Tuesday, July 14
I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I was so tired going to bed but this was my first sleep on land in almost a month and everything was just too… still. Without the gentle movement of the boat the bed just felt so rigid. Not that it was the nicest bed anyway, but I would have thought I’d have fallen asleep immediately upon my head hitting the pillow. I think I slept until around 08:00 then got up and went outside for a walk, heading towards the downtown area of Athens (my place was a few kilometres north) and stopped at a bakery along the way to get something fresh to eat for breakfast. I made my way to “Athens By Bike” where I would have my tour at 10:00. I met the staff there; a very nice bunch. Soon after I got paired with a bike and met the others on the tour; three ladies from Chicago and a family from near Amsterdam.
Kostas was the main guide for the tour. He’s a cool guy and certainly knows his stuff. He studied ancient & modern history at university so was able to answer any questions we had about the historical sites we visited on the tour. He’s also a former member of the national triathlon team, so we had much to talk about on the tour breaks. Manos (one of the company owners) and Vangelis (a rookie guide in training) were also along for the tour. The tour was only about 2.5 hours long so felt quite short compared to my all-day tour in Rome. We stuck to riding only pedestrian & low-traffic roads so it was pretty laid back. The sites were interesting to see but I prefer Rome as a city to Athens. Unfortunately Athens has ugly graffiti tagged on pretty much every visible surface which really takes away from the beauty of the city. But still, the Athenians seem very friendly and happy to have tourists around.
After the tour I visited some more of the historical sites up close, spending the hot afternoon (around 37°C) walking and exploring the city. I had a late lunch at a quiet place a few blocks away from the touristic centre. I took the waitress’s recommendation in having the pork souvlaki which was the best souvlaki I’ve had on the trip. I followed it up with a dish of their homemade vanilla ice cream. It was pretty good but it’s tough to beat the Italian gelato! In the later afternoon I paid the €12 to go up the Acropolis to the Parthenon. It was an amazing view of the city from the top. The Parthenon is always being renovated to keep up its condition so all of the scaffolding took away from the view somewhat. I stayed up there for quite a while just to admire the views of the city and watch all the different types of tourists coming to visit the site. Afterwards I took the long walk home, passing by the original modern Olympics stadium. It was closed for the day but I could still view it from outside the fence. I went back to my place to have a shower and make a plan for what to do for the remainder of the evening. I was going to just get a snack for dinner from the grocery store nearby but I found it 10 minutes after they closed. So I decided to take the metro in to the city centre again. I had planned to stop in at the metro office anyway to enquire about my route for tomorrow. It’s a good thing I did because I learned that the metro was free for the time being as there’s a strike happening but it also meant I wouldn’t be able to take the metro to the airport and have to find a bus instead.
I made my way downtown and asked one of the bellmen outside a hotel where I could go to get a good, traditional meal; nothing fancy. He gave me the name of a place nearby and I found it quite easily. It was really busy so I took that as a good sign. I waited for a table outside and ordered one last fried cheese appetizer. This one was served with bacon and topped with sesame seeds and honey—so tasty! I had a nice salad to go with it.