The day dawned bright and blue, promising a glorious day of visiting ancient Greek ruins. After eating a simple breakfast of honey and tea (I’m part bear), we took off along the appointed path to none other than the Acropolis.
I was tripping over myself in excitement.
The path slanted upwards as we ascended the hill, with mossy rocks and greenery shaded by olive and pine trees on one side and a spectacular view of Athens and old temples on the other.
We soon reached the end of the road. To the left it continued up the hill towards the Acropolis, where I was itching to go. To the right was a rock outcropping, where Papa was very excited about climbing.
Until I got closer and saw the metal plaque, which identified it as the Areopagus, the place St. Paul stood when he preached a powerful, dramatic sermon to the Athenians. St. Paul, one of the greatest Christian evangelists to ever exist.
Needless to say, I was suddenly excited to climb it too.
The rocks were slippery from being climbed on by thousands of tourists, but it only added to the thrill factor. Once on top, a wide panorama of the sprawling white city of Athens could be admired, or if you turned around you could see the glorious sight of the Acropolis.
I’m wearing Papa’s spare sunglasses (thank you, Papa, for being prepared) because mine spontaneously combusted. They were uncomfortable and make me look rather dorky, but it’s better than me squinting and slipping and sliding over the rocks.
Me again, without the dorky sunglasses. That fluffy tree in the center is an olive tree.
The descent was much less precarious than the ascent, with convenient steps, and from there we finally headed on to the Acropolis. We had to wait in line for tickets, but I amused myself with admiring these fascinating birds.
Looks like an upgraded crow.
The tickets were finally acquired, and we climbed onto the Acropolis! It only took a few steps to see the ruins of a huge amphitheater. I could imagine it packed with spectators as the stage filled with actors, just like movie theaters are today. We humans really don’t change.
We continued on the path and turned left, where steps ascended to the top of the Acropolis hill between gigantic stone columns. It looked magnificent, and I could only imagine how it looked in all its glory.
We ascended the steps and passed through the columns. Despite the pressing crowds, I did my best to absorb the moment of feeling so tiny between those regal columns that have stood for thousands of years. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
They were really tall…
Like really, really….
Emerging on the other side, I gasped and squealed at the same time (probably sounding something like a piglet.) The Parthenon was right there, the front of which was covered in scaffolding, but I don’t have a wild imagination for nothing. The ancient temple to Athena, goddess of wisdom, patron goddess of Athens. The ancient Greeks must have really loved her, judging from the intricate stonework and magnificent architecture. She was always my favorite goddess in Greek mythology.
To the left was the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Poseidon and Athena after their famous competition for the city of Athens. Poseidon struck the rock with his trident and made a well, but the people couldn’t drink from it because it was salty. Athena struck the rock with her spear and made an olive tree, which the people were thrilled with because of how useful it was (think olives, olive oil, and even medicine.) Athena won, obviously, though if Poseidon had made a water park he might have had a better chance.
Anyways, the Erechtheion was believed to have the marks of Poseidon’s trident, the salt water well, and Athena’s sacred olive tree. And, you know, it’s where Percy and Annabeth popped up before confronting the giants (if you don’t know, just ignore that.)
Front view of the Erechtheion…or back, depending on your starting perspective.
I wandered around, soaking the ancient atmosphere into my skin. The Acropolis was truly glorious, the white stone temples truly magnificent, the beautiful bright blue sky truly a blessing.
It was warm without being stifling so, a gentle breeze cooled my face, and it was so peacef-
All flustered, my heart beating furiously, I rapidly stood up from the stone I was sitting on and saw a guard with a whistle to his mouth, looking at me disapprovingly.
My eyes widened in surprise and confusion, and I swear I could read his thoughts.
Then he spun around and whistled at another unfortunate soul, leaving Micah snickering at me.
Then he got whistled while he was sitting like a pensive philosopher, and it was my turn to snicker.
Our theory is that it’s impossible for anyone to visit the Acropolis without getting whistled at. Funnily enough, I will live the rest of my days having no idea what I did wrong.
After the whistle incident, I wandered over to the very edge of the Acropolis where there was this crowded platform. Maneuvering through the people (which is a useful skill we possess due to lots of practice) Micah and I managed to get to the edge and gaze out at the city of Athens.
Meet George, the luckiest monkey in the world, even though he often gets squished in tight places. Micah takes him everywhere. Being separated from George would be like tearing Micah’s soul apart. *ahem*
Long time no see, Temple of Olympian Zeus! It was really cool to see it and the surrounding area from an aerial view.
A random hill in the middle of Athens…make note of it, because it would be an important feature in my life in a few hours.
Then it was time to head back down. I had a hard time of tearing my eyes off the Parthenon and of bidding farewell to every forbidden stone that people kept sitting on.
I really wonder what those two random columns on the hillside once held up…
But tear my eyes off and bid farewell I did. I might not have went so easily if my famished stomach hadn’t been growling so enthusiastically.
Do remember that I had only consumed honey and tea for breakfast.
Papa produced Google Maps with another one of his flourishes and led the way down circling paths, steps, and trails. I took one last wistful glance at the Acropolis before it was swallowed up in trees.
It was decided along this walk that we would visit the aforementioned random hill I had spotted on the Acropolis. Or, as we discovered, Mount Lycabettus. It certainly didn’t look like a mount, but oh how I would be proved wrong.
The best way to get to it, Papa expounded to us, was Uber.
And the best way to get an Uber was finding a street.
So we followed Google maps to the nearest street that was as wide as the smallest car that could fit all four of us and a driver.
We eventually arrived at said street after navigating through a market/outdoor mall area where we quickly found out that rush hour in Athens was in full session at 3 in the afternoon. Rush hour, as in the traffic was so bad the cars were only inching along.
Our Uber was on its way, but it would take quite a while for it to inch through the traffic. I shushed my moaning stomach and looked back at the crowded square, the Acropolis hill in the distance.
I people watched for a little bit and realized a crowd of people ringed around something flashing in the sunlight. On closer inspection I saw it was a man doing a really cool trick with a hula-hoop.
Then I noticed a churchy-building next to the traffic-jammed street that featured the flag of Greece, a bell tower with a cross on top, and lots of pigeons majestically lining its roof.
Finally the Uber arrived! I was desperate for food, but I logically realized we’d have to drive all the way to that far-off Mount. In traffic.
The driver informed us that the traffic was very typical, a fact that didn’t exactly comfort me. And as beautiful as Athens was from above or as ancient as it was with its temples and ruins, it really wasn’t that amazing up close as we inched along through the streets, in traffic, with an empty stomach.
Oh, and have I mentioned we were on a time limit?
According to Papa, the entrance to the summit of Mount Lycabettus closed at four. FOUR. According to Google maps, it would take us forty minutes to get there. According to my calculations, that would make us arrive just before it closed.
And we were all stressing out, because it seemed a mighty shame to waste all of our time, money, and effort.
Eventually we neared the destination, so our driver said, but I all could see were, buildings, no Mount, more buildings, and…oh look. A farmer’s market blocking the road.
“This typically does not happen,” our driver informed us.
That definitely didn’t comfort me.
We decided to get out and walk the rest of the way, because the driver said it was very close, just past the market and straight left.
We dutifully followed her instructions, half speed walking, half running since we only had five minutes left.
As we turned left, we saw this.
There was another similar staircase at the top of this one.
But, being the perseverant family we were, we marched up those stairs in no time, all panting and exhausted by the time we reached the top. There was a very humble looking street, but across from it was a promising building that, as Papa gasped out, was the funicular station that would take us the rest of the way up the mountain.
There were also stairs that you could take, but none of us were particularly keen on that route.
So we stumbled inside the funicular station, half delirious with hunger, and saw that we had just barely missed the 4 o’clock funicular.
Four hearts fell into the depths of despair. But just then, the man at the counter cleared his throat.
“There’s another ride in thirty minutes, if you wish to purchase tickets for it.”
Wait…what? There was another ride?
Apparently Papa had somehow gotten the schedule mixed up.
After buying the tickets, we had a full thirty minutes at our leisure, during which we trooped to a café across the street in the hopes of some vittles. The waitress gave us an odd look and some menus, but when we were about to order a delicious sounding pizza, she cleared her throat.
“We’re not open for meals right now, but you can order drinks.”
Unfortunately we wanted food, not drinks, because we had plenty of water in our bottles.
So we exited the café and whiled away the longest thirty minutes of my life in the most humble of streets where there were no more food options or sitting places in sight (except the street itself, and I was too dignified for that.)
At long last, we boarded the funicular! It was kind of awkward at first, staring at other passengers (who had better timing than we did) while we passed through a dark, uninteresting tunnel. Then suddenly some uncultured music blasted my ears off and multi-colored lights spun around dizzily, making me wish with all my soul that the ride would be over soon.
It certainly felt like an eternity, but really it was only three minutes.
Look, I appreciate whoever wanted to make the ride less boring, but I prefer temporary, quiet darkness to eternal blindness and deafness.
As we exited the funicular, my eagle eyes suddenly spotted a restaurant. FOOD.
It was sure to be ridiculously expensive, being at the top of the highest hill in Athens and all, but Mama and Papa made executive decisions and decided that, although man does not live by bread alone, food has its place.
I ordered pasta, and though it took a long time for it to come, I was kept busy by this cat behind the glass panel that kept eyeing us hungrily. Poor cat. Don’t eat me.
Then its friend came, and another, and I started freaking out and hoping they wouldn’t jump over the panel and attack us. The waiter assured us they won’t, and also assured us that they were fed.
That made me feel better.
Eventually my long-awaited pasta arrived, and I had just enough self-control to snap this picture before I devoured it (lady-like, of course.)
Can you see the cat?
The meal was rather pricey, yes, but at least we got to enjoy the spectacular views of the setting sun shining on Athens while we ate one of the most delicious meals of our lives.
Once we finished eating, we went out to a windy platform area which gave a wide view of the other side of Athens, with the Acropolis far below and the shining sea in the distance. It also had a bell-tower and a chapel, St. George’s chapel to be precise, which I found quite nice.
I could hardly believe that only a few hours ago I was standing where those black-dotted people were and that I was now on top of that hill I had seen in the distance. Perspectives have always captured my interest.
As the sun set, it was time to head back down. Once again, we were obliged to wait for our Uber standing up, but this time I had the nourishment of pasta to keep me from collapsing.
We drove back towards the Acropolis through (surprise) more traffic. It was now dark and harder to see, but when we were dropped off at that market/outdoor mall/shopping area place it was lit by restaurant and shop lights. We wandered around, through shops and a mysterious wooded area which was as dark as my pupils. Through the trees was an eerily-lit temple, the temple of Hephaestus.
We circled back on a path with shops on one side and on the other, atop yonder hill, with what I have been gushing over for a startling number of words. Yes. That. The Acropolis.
I could have stared all night and well into the next day, but we had dinner to eat and a flight to catch.
It was four hours after we had last eaten, but I was already hungry again. We found a nice Greek restaurant and ordered three nice Greek plates, one each for Mama and I, and one for Micah and Papa to share.
What we got were three, feast-size platters, fit for the gods, way too much for us humans.
My plate…and I have no idea why I’m suddenly posting so many pictures of food for this trip.
We ate as much as we possibly could and packed up the leftovers to be eaten later. My stomach lurched at the thought, but I scolded myself. Remember how hungry I was a few hours ago? I would be that hungry again.
We walked back to our hotel, spent a few minutes shoving our luggage into a teensy, tiny car (honestly, I didn’t think they would all fit; luckily we had already shipped our four big, bulky suitcases – including Miss Bulky – ahead to the States) and whisked off to the airport.
Like all cities I left, I would miss Athens dearly but would just as dearly treasure my memories of it. That’s the beauty of memories. They’re always there for you to step into.
Later, in the airport, we went through security where the official stamped my passport, officially declaring my exactly three month stay in the European Union to be over. Boarding the airplane seemed momentous for several reasons. One, I was leaving the continent I had spent the last four months on. Two, I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to fall asleep. And three, that airplane would whisk me to a land I thought I could only dream of visiting, a land that always seemed so far off and distant, a land more ancient than Greece itself.
The land of Egypt.