Walking Back In Time

Finding places to stay has often proven difficult but with the help of our friends finding places in Europe has been made much easier. We met Patrick and Jessie at Atonement Lutheran Church back when we used to live in Kansas. Patrick was hosting a bible study for young professionals and we became friends instantly.…

Finding places to stay has often proven difficult but with the help of our friends finding places in Europe has been made much easier. We met Patrick and Jessie at Atonement Lutheran Church back when we used to live in Kansas. Patrick was hosting a bible study for young professionals and we became friends instantly. A year ilater, as we started planning our trip we called Patrick for tips since he was from Germany. He graciously offered to contact his friends and family to see if we could possibly stay during our time there and they all, so very nicely accepted us.

Random statue

Tired, and hungry, we got off the plane in Athens after a beautiful layover in the city of Qatar. As I write this, I am noticing the pattern of being tired and hungry after our flights. Waiting in check in lines, security lines, custom lines, trying to eat, and timing it all so you don’t miss your flight really takes a lot out of a person. We were glad that we had one more short flight to Rome, and then a long break from planes before we would leave Dusseldorf, Germany to head back home.

In Athens, we stayed with Patrick’s Uncle René. He is a Pastor at Evangelische Kirche Deutscher Sprache very close to the hill of Leviticus and the city center. René gives his sermons in German. The church has a guest apartment with two bedrooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom that they provide for guests or friends. We shared the apartment with a very nice French woman. We both tried to communicate but had to settle with just saying hi and bye one another.

It was great having a kitchen again. We grabbed groceries from down the street and made most of our meals there. It’s nice to be able make your own dinner every now and then. It is much cheaper than dining out and you don’t have to worry about translating the menu so you don’t order liver or something.

Since the apartment was in such a great location, we were within walking distance to all the major historical sites. Justin and I racked up a lot of foot mileage during our time here. It’s been great not having to rely on a car, finding parking, and paying for parking.

While walking the streets of Athens, the first thing we noticed was the presence of the police every couple of blocks. Standing in groups next to motorcycles, they were wearing riot gear and held machine guns. We were caught off guard, and later learned there presence was a response to recent protests and riots. There was still evidence of the riots as we walked and saw shattered shop windows on some of the streets. Strikes have been continuously called for by the unions in response to the austerity package proposed by the Greek government. The package increases taxes and makes other cuts to meet goals set by the EU so Greece can get more funding and not go bankrupt. Many Greeks see these policies as a punishment on the lower class for the mistakes of the banks and government. We were fortunate to never be in the midst of any protests or labor strikes. It has recently gotten much more worse, and violence has picked up. The strikes have now been forcing the closure of transportation like ferries, buses and even the airport. We hope and pray that they will find a peaceful resolution soon.

Evidence of riots that had taken place

To help find our way around we bought a large map and with the help of René, plotted our route to the Acropolis and other exciting sites through out the city. Our first stop was the National Garden. It’s a peaceful park in the middle of a chaotic city. There are lots of paths to choose from. We came to a zoo-like area that kept different types of birds, goats and bunnies to sit and watch. There were lots of ponds and one memorable one was filled with an incredible amount of turtles, both big and small!

Big statue by the National Garden
Bunny, “Thats my leaf!”
Walking through the National Garden!
Turtles apparently aren’t fans of personal space. 🙂

We then made our way to Zapio Palace. Make sure to take a look inside, it is beautiful!

Zapio Palace and Fountain
Zapio Palace

From the Palace we crossed the road and reached the Olympian, with the Temple of Olympian Zeus. You can buy the tickets here for entrance into all the major historical sites but the museum is not included. The tickets were 12 Euros per person or 6 Euros for students. The museum, I think, cost 10 Euros per person. The Olympian Temple of Zeus ended up to be Justin’s favorite site in Athens. Behind it you could see the acropolis rising high above the city. We walked around seeing the tall pillars and some stones that spilled over like domino’s that had collapsed. An archaeological site also next to the Olympian as well as partially excavated Roman bath houses.

Roman Bath Houses
Great shot of the Olympian Temple of Zeus and Acropolis

Next we walked over to Dionisiou Aeropagitou road, and grabbed some lunch before the long hike up to the Acropolis.

Walking past the new Acropolis Museum, we went to the Odeon of Pericles, Theatre of Dionysus, Askleipeion, Herod Atticus Odeon, and finally the Parthenon. It was amazing to think about how many had walked these same paths before and imagine what life must have been like in ancient times.

Statue of Papposilenos from the Roman stage of the Theatre of Dionysus
Justin at the Theatre of Dionysus
Up top at the Acropolis
Looking down from the Acropolis to the Olympian
Another building on the Acropolis

Making our way through the Plaka we found our way to the Roman Agora and Library of Adriands. We then walked through a few busy streets lined with shops aimed at tourists. A fruit stand that had a massive tower of meticulously placed strawberries was a an impressive sight to see. The workers were shouting out in Greek what I assume to be the orders, making it somewhat of a show. As we made our way around Ancient Agora, we walked through the park of Thisio and came back down the Apostolou Pavlou Road to where we started at lunch. Our feet were very tired after all that walking so we headed home for the night.

Roman Agora
Strawberries anyone?

One of the destinations René had recommended was a town called Delphi. He said it was completely different from Athens, a peaceful place on a serene mountainside. We took his advice and made plans to go there the next day.

In ancient times Delphi was considered the center of the known world. This was because according to mythology, Zeus had released two eagles in opposite directions and they met in Delphi. It is said to be the place where heaven and earth met, and where man was closest to God.

On our way to Delphi

Sticking to the last-minute nature of this trip, when Justin and I boarded the coach to Delphi, we weren’t sure what we would see or do there. After a scenic three hour bus ride, we arrived in Delphi, a town on a beautiful hill and was about quarter mile long. I was impressed with the bus drivers ability to squeeze through the tiny city streets and winding mountain roads. Our first destination was for lunch. We found a place just a block away at a restaurant with an amazing view of the towns below (Itea, Kirra and Galaxidi) that were located right by the sea. They had amazing cuisine to match the view. Justin ordered the roasted rooster which came with perfectly cooked pasta. I had the pomegranate salad with mustard honey vinaigrette. After lunch we researched about what to do in Delphi and headed off in search of the ruins.

Restaurant in Delphi
View from the Restaurant
Heading to the ruins

There was a sidewalk we took along the main road that headed out of town. Amazing views of the mountains and valleys surrounded us, and olive tree groves could be seen scattered on the hillside across from us. When we made it to the ruins, we were greeted by a sign saying they had already closed. Ouch! There is also a museum and it was also closed. It was a Saturday and only 3pm, so make sure to check the times before you go. The path continued on so we continued walking on to an open area that was the site of the Gymnasium and Paliastra. It was used to train athletes who competed in the Pythian games. The games were held every four years to commemorate the victory Apollo had over Python. We went further still to the Temple of Tholos. It was a rounded temple with colored marble and Lego looking marble pieces scattered on the ground. Historians are not sure what this temple was used for but they had partially reconstructed it.

Coffin outside of the Museum in Delphi
Looking up to the stadium and other ruins
Temple Tholos
Lego looking blocks at the Temple Tholos
Mosaic floors near the Temple Tholos

Delphi would be great place to vacation for a couple of days to get away from the city. Visiting in May, there were barely any tourists.A few were bused in to see the ruins like us, but everyone headed out of town since that is where the ruins were. We left Delph much more relaxed than when arrived.

Heading back to Athens from Delphi

The next day was Sunday and we stepped out our door and walked up the steps to church. I wish all our commutes were so easy! Even though we do not speak German we were excited to attend. On this particular Sunday, it was the celebration of music with lots of beautiful German songs. After service we went into the garden behind the church where they served tea and cookies and encouraged fellowship. We met a nice couple who spoke English and helped translate the message of the sermon. We learned René’s was speaking about the power music has to bring people together. He used examples, good and bad, like Martin Luther, Hitler, and Bach.

After church we walked to the new Acropolis Museum. It’s a must-see. There is much to learn and we could have easily spent 6 hours there. From the road, we walked down steps towards the museum entrance. We were impressed to find that there were plates of thick glass replacing much of the concrete pathways allowing you could see the excavation of the ruins underneath. It is still a continuing project for the archaeologists working at the site. The entire museum was constructed over the ruins. We ate lunch at the museum’s cafe, and walked around studying the art, sculptures and reading all about ancient Greece. We really enjoyed our time spent there. I would recommend visiting the museum first and then visit the Acropolis. It will enhance the experience once you learn about the history of the area and what happened at each site.

New Acropolis Museum
Looking at the ruins under the Museum

We made dinner plans that night with René and his wife Christina. They took us to a favorite place of theirs that only had a few tables which were exclusively on the sidewalk. We shared some wine, a big plate of meats, salad, veggies and pita bread with a garlic and herb dip that was delicious. They explained how this was the traditional way to eat Greek food, family style, where you all share plates. We had a great discussion over dinner about how to engage youth who are increasingly distancing themselves from church and the local political unrest that had been unfolding. We then said our goodbyes as it was our last night in Greece.

The next morning we made it to the airport and discovered the painful fees associated with discount flights. We were on JetStar and while we each had a backpack and one small hand bag each, they required we each check one of them. None of the other flights we’d taken had required this and we have avoided checking bags like the plague because we didn’t want to deal with lost or damaged luggage. Then we found out it was a 35€ for each of the bags we’d need to check (about $50 USD). Ouch. They suggested we wrap them together with plastic wrap, making them one bag and costing 5€. So, we’d only have to pay 35€ instead of 70€. We didn’t really have a choice so we did it. Security was another long line with only three of the dozen or so positions open. We watched as the clock was neared our take off time. We arrived at the gate just in time and were excited that in just two hours, we’d be in Italy!