Sunday, July 7, 2013

Our Honeymoon! Part 6: Athens and Delphi



Oh, Athens. After the loveliness of Santorini, arriving in Athens was slightly jarring. The capital of Greece and the 4th most populous city in the European Union, Athens was packed with people and had a gritty feel to its modern urban landscape. As we walked past rows of shops with boarded up windows, it was also impossible not to notice the effects of Greece's economic crisis.

After making it to the Marriott (thank you Chuck!) and grabbing some drinks and snacks (thank you again Chuck! ;-) we explored the hotel's rooftop pool and bar with lovely views of the Acropolis and spent a lazy evening in our hotel room taking naps and watching movies. Not exactly the most glamorous of days, but we were exhausted!

The next day, we woke up early, grabbed a yummy breakfast, and headed over to the Acropolis. Visiting the Acropolis was everything you dream it will be and more. The site is huge, much bigger than either of us anticipated. It took many, many hours of walking around before we had even seen most - but not all - of it. There is really too much history on the Acropolis to even begin to give a brief synopsis of the site, so suffice it to say that the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike, with its caryatids, were my favorite sights. In general though, it is literally breathtaking to stand on such ancient and significant ground, to touch the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilization.


















After touring the ancient agora, we grabbed a delicious lunch and bought some cherries and a coconut stick from some street vendors for dessert. We walked back over to the street our hotel was on to find a rental car for the next day (more on this later), and then hopped on a train (Athen's metro was AMAZING) over to the National Archaeology Museum, only to find that it was closed. Such a bummer! Defeated, we headed back to the Acropolis and grabbed some Nescafe frappes before deciding to check out the new Acropolis Museum. In the end, we were so glad we did! The Acropolis Museum has an amazing collection of artifacts found during excavations on the Acropolis, and we learned so much more about the history of the area and the sites we had seen that morning. The museum itself is also beautifully done. The entire space is gorgeous! During construction, they unearthed some Roman houses and parts of the ancient city, and they actually built the museum on top of the site. The floor is glass, so as you view the main exhibit, you can also look down and see the site.








We stayed at the Acropolis Museum until is closed, and then walked over to the plaka neighborhood so we could find a spot for dinner. After exploring a bit and reviewing our options, we settled on a fantastic little place. They didn't seem to have any menus in English and we kept asking our waiter for one, who seemed confused and kept abandoning us. We were so annoyed we almost left, but then the owner came by with a huge platter full of different plates. He explained that the restaurant had a kind of fixed menu, and that we could pick 5 different plates to go with some bread, a bottle of wine, and dessert. It was a great deal, and we picked out our plates with the help of some Germans who were sitting next to us. Dinner was absolutely delicious, and we left happy and full.

The next day, we woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and went to the lobby to meet the rental car guy. We were both a little apprehensive about renting a car, and I spent an inordinate amount of time making sure he had noted every little scratch on the car before we set off for Delphi. Driving in Athens is not for the faint of heart, and I used up the international data roaming (thank you Momma!) to help us navigate through the busy, winding streets. Brett was a total champion and kept us from crashing into the local Athenians, who seemed to think that things like traffic lanes and lights were, at best, a suggestion. Once we got outside of Athens, driving was much easier, and we were pleasantly surprised at how well-marked the roads were. We had heard of people who got lost on the way to Delphi, but with our trusty map in hand the trip was easy (of course, it helped that Brett can read Greek).

The 3-hour drive to Delphi was lovely. It was fun to see the mainland outside of Athens, and once we got up in the mountains the scenery was truly stunning. We wound our way up and up, until it felt more like we were in the Swiss alps than in Greece. After passing through an adorable little ski town, we arrived in Delphi and happily got out of the car to stretch our legs and breath in the fresh mountain air.

People say that, of all the ancient sites, Delphi has the most spectacular sense of place. It couldn't be more true. Standing on the side of the mountain, looking out into the spectacularly blue Bay of Corinth, you can easily see why the ancient Greeks thought Delphi was the center of the world and particularly holy. Delphi is perhaps best known for being the site of the most important oracle in classical Greece. The oracle was dedicated to Apollo and prophesied from within the Temple of Apollo. She was always an older woman, and sat on a tripod chair over an opening in the earth. She would go into a violent trance, probably the result of a gas emitted through the opening in the temple floor, and her "ravings" would be then be translated by the priests. The oracle at Delphi was consulted on all important matters, everything from policies to wars to personal matters. It is said that Alexander the Great dragged the oracle out of the temple by her hair when he didn't receive the prophesy that he had hoped for. I found the entire site fascinating, and spent much of the time preoccupied thinking about these women who simultaneously had so much power and were, at the same time, almost voiceless. After exploring the site for several hours, Brett and I walked over to the town of Delphi to grab lunch, and we enjoyed our last Greek salad peering off the side of the mountain down into the Bay of Corinth.


















After we left Delphi, we drove even further into nowhere to see the Monastery of St. Luke. The monastery, which was built in the 10th century, is one of the most important sites of middle Byzantine art and architecture. Besides the monks and priests, the place was virtually empty and we enjoyed walking through the peaceful monastery, looking at the gorgeous frescoes and architecture. The monastery also had spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and before we left we sat overlooking the valley and reminiscing about our trip.










After leaving St. Luke's we drove back to Athens, dropped off the rental car, and had dinner at the hotel before packing up our stuff to head back home. We were so sad to be leaving, but we were also so grateful that we had had such a wonderful honeymoon. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!

6 comments:

  1. Thx for such a great commentary! I feel like I was right there with you! Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! Amazing trip! What would you say was your favorite and least favorite places you went? Basically, what would you definitely recommend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Emily - That is a great question! We really loved all of the places we went, with the exception of Athens (which we didn't care for). I would definitely recommend Santorini and Ephesus. They're not to be missed! I would also recommend Crete if you're into history, or Bodrum if you're into more of the beach/club scene. Are you planning to head over there anytime soon?

      Delete
  3. These are amazing photos. I love the outfit you have on in the first few shots, the black dress and white shirt. Perfect travel attire :).

    Sweet Apple Lifestyle

    ReplyDelete
  4. I couldn’t believe how whimsical and fun loving photographs you have staged there. However, I have to tell you that the all the shots are outstanding!

    ReplyDelete