I've returned from Greece - had a really amazing time while I was there. Some parts of it just blew my mind, leaving me dizzy with excitement at just being there. A couple times I got frustrated with my inability to speak or understand any Greek, but thankfully, those times were few.
To put things into a little bit of perspective, my interest in Greek history (Or, history from that era in general) comes from a class that I took in High School - Three Democracies, a sort of history/philosophy/logic class that was all about the Greeks, how they formed Democracy, as well as their schools of thought and military history. While I didn't do paticularly well in the class, it left a big impression.
So, my trip. Lots of fun. Very long at times. I started out at 2:55 am local time to catch a night bus with my backpack and book bag, loaded down with the bare minimum of necessities that I'd be needing. Very early. There wasn't much traffic. I caught the 38 and travelled over to Hyde Park and panicked when I got off at the wrong stop, but I found it in time for the next bus, and spent the next hour on the way to the airport. Got there around 4:30 or so, checked in to the airline and went through security, where I then waited around for a little while for my flight to board. Got on, and I was on my way to Munich, Germany for a ten or so hour layover. I fell asleep on the plane and awoke to a really bad headache - it felt like someone was driving a nail through my skull. Not fun. Got off the plane, got my first impression of Germany from their airport - neat. Went to their passport control and got out into the city for a couple hours. Nice place, although it was raining slighty. I got to practise my German a bit, which was very rusty from two years of non-use, but I got around decently, although it was extremely handy that a lot of people spoke English. Everyone I met was very nice, extremely helpful, and unlike England, they would come up to you in the street and ask a question. I was asked for directions twice, and assistance from two workment lifting a cover over a door. On the way back, I went hopping on and off the Metro and walking around at various parts of the city. Very clean and nice to walk around. I'd like to return someday.
Returned to the airport and took a nap, got something to eat and boarded my next flight to Athens. Got a heacahe again, ate something that they gave me, which was decent, and arrived in Athens at about 10 pm local time. I got my bag and went up and found Chris, the guy who owns the Hostel that I stayed at. Nice guy, spoke very good English and was very talkative. Got to the Hostel and went to bed. Turns out I'd have a room to myself the entire time, which was nice, I wasn't too worried about my stuff going missing.
Got up the next day sort of late and set out. I wasn't too sure how to get to the Acropolis, but I looked at a map and set out. Four hours later, I was nowhere nearer to it than I was to the Olympic stadium. A bit discouraged and questioning my judgement of travelling to Athens, I set back. This part of the city was dirty, and Athenian drivers are both insane and fast. Plus, the sidewalks were extremely narrow and cluttered with rubbish. But I made it back, ran into Chris and he explained (probably for the second time) that I had to take this bus, then get on the Metro. Ah, so I did. And found the Metro station, got on, found it to be very similar to London's Tube system and found my way to the Akropoli station, where the Acropolis is. Got out, walked around (it had closed by this time) and took in the sight (and site) for the first time. Very stunning. Returned to my hostel, bought a Pizza, met the three girls (Heather, Emily and Meghan) who were also staying there that night, talked with them for a couple hours, when Chris invited us up to the loft for some drinks. Greek beer is really good. Went back down and called it a night.
Got up the next morning and went with the girls to the airport, so that I knew where I'd be going when I left - extremely helpful. Leaving them there, I returned to the Acropolis and walked around there for hours. Went to the Parthenon and the structures there, all of which were under reconstruction work. The Propylaea was really cool to see, as was the Erechtheum. From there, I went to the South Slope and saw the The Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaestus before getting lunch. Went on to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was huge and amazing. Walked around some more before returning to the Hostel, fell asleep and met two new guys who just arrived from studying in France, Chris and Todd. There was also a couple from Spain who were staying for a couple nights and a guy from Canada, but I forgot their names. Got Pizza again with them, and the next morning, showed them how to reach the Acropolis before finding the bus station to head to Marathon.
Quick history lession - Marathon is considered the main place where Democracy was preserved from anhiliation. Greece, a democracy at this time, was at war with Persia because they supported a rebellion by a Persian colony. Persians are pissed, so they send a force of 25,000 soldiers to raze Athens. The Athenians are scared, but they mustered up 9,000 men, and another 1,000 or so from around the area, and they marched on Marathon to try and stop the Persian army. Here, the general Miltiades decided to change tactics and thinned his centre ranks, while boosting the outer ones. When the two armies clashed, the Persians broke through the centre easily, but the wings of the Athenian force came around and routed the Persians. At the end of the day, around 6,000 Persians were dead. Only about 200 Athenians were killed.
This story made a big impact for me in high school, and my geology professor, Dr. Richard Dunn, had recently done some work there, confirming some older theories on the topography at the time of the battle. I took a bus out there (REALLY cheap €2.90) Rode that for an hour, and got off when I saw the remains of the funeral pyre of the soldiers who died. It's still there after all these years, although it's shrunk over the time. Took some pictures and walked into the coast town, around where the battle was probably fought. Walked along the ocean for a while, that was nice. Got some sun and marvelled at the water. It was so blue - really cool.
I got chills thinking that I was walking where the battle was probably fought, although they're not entirely sure where the battle was fought exactly. But logically, I'd think that the funeral pyre would represent a fairly central location. I can't imagine that they'd move the bodies far. But it was awesome to visit. Walked a couple kilometers back to the bus stop and returned to Athens, where I then found the National Archeological Museum. Awesome place, but I wish that I spent more time there. I intended to the next day, but I didn't make it.
I returned to the hostel and got a quick bite to eat, leftovers from the night before. I had met up with Todd and Chris on the Metro back. Coincidentally, they were standing behind me on the same car. Weird. We hung out for a while at the Hostel, then went and got dinner at a resturaunt down the street.
The next morning, we all went down to Piraeus, the port city next to Athens, also with a lot of historical values there. Walked around a little, then I returned to the airport, showing Todd and Chris how to reach the National Archeological musuem and we parted. Got to the airport, ran around there a little, then got on my flight to Frankfurt and then on to London, arriving around 7 in the evening, reached the flat by around 8:30.
Had an awesome time. Took a ton of pictures, which you can see here and here.
It's nice to be back though. Overall, I loved the city, but I need to visit again. There's just way too much to see otherwise.