Three AM, and I was wide, wide awake. I am sure glad to be working through this jet lag in a lovely Athens apartment instead of from the open road. Ben, on the other hand, slept beautifully, but woke up with the sun. By 7, we were off to try another card in the ATM (Yesterday we didn’t have the PIN). This time, we were met with success! With actual currency in hand, we strolled around the neighborhood as it was waking up for the day, checking out the grit of the Athenian suburbs.
We’d been warned once or twice that Athens lacks charm, and though it doesn’t have the architectural coziness of other European cities, the friendly culture here has made the place seem really lovely. Upon hearing our English (or maybe spotting our camera bag- we totally look like tourists) people have been quick to offer us a smile, directions, or assistance. We actually feel very at home here.
We poked around the local church and walked through shady blocks of closed up cafes. The grocery store was not yet open, but we snagged a savory cheesy pastry to share on the way home. Back in the apartment, Ben got right to work while I did a little reading before heading back out for groceries.
We’ve been to grocery stores in a lot of countries, but this one left me guessing. I couldn’t help but snag a few unknown items, mimicking what everyone else was buying. Upon my return home, we had an interesting taste test. The container that I assumed to be some kind of fruit sweetened yogurt turned out to be an awful fish flavored mess, setting off my gag reflex instantly. My better purchases included yogurt, pita, and fresh veggies for making us a nice fresh lunch.
Finally, around 11:30, we got a call from the airport (we were on our Google Voice line, which was rendering us basically on house arrest until they called) indicating that our box had arrived! I went down to greet the driver and collected our precious missing box. With all of our major issues resolved, we headed for the metro to go check out Athens. Soon, we were downtown, ready to visit the Acropolis. We might have thought out our timing a little better, since the day was roughly 90 degrees, sunny and humid, but since we’d already made the trip, it seemed a shame not to stay out and enjoy. We spent plenty of time lounging in the shade, listening to the music coming from the streets and looking at our map before we began the hike up the hill. I’d forgotten how lovely the pace of slow travel can be.
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when our guidebook indicated that the ruins are perpetually covered in scaffolding for ongoing restoration work. Apparently, the plan was to have the restoration complete for the 2004 Olympics that were hosted here, but the plan fell short and the work is still underway. Some now estimate that the project will take 40 years. Usually, we’ve found that restoration projects just make for bad pictures and there is usually nothing actually happening on the project, but today, work crews were out in force, cleaning and working on the old pillars we came to see. Instead of being an eyesore, the project actually made the visit really interesting! The equipment they use to work on such huge old structures is huge and invasive and the magnitude of the undertaking was really impressive.
The ancientness of the walls, pillars, sewer systems and churches was enough to make me feel amazingly small, knowing how many people had walked on the same footings over the centuries. Our guidebook told of the invasions of the Romans, Venetians and the Turks and we took a quick pass up a big rock where Paul brought Christianity to Greece. So many happenings crammed into just a few city blocks.
Our stroll off the hill took us into the flea markets of Athens where we were just happy to be walking in the shade, noting that stuff here is amazingly inexpensive. Still, we don’t actually need or even have room to store anything.
I was also noticing that subtle nag in my hip, reminding me that too much time on my feet was going to be a mistake, so we eventually bought ourselves a cold drink and headed back to the subway for another afternoon nap and a session of rebuilding bicycles.