What an incredible week in Greece! We spent our first seven days of Easter Recess in Greece for group travel. None of us had ever been to Greece before, so we were excited to experience it all together. One of our group members, Anna Luber, is a Classics major and studied the Ancient Greek language- so we were hoping her studies could carry us through if we had any language barrier questions. Not to mention, she was bursting at the seams with excitement about the Greek architecture, history and myths she had only read and seen pictures about.
First stop Athens! We arrived to Athens on an evening flight, and by 8:30 we were SO ready for a good meal. We dropped our baggage off at Hotel Philippos (Oh yeah, our hotel had a perfect view of the Acropolis ruins, which is only just the cornerstone of Athens, no big deal). Our welcome dinner was hosted at Spilia, the cutest little village restaurant tucked underneath the Acropolis. You could feel the rich Greek culture bouncing off the walls and the live music added to the ambiance. The typical Greek appetizers just kept coming out- one after another- Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, block of feta), spinach and cheese pies, zucchini fritters and saganaki (fried cheese, a group favorite!). Everything tasted so refreshing and delicious that we were full before our main course even came! As our evening meal wrapped up, our tour guide invited the live band to teach us a traditional Greek dance! We were a little hesitant, but the steps were pretty easy to learn. And before we knew it, we were leading the dance! Right, Left, Right, Kick, Left, Kick (Repeat)! We had so much fun, even though we felt uncomfortable at first. But that is what travel is about right?
The bustling streets of Athens were a mix of typical tourists stores, fast food gyro chains, and restaurants with annoying waiters urging us to try their ‘special dish’ because it’s ‘happy hour’ (which felt like every hour). One waiter in particular made us smile and we always loved to pass him and see what tactic he was going to use to invite us in. His restaurant was in the Plaka, and we passed him so often he started to recognize us. The first time we passed him he shouted at Zach, “Heyyyy, Justin Bieber!” attempting to catch our attention. And it did! It made us laugh so hard, because literally the only things Zach and Justin Bieber have in common is they are males with long hair (and that is Justin Bieber in 2013). Another instance, one of the street vendors asked me “Are you Shakira? You so beautiful!” Again, maybe these people only reference hair, but if people think I have Shakira hair, I’ll take it! He continued his praise telling Wyatt that he’s a lucky man, and that we had to pinkie promise him that we would live a life of love, happiness and no cheating together. It’s crazy the things people do to win your sale!
We had a free morning and a few of us checked out Athens Museum of Illusions. We felt like little kids again walking through the museum attempting to understand the illusions that were twisting our brains. Everything was pleasant until a school field trip crashed our childhood fun. The students would step right in front of my view of the illusion as I was trying to complete it. Not kidding - there were like 5,000 students in the small museum, but we made the best of it.
On our way back to the hotel, we accidentally stumbled upon the Athens flea market. Streets lined with rickety shops selling anything you would ever need and then some. A few of us spotted the classic square Fjällräven Kånken backpacks hanging outside a little shack. 35€ they said. What?? Those sell for $90 in the states. Zach, the detective, summoned himself over and investigated every nook and cranny of the backpack comparing it to an original that Anna had and an online source. With the store owner breathing over our necks as we tried to make the decision, Zach concluded it is a fake- but a pretty good one at that. The only difference he could spot is there is no lettering on the back of one of the buttons. Big whoop! So we bought them (yes we fell for a classic tourist scheme), and we love them!
Speaking of Zach, he found a gelato shop in Athens that made his top three! Which is a really big accomplishment, because Zach is a dark chocolate gelato connoisseur. He also lost a bet and to avoid eating a mysterious yellow berry from the Athens National Garden, Zach chose to buy everyone gelato from his new favorite place! Yum, thanks Zach!
We enjoyed our time in Athens, but were ready for our road trip to the Greece countryside. Next stop, little mountain town of Nafplion!