As promised in a previous post, I begin my review of a tour of Greece with the city of Athens, as it is home to Athens International Airport and Port of Piraeus, one of the largest ports in Europe where ferries transport travelers from island to island.
Ferries are comfortable with roomier seats than on airplanes (which doesn’t say much) and open spaces for passengers to stretch their legs. Traveling across the waters felt much to me like on that of a train. Movement is evident but not difficult to venture around.
The only challenge I found traveling by ferry was transporting my luggage up and down planks jammed with passengers rushing to their destinations.
Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. It’s also one of the world’s oldest cities having continuously been occupied for at least 5,000 years. As an American, I’m intrigued with ancient cultures and the remaining ruins of their existence such as found in ancient the cities of Rome and Athens where we find structures that date back thousands of years.
In contrast, trek through the United States, and our oldest buildings are merely hundreds of years, the oldest dating to the 1600s. Although our land was inhabited for at least 15,000 years, our indigenous people were transient. They migrated with the seasons and wildlife leaving no permanent stamp on the earth. Their goal was to leave their surroundings in the condition in which they found it.
Named for Athena, the goddess of wisdom, Athens historically was a center for arts, philosophy, and education. It’s also recognized as the birthplace of democracy having been home to the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Socrates.
The country gained its independence in 1834, and is now center to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political and cultural life in Greece, according to Wikipedia.
One of the city’s attractions is the changing of the guard in front of the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square. Their precise and deliberate steps are impressive to witness.
The modern city today reveals influences of past occupation by Persians, Romans, and Turks as well as pagans and Christians, such as Saint Paul. Today, its narrow city streets burst with traffic.
Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motorbikes jam streets and intersections leaving pedestrians to venture across at their own risk.
Other than petty theft and pickpocketing common in busy cities around the world, I believe Athens is relatively safe. I felt quite at ease shopping and dining throughout the day and into the evening. Many shops and kiosks remain open late in the city including 24-hour bakeries stocked with tasty delicacies. Navigating through the shops was easy as most shopkeepers spoke English. The city also offers theaters, museums, and sports arenas for an array of entertainment.
Summers, such as this past season, can get quite hot in Greece. However, we were there in late September and early October, and the temperatures were perfect. They ranged in the low 80s during the day with low humidity.
One of our dinners was a festive evening of traditional Greek music, dance, and food. Greek food is naturally delicious with vegetables that are much more flavorful than we find in the U.S. Fish is also abundant, and the best I’ve ever tasted. However, most fish were served whole with head and scales which made some Americans uncomfortable. Greek pastas and phyllo dishes also are common but with a twist. For those not familiar with Greek food, cinnamon and nutmeg are often included in savory dishes.
Stay tuned for more of my impressions from my Grecian Get-Away including the Athenian marketplace and the Acropolis.
**Grasp a moment of peace with Tranquility. Transformation. Transcendence.