After a sweltering few days in Greece’s capital, I was ready for some relaxation on the beach, but since that wasn’t happening anytime soon I settled for some more awe-inspiring site seeing, eating, and a not so friendly run-in with the police.Fodor’s Essential Greece: with the Best Islands (Full-color Travel Guide)
Changing of the Guards
Since it was a Sunday, we set out to watch the changing of the guards early in the morning. The area surrounding the Hellenic Parliament was loaded with tourists eager to watch the special ceremony that has a unique element on the first day of the week.
The guards don the official customs that include solid gold accessories in their vestments and are valued at 10,000 Euros each. My wife and I fought through the crowd to get a decent view and snapped a few pictures. The weather was still excruciatingly hot so we got thirstier as the ceremony commenced. The guards walked out to some awesome music that was definitely sampled by Jay-Z at some point. Once the ceremony ended we headed towards Monastiraki Square to grab a frappe at Coffee Lab.
A frappe is an iced coffee drink made from instant Nescafe coffee, water and sugar. The drink was extremely refreshing, and made for the perfect mid-morning treat on a 90 degree day in Athens. Anyhow, back to the journey.NESCAFE CLASICO Dark Roast Instant Coffee 7 Ounce
Luckily for us, the streets were very quiet on a Sunday morning so we were able to get to the Square quickly. On the way I snapped a lot of pictures of the different types of graffiti I found on store gates and walls. Some of it had integrity, and a lot of it represented the anarchist attitude of many of the city’s young people.
Somebody Got Robbed
As we approached Monastiraki Square we saw the police chasing some Africans that we met the day prior. The touristy areas in Greece have a lot of these Africans walking around handing out bracelets hollering Hakuna Matata. They seemed harmless, but a few of the guys in the group appeared to have sticky fingers. The cops sprinted after this gentlemen who quickly left our sight. This might have shaken up most travelers, but we’re from NYC and we aren’t scared of anything. (Not gonna lie. I was shook the whole time. My wife is the real G).
Make sure you shop around
So we explored the bustling flea markets of Monastiraki and my wife found a dress that she really liked in one of the boutiques. They wanted to charge her a pretty penny for this dress so we decided to shop around for something more reasonable. She later found the same exact dress in a less touristy area for much cheaper.
The Athenian Agora
After some browsing in the markets, we stumbled upon The Athenian Agora. This place is a massive ruin site with a fully restored building that you could actually walk inside. This was about the only ancient building that you could walk in that we saw in Greece. We paid a small admission price and walked around the Agora which had lots of statues with their heads chopped off. It also featured the Temple of Hephaistos which was pretty intact. It was up on a hill so you couldn’t get that close to it. There was also a nice small theater area that overlooked the Agora which was great for pictures.
There Are Lots of Greeks in Australia
Along the walk, we met a Greek guy from Australia and his Irish friend. He told us about the mass migration of Greeks to his home country during the mid-1940s due to economic reasons. He also explained a lot about Athens culture and said if we could understand what the graffiti said we’d find it pretty funny.
They assured us that Athens was pretty safe and urged us to check out Areopagus for the view. We already had it on our checklist, but his recommendation made it all the more appealing to us.
We finished out our visit of the Agora in the restored structure. It was filled with small models of the area that illustrated what it looked like in its heyday. It also had modern bathrooms and water fountains where we refilled our water bottles.
A 1980s NYC Train in Athens
We left the Agora and hung out outside the gates for a bit to snap pictures of the graffiti filled metro. The train looked like something out of my childhood in NYC. I had to get as many pictures as I could because I wasn’t sure what would be usable. After all of the walking we did, we were understandably thirsty and hungry and started discussing lunch. Before grabbing a bite, we wanted to quickly check out Athens Central Market which we had heard about on the hop on/hop off bus.
Central Market Sketchy on a Sunday
After a short walk, we approached the area which was pretty desolate on a Sunday. To our dismay, the market was mostly shut down except for one small area where men were selling Halal meat. They might have been immigrants from Bangladesh since there has been a large influx of them in recent years. Either way, we didn’t stick around long enough to find out and headed back towards Plaka to have some Streek Wok.
Streek Wok is a chain asian-noodle place that is commonly found in Greece. I ordered some spicy noodles which were decent and a delicious Coke. Now that I was full, I was ready for my next ruin site.
We picked Hadrian’s Library which we had often seen during our walks around the city. At this point we had purchased a pass for 30 Euros which got us into many of the ruin sites including the Temple of Zeus and the prized Acropolis of Athens. The library had been built by an emperor of the same name during the 2nd century A.D. The site featured another temple that only had one wall of columns left standing. It was nifty for some more picture taking.
After exiting the library which didn’t have any books, we went back to our room for some rest. We took a short nap, had a snack, and set out for our journey to Areopagus, a.k.a Mars Hill. Without using any type of navigation, we navigated through the back alleys leading up to the Acropolis and found the site where the Apostle Paul once stood to petition people moving in and out of the Athens capital.
Areopagus a.k.a Mars Hill Where Paul Preached
The site featured modern steps and ancient steps which were closed probably to preserve them. We climbed up the former to get to the surface. Make sure you wear sneakers if you’re visiting this place because the surface is very rocky and slippery and you could lose a pair of sandals there. As we got higher, we started to get our first glimpse of what is probably the best view in Athens. There were a lot of young people and families hanging out on this rocky cliff-like area just drinking and taking pictures. We hustled around the smooth rocks to get our very own pictures in and spent some time taking in the view. Athens looked massive from this elevation.
That Time I Almost Got Arrested in Greece
We climbed back down and started to head towards Plaka to grab dinner. This is when I almost got myself into a lot of trouble. The cops were arresting a group of what looked like Indian men right by the entrance of the Areopagus. In my journalistic mindset, I felt like I had to capture the moment so I immediately took out my phone and started snapping pictures. I really had no idea what was going on, but I thought they would be good images to have. There was just one problem. A burly looking Greek cop saw me taking the pictures and called me over.
I Was More Scared of My Wife TBH
I tried to play stupid, but he petitioned me enough for me to know he was talking to me. I headed towards him and he asked to see the pictures. I had to think quick in order to keep me and my wife out of trouble. I didn’t know the laws of this place so I didn’t have much of a defense to throw at him. He also must of known we were American tourists which also didn’t give us any favor in his eyes.
I opened my phone and promised the officer that I would delete the pictures. He stood with me until I deleted every single picture I had taken of the incident. I honestly got rid of all them because I did not want to get locked up on my honeymoon. After I finished deleting, thankfully, he let us go.
We were so relieved and decided to celebrate our escape at Restaurant Scholarhio which was a decent Greek eatery with a great tapas selection. I ordered a cold, frosty Greek beer to relieve some of the tension I had felt. I sucked it down with some Greek lasagna and a spinach and cheese pie that was than a similar dish we had bought from Trader Joes a week prior. We finished out with orange pie for dessert and headed back to our room.
My tooth was still throbbing from the day before and I knew we had to take some kind of action the following day. I dreaded it, but knew something had to be done before heading back to Santorini.