picked us up and was the greatest guide ever.  This truly was the only way to go.  We made it into Athens in no time, and we  saw way more than we ever could have navigating the city on our own - and we beat the crowds.  It was one of the greatest travel days we’ve ever had.

Our first stop was the unbelievable Acropolis.  Pericles commissioned most of the building on top in the 5th century BC.  We checked out some of the smaller monuments, like the Theater of Dionysos, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion.

We walked a little further and were standing in the presence of the Parthenon. 

It really is spectacular.  The Parthenon itself is just amazing and the view of the city is almost as great.  We were really fortunate to get to the Acropolis so early because the crowds were showing up just as we were leaving.  Our second stop was the Temple of Zeus,

and then the Roman Stadium.  The stadium was cool because it is where the Athens Marathon ends every year, and the site of the first modern olympic games in 1896.

After we saw the changing of the guard, we went to the top of Lykavittos Hill - the highest point of the city.  It was a long walk to the top, but you could see forever.

We went to the Plaka for lunch in a traditional taverna and had a really great meal.

After lunch, we went to the ancient agora and saw the Temple of Hephaestus

and down to the Roman agora to see the Tower of Winds.

Finally, we went to the New Acropolis Museum, which is incredible.  We were able to see what remains of the Parthenon’s original metopes, pediments, and the famous frieze.  Today was really unforgettable - one of the most intense travel experiences we’ve had.  The beauty of the Greek monuments is overwhelming, as is the sense of importance about the history behind such an incredible society.  Some people were really worried about coming to Athens because of all the recent protests and violence.  We don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff because it can make you too afraid to go anywhere, ever.  And, there wasn’t any reason to be worried today.  Athens was full of life and cool people and made for a really great experience for all of us.  Hayden thinks Athens is one of the greatest places on earth, tied with Rome, and I can’t even believe how much he has learned from all the traveling he has done in his eight years.  Violet is off to a good start too, but all she will probably remember from today was eating a brick of fresh Feta cheese, watching the giant black ants, and the many, many dogs that roam the city. 

Tomorrow, we have the first of our two days in Istanbul.  We have a private guide both days there, and again when we get to Kusadasi and head out to Ephesus.  We are so excited to spend some time in Turkey. 

© Knstrong 2013