March 15, 2009

Spring Break 2009 - The First Leg: Milan, Athens, and the Acropolis

On Saturday, we arrived in Athens, Greece via an EasyJet flight that circled the beautiful Greek islands at a pleasantly low altitude before landing. It occurred to me immediately that 1 night in Greece would not be enough to experience everything this country had to offer (which I kind of already knew, it just didn't hit me until I saw those islands), and I began envisioning a return trip later in life (when/if I can afford to come back to Europe). We were a bit tired from the night before, having caught the last train from Genoa to Milan (it took us FOREVER, to pack all that we would need for the entire trip into one backpack each). Once we arrived at the train station in Milan (which is located in the city) we had to catch a shuttle to our hostel (which was outside the city, closer to the airport). Arriving at the hostel around midnight on Friday, we had supper (yes, the hostel had a restaurant that was held open just for us so that we could eat...the Italians are the most courteous people you will ever meet) and slept for a whopping 3 hours. We had to leave at 4ish in the morning to make it to the airport on time to catch our flight to Athens. Luckily, the hostel provided a free shuttle to the airport at insane hours, so it didn't cost us anything to get there.
Because we were flying on budget airlines (the no-frills kind that charges you extra if you check bags), we only had carry-on bags (backpacks....and not the hiking kind either, I'm talking about the smaller kind you use to put your books in for school) which ended up being very nice because we could simply blow right past all the check-in lines to go directly through security. Once we were settled on the plane, seat belts fastened, iPod on, overhead light off, it was time for a quick nap....we were headed to GREECE!!!!
After stepping off the plane at the Athens airport, we took a convenient (and relatively cheap) bus to the area of the city where our hostel was located. We walked down a crowded (in a good way) pedestrian street that was lined with interesting shopping and restaurants, occasionally navigating around an ancient temple or two (that the city grew up around, incorporating them directly into the street was very cool), we found our hostel with relative ease. During check-in, we noticed that the guy at the desk was natively Italian, and when I handed him my passport, I accidentally held open the page with my Italian Visa. He mistook it for the main ID page and got all excited assuming I was Italian. Which has been happening to me a lot while over here (I guess its the black hair and black jacket...haha). Our room had been double booked, so they took it upon themselves to upgrade us to a suite. It was a great hostel, and the guy at the desk offered to unlock the roof-top patio for us. From there we had a fantastic view of the Acropolis....yeah. Previously, we had only seen this in our textbooks. What an incredible first experience!

The view of the Acropolis from the roof of our hostel.

After unloading our luggage, we set out looking for a place to grab some lunch. On the way, Lindsey found the store she had planned to look for while we were in the city: The Poet Sandalmaker. This guy, and his father before him, and his father before him handmakes sandals in several historical Grecian styles. He sells them at very affordable prices (considering what he could charge all the tourists that come through his doors) so Lindsey got a couple pair.

Lindsey getting fitted for her hand-made Greek sandals.

We waded through the market and finally happened upon a quaint outdoor cafe right on the main strip. Across from our table was the fence that bordered the ancient Athenian Agora and we had a clear view of the Acropolis. The weather was so beautiful, conversations so interesting, and people-watching so entertaining, that we decided to spend the afternoon there. By the time we got up, we had eaten lunch and dessert over the course of about 3.5 hours!

Sitting at the cafe for lunch.

We found out that the Acropolis was open on Sundays with FREE entry, so we decided to spend the rest of Saturday exploring the areas near the Agora. We had a great supper at Greek restaurant and went to bed with anticipation for what we would see the next day.

The Temple of Hephaistos in the ancient Agora.

On Sunday we set out relatively early to explore the Agora and the Acropolis. It was so interesting and, again, the weather was PERFECT. Our pictures turned out great and the experience was one for the ages.

Heading up to the Acropolis.

Standing in front of THE Parthenon.

Heather left us around 5pm (to head out on her own to Turkey and Israel) and Lindsey, Derrick, and I spent an hour or so relaxing in the hostel lobby (with me trying hard to repack our souvenirs into our already overloaded carry-ons!) before hopping onto the bus back to the airport.

It was so nice to breeze past all the lines again at the airport (carry-on only is the only way to fly...I'm convinced) and we boarded our next flight to Berlin with ease.

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