Anyone who knows me well knows I am almost always up for a trip and an adventure! Just name the place and I will be there. So what did I do when my good friend, Amy, invited me to join her and a couple of her friends on a trip to Greece? I requested the vacation time and booked pronto, of course! Amy and her friends were going to spend the entire week they were in Greece on the island of Skiathos. Since it is such a long trip to get there, I decided to split my time between Skiathos and other parts of Greece. I spent two days in traveling solo in Athens, met them in Skiathos and then finished the trip with solo visits to Mykonos and Santorini.
Greece is an amazingly beautiful country. The Greeks I encountered were very friendly and the food is delicious. I ate a lot of seafood and Greek salads, which were perfect for me because I don’t like lettuce and Greek salads have no lettuce, just veggies, feta cheese and seasonings. It was the perfect light meal!
Day 1 – Out and About in Athens
I figured since I was flying all the way over to Greece, I should spend a couple of days traveling solo in Athens to explore the city and visit the Parthenon. I toured the city using Rick Steves’ Walking Tour. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, he is the author of European travel guides and also has a TV show on PBS. His books are my go-to when I am booking trips to Europe.
I downloaded the app and then the audio walking tour (both for free!) onto my phone. When I set out on the tour, I used one of my ear buds to listen to him so I could also be aware of my surroundings at all time. It worked out perfectly! The best part of his tour is that I was able to listen and then stop the tour and take photos before continuing on.
My first stop along the walking tour was the Parliament House. This building was once the palace for the first King of Greece after the Ottoman occupation and now seats the members of Parliament.
The gentlemen in red caps are the guards, also known as Evzones. The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people.
They have a Changing of the Guards ceremony similar to the one in front of Buckingham Palace in London (just on a much smaller scale). I love the uniforms these guards wore, especially their shoes! The pom pom on the end is awesome! According to Rick Steves, it is a huge honor for Greek men to be guards and they take their positions very seriously.
After spending time at the Parliament House, I set off to explore other areas of the city. Athens reminded me a lot of Rome in that there are lots of ancient structures all around.
At the end of my walking tour was the statue below. This statue saved my sanity the next night after dinner.
I found a neat restaurant to eat at that evening and somehow took a wrong turn on the way back to my hotel. I ended up getting completely disoriented and could not figure out which way my hotel was. There was definitely a moment or two of panic where irrational thoughts set in – “I’m lost and am going to wander around this city forever, never to be found again.” My usual crutch when things like this happen – my phone – was not available which only added to my anxiety.
I pushed the thoughts aside for a bit and decided to keep walking. After a bit, I came to a courtyard area…and saw this statue, which I knew had seen earlier in the day on the walking tour. Once I saw him, I was able to orient myself and realized I was just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Whew! (And let’s face it, I could have stopped at one of the many restaurants around and someone would have helped me find my hotel…so I really didn’t need to worry).
Day 2 – Acropolis and the Parthenon
My main goal for Day 2 was to visit the Parthenon. The Parthenon is located on a big hill overlooking Athens. I could see it from my hotel. It was a sight to be seen at night because it was all lit up. It is a hike up to the top of the hill so if you go, make sure to wear comfy shoes and bring water.
The Parthenon is the main ancient structure on the Acropolis, the hill pictured below. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the symbol of Athens and the most famous of the surviving structures from the world of ancient Greece. The building was originally built in honor of the goddess Athena, the city’s patron. There was a lot of construction going on while I visited because they are working to restore and preserve the site.
With that, my time traveling solo in Athens came to an end. I know a lot of people skip Athens and head straight to the islands when they visit Greece. I really enjoyed my time in Athens and recommend you spend a day or two there when you head to Greece. It is worth your time.
To read about my time with Amy and her friends on Skiathos and my time on Mykonos and Santorini, including how I got stuck on Mykonos, click here.