Greece. What better place to go with my photographer friends? It has an interesting culture, great scenery, and I guess just a little bit of history. Ha. Let me rephrase. Greece is sooooo oooooold! I think that’s one of the things I liked about it most. “Old” in America is like 200 years. “Old” in Greece is like 2000 years. TWO THOUSAND YEARS, GUYS.
Anyway, I loved this trip and have a million photos to show you so I’m doing a Part I and Part II. Part I consists of the first few days we spent in Athens, and Part II is our venture into Santorini. I went with my usual travel buddy Dani (Greece marked the fourth country we have visited together) and Ashley, another talented photographer friend of ours. You can find Dani’s version of the trip here. Ashley was unavailable for comment. Haha. Just kidding. Her blog post will probably surface in another few months and I’ll link to it then.
When Dani and I first went to Iceland together I wrote about traveling with her, so it seems only fair to do the same for Ashley! Taking a trip with a new person is always a fun adventure, and I have to say Ashley made it really easy. Without further ado, here are five facts I learned about Ashley in Greece: 1.) She needs approximately 6000 calories a day to survive. Seriously, this girl could out-eat a sumo wrestler, I am sure. I say this in the nicest way possible. When you see a picture of Ashley, you will know I am not being mean because she is so tiny and so tall all at the same time. 2.) She can sleep through jackhammers. I thought I was pretty good at sleeping, but Ashley is way better. 3.) She doesn’t know when her passport expires. More on that in Part II. 4.) She can walk longer and farther in flip flops than anyone I know, but she probably needs someone to tell her which way to go. That someone should probably not be me. 5.) She very rarely complains, which is a brilliant quality to have in a travel companion.
Ok, back to the Athens. We used Airbnb for all of our accommodations, and totally lucked out! We stayed at Nadia’s awesome flat in Athens, and it could not have been more perfect. You really should check out that link because the place looks exactly like the photos. It’s a little weird to give someone you’ve never met money and then just hope they show up with the key at the discussed location at the proper time. Especially when they don’t speak good English and you’re in a foreign country with no way to contact them. But miraculously, it all worked and everyone was exactly where they said they would be. Mostly we were worried about Ashley finding the apartment since she was arriving first (there was a long sequence of metro and walking directions), but apparently she had no issues because when we walked up we found a napkin taped to the door of the building that read, “Dani and Emily! Just yell for me when you get here!” Or something like that. So that’s exactly what we did. This flat was in the perfect location, convenient to everything, and did I mention the awesome view of the Acropolis from the rooftop? We also fell in love with the scarf lady downstairs, who owned the shop directly below the apartment. Dani likes wearing her hugs so she bought a scarf every day we were there… I settled on one because I was freezing cold. This lady was so nice though, she even rescued my shirt after it fell off the balcony in an unsuccessful overnight attempt at airing it out (not because I am stinky, but because everyone in Greece smokes.) Anyway, all that to say you don’t get wine and fruit, shirt retrieval, and scarf purchasing at a hotel. Airbnb for the win!
So I’m sort of against doing those big bus tours (you know, the double-decker red monstrosities they have in every major city) but had read something about the Happy Train, which conveniently picked up a couple blocks away from our apartment. It’s called the HAPPY TRAIN. Who wouldn’t want to ride it? The answer to that question is Dani and Ashley. But after a little convincing, I got them on board (get it? on board?) and the next thing you know we were happily cruising around the city. Which was more than a little dorky, but as most dorky things are, kinda fun. It was actually a good way to see Athens because the train could get down lots of the little side streets that a big bus never could. And we got to sit on the very back facing the street and listen to Ashley practice saying hello in Greek as we waved to everyone.
Lunch time! It was simultaneously endearing and annoying how all the restaurants would have guys standing outside to basically recruit you to come eat there. If we didn’t get something free with our meal, we didn’t do it right. Although “free” is relative, I suppose. Everyone wanted to give us a glass of wine or an aperitif at no charge, but then find what we thought was complimentary bread and butter listed on our bill. A piece of advice: decline all offers of ouzo.
This whole trip happened back in April, so I don’t really remember what we did which day (nor do I have photos from all of it) and I may be skipping around a bit. But there’s a fairly new museum in Greece with tons of really cool old stuff from the Acropolis, so we thought it might be a good idea to go there first before heading up to the Acropolis itself. Wise decision. Even though I fell asleep during the video we watched at the Acropolis Museum (why do they make that narration so soothing?) I learned things like the Parthenon served as a temple to Athena, and that the columns on it are actually curved to make the overall effect appear straight, like a reverse optical illusion. This is probably pretty basic stuff to most of you, but hey, I didn’t know it before and I can remember it three months later. The actual museum itself is gorgeous – tons of natural light and marble.
Obsessed with the view from the Acropolis.
Ok, so all the archeological remains at the Acropolis were definitely awesome, and the Parthenon was really cool. But this Erechtheion temple was probably my favorite. Also because that’s when the sky turned epic.
Another random thing about Athens… you’ll just be walking down the street and see old crumbly ruins in the middle of shops and restaurants. Or a crazy ancient church next to a hotel. It’s kinda bizarre. Here are a couple of good examples.
The next day (or one of the days) we watched the changing of the guard at Parliament. It was real weird, and that’s about all I have to say about it. But of course, no trip to Parliament is complete without a nerdy picture by the unmoving guard. (Mine is on someone else’s camera.)
One of the benefits of being 6 feet tall is you can pick oranges right off the tree!
Being in Greece over Easter was definitely a cool experience. It is the biggest religious holiday celebrated there, I think even more than Christmas. We were a little confused about what exactly was going to go down, but had done a little bit of reading to be prepared. Easter in Greece lasts a whole week, and the Orthodox do lots of things to prepare, like dying eggs red and visiting their church to lay flowers on the epitaphs, kissing the icons of Jesus, and lighting candles. Good Friday is the day of mourning and apparently, the day of mournful bells. Oh, the bells. All of the churches have bells, and all of these bells ring in awful discordant tones all day long. Not a fan. When it gets dark, everyone hits the streets with candles and walks through the whole town behind the crosses or icons being carried from their church. I think every single person in Athens was out this night. It was insane. And even with all the onlookers and participants, the whole night had a somber, melancholy feel, which really did seem like an appropriate way to commemorate Jesus’ death. And then Easter Day is basically a huge party with your friends and family with lots of food and wine and dancing to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection! It even kicks off with fireworks at midnight on Saturday. So cool! I love that it is such a celebration. These photos that follow are from Good Friday. After following the procession for a bit, we ended up back at Parliament, where the Greek Pope addressed the crowd and there was some sort of marching band. No idea what he said, but he seemed to be pretty pope-ular. (Sorry, you know I couldn’t do this post without at least one bad pun.) Holy Saturday and Easter Day itself we spent in Santorini.
The Acropolis lit up at night! That building you see with the columns is the Erechtheion again.
And that was Athens. Stay tuned for our journey to Santorini tomorrow!