Balkans Day 15: Athens (part 1)

The day arrived sunny and bright as usual and after a quick breakfast at the hotel we prepared to walk into the city centre of Athens with the aid of a map we’d picked up the night before.  Leaving our hotel and its rather seedy neighbourhood behind we soon found ourselves on a main road heading towards the Acropolis and everyone’s must-do when in Athens.

The streets were busy with people heading off to work and opening up their shops and cafes.  As we got to a small square in the shadow of the ancient rock of the Acropolis we sat at one of these cafes for a quick tea before going up to our third World Heritage Site in as many days.  We sat for maybe half an hour and watched the life of Athens pass us by while we had a brief chat with a Danish guy and admired the graffiti which adorns just about anything which is static in this city.  I suppose in an urban area of almost four million people which hasn’t had its problems to seek recently this isn’t a surprise.

Some of the graffiti around the square where we had tea.
And a bit more.
Even on the pleasant narrow streets leading up to the Acropolis there was graffiti on display.

Walking past Hadrian’s Library, to which our €12 tickets would also give us access, we came up to the entrance and paid in to what we later learned has officially been designated as the preeminent monument on the European Heritage List (2007).  As we began to climb up we caught some of the views over the city and also spotted a team of archaeologists grubbing around in the dirt as archaeologists tend to do.

The first view out over the sprawl of Athens.
An archaeological team on their dig at the foot of the Acropolis.

Coming up to the top of the Acropolis we were not surprised to see the place already very busy as crowds of sightseers hit the bottleneck that is the Propylæa (monumental gateway) which leads to the main temple complex.

Crowds throng the steps outside the Propylæa.
Pillars guarding the entrance.

Coming through this gateway we were greeted by the stunning sight of the temple complex of the Acropolis of Athens in all its crumbling glory.  Despite the ravages of time, war and modern pollution this place truly is an awe-inspiring sight.  To our left stood the Erectheion dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, the foundations of the Old Temple of Athena, straight ahead was the Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus and to the right the crowning glory of the Parthenon itself, the main temple dedicated to Athena, the patron deity of the city which still bears her name.  Also to the right down below the Acropolis itself lies the magnificent Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysius Eleuthereus.

Some of the pillars of the Propylæa from inside the complex.
The Erectheion temple of Athena and Poseidon.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Even for those of you who have never visited this extraordinary place its sights are so familiar that the photos can speak for themselves…

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After a couple of hours of wandering around taking hundreds of photos and being shoved from all directions by Chinese tourists and deafened by exuberant Spanish tourists we’d seen enough and headed down to get an iced drink and head for the national gardens around the other side of the Acropolis.

Walking along the streets we realised we were in an altogether nicer area than the one we’d come from.  There was obviously a reason why our hotel was so cheap!  This area had some quaint streets and some larger ones lined with bars and cafes and a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere than ‘our’ district.

A different mode of transport around the base of the Acropolis.
A lovely tree and café-lined pedestrian street a little bit away from the Acropolis.

We walked on until we came out onto a main road with the Arch of Hadrian visible on the other side.  Crossing this took us in turn to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, the end-point of our morning explorations.  We spent some time wandering around here taking photos before stopping off for a well-earned drink prior to exploring some of the more modern treats of Athens…

Hadrian’s Arch near the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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12 thoughts on “Balkans Day 15: Athens (part 1)

    1. It’s just one of those things that you have to learn to accept. The parts of the city that we visited later were much nicer and a large part of Athens looks fine, just some areas that are a bit run-down as you would expect in such a large city 😀


    1. You’ll see a lot of people dipping into the bins after dark and a large number of people wandering around obviously just killing time because they’re unemployed but you’ll also see the fancy shops and cafes stuffed to the rafters by those fortunate enough to still have jobs so it’s a mixed bag. Loads of immigrants seem to be jobless and most of the public sector was the hardest hit so doubtless most job losses were blue collar workers. It’s definitely not as openly bad as it’s been painted but it can’t be ignored either.


  1. Wow you are in Athens 🙂 I live in Athens. Make sure to visit Acropoli’s museum, if you haven’t yet. I just love that musuem haha Also don’t forget to eat suvlaki 🙂
    PS. I really liked you posts for Albania. I am from Albania. The photos were great and it was nice to see that there are people who visit those “unpopular” countries. 🙂


    1. Albania was great – underdeveloped and rotten to its people outside Tiranë – but great. Check out my posts from Kukës and read about my time at the Acropolis. It’s in this post you know :-/


      1. Yes, I read the post 😛 But I meant the museum not Acropoli, Parthenona… There is a museum dedicated to Acropoli. It is amazing. I personally love it and that’s why I recomended it. Here’s the link for the museum 🙂
        Also I saw all the posts for Albania and Kosovo too 🙂 One of my favourite was for Kukes because of Genti and Jeta 🙂


        1. Cheers for that! 😀 We didn’t have enough time in Athens really to explore most of the museums and stuff. I think next year’s trip (wherever it might be) will be taken at a more leisurely pace with more time in certain destinations. This year’s trip was a bit too hectic but fabulous nonetheless 😀


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