Our final morning in Naxos we woke up to rain, unusual at this time of the year and the locals weren't happy as it kills beach business. We had our last breakfast at the Ippokampos Resort and then headed out to the airport. Our very kind hotel manager had warned us not to go too early as there was absolutely nothing at the airport. He was correct, it is perhaps one of the smallest I've ever flown out of other than 25 years ago when I flew out of Mazatlan (they've since built a much larger airport). It is one room, with a bar, one airline counter where you hand over your checked luggage and on the other side of the room security.
On a funny note - we had previously only seen two policeman in all of Naxos. I am sure there are more on the island but we happen to see these gentleman helping a couple of tourists a few days earlier. I imagine there is not much crime on Naxos, the occasional car accident and drunken tourists/lost passports so not much call for their services. The same two policeman showed up to process all security at the airport, highly unusual in North America but likely a good use of resources on Naxos.
|The one room Naxos airport|
Our prop-job Olympic airline flight was on time and soon we were in Athens where the weather was cloudy but hot with no rain. A sidenote: Aegean/Olympic Airways used to be two separate airlines but now are owned by the same company and they are spotlessly clean and highly professional. I would easily recommend them for any flights to and from or within Greece. We arrived midday so went to the Acropolis Museum which was near our hotel. The ticket price of 5 Euro was included with our hotel stay as a promotion but the Museum would have been well worth it.
The New Acropolis Museum is a massive building over several floors which opened to the public in 2007 replacing a much smaller museum bursting at the seams with antiquities. In the course of construction they discovered an ancient Athenian neighborhood below so built glass floors so that you can see the old 5-9th century ruins below which extend to the outside of the building.
Every where we go hubby connects with creatures, sometimes they are monkeys, cats, dogs, but often they are birds. Here we are on the roof of the museum (where their restaurant is) and he is checking out the pigeons.
We stayed at the Philippos hotel which is a 3 star family-owned tourist/business hotel near the Acropolis and Plaka. I knew that they have a few rooms on upper floors that have partial Acropolis view so requested that (*a request is only that, they never can guarantee anything) and happily, that is what they gave us. The rooms are small but clean and the balcony is very large so enjoyable for a drink with your beautiful view in the evening. If you book far enough in advance they offer good rates including breakfast. If going to Athens the best bet is to book early as rates can be sky high at the last minute. Air BnBs are not much better so if prices are about the same we stay in hotels.
|Evening View of Acropolis upper right lit up at night|
|Daytime view of Acropolis/Parthenon from our balcony|
Her name was Ariadne and she is fabulous - she truly made our stay in Athens memorable. She works currently as an addictions counselor and has been at the job for 20 years. 10 years ago the government wages began to roll back and now she makes a mere 15% of what she did 10 years ago. In order to keep their addictions clinic open, she and the other counselors took their building and opened an AirBnB (name is Acropolis House) on the upper floor and they are able to keep counselling on the ground floor. Each of the counselors also do split shifts so that they can have outside jobs. Being an unpaid tour guide who works on tips is how she and her family survive. They also each help out in maintaining the AirBnB business which due to its location has been wildly successful. You cannot keep the Greeks down, they just get creative to survive. Yes, the Greek economy is totally in the tank due to many years of mismanagement and misrepresentation by politicians (*according to Ariadne). There is no hope of paying back their debt owed to the IMF and unfortunately just to maintain the minimum payments required the government has rolled back pensions and wages across the board. There is 48% unemployment and yes, there are sometimes demonstrations because the people of Greece are very unhappy with little hope in sight. You really don't see this side of Greece unless you come to Athens as that is where the Government is. There is graffiti everywhere, a common blight around the world but here it has meaning and is a way of protest. Often a senior pensioner may be the only income for a family and even that has been cut back 70%. Such a great country yet a very sad and discouraging situation.
Anyway, Ariadne was like a cool Aunt who led us all around Athens and if someone said they were interested interested in something we would go off in another direction showing us both ancient and modern Athens. I cannot possibly share everything we did and saw that day so am simply sharing photos, see captions for details.
|Hadrian's Arch - starting point of tour|
|Me in front of Hadrian's Temple|
|Roman Baths discovered during excavation of Metro prior to 2004 Olympics|
|Stray dog that is Ariadne's friend|
|Royal Guard at Athens Parliament|
|Changing of the Guard|
|Where No Magic Happens - Athens Parliament|
|Hotel Grand Bretagne - Hitler took over this hotel in WWII as his headquarters in Athens|
|First Greek University|
|Inside Byzantine Church|
|Meat Section - Athens Central Market|
|Fish Section - Athens Central Market|
|Typical street graffiti|
|Very old spices store|
|Monastiraki Flea Market|
|Unknown ruins we stumbled across between buildings|
|Entrance to the Acropolis complete with stray dog|
|Theatre of Dionysus at bottom of Acropolis|
|Parthenon at the Acropolis|
|Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis|
|View of Athens from the Acropolis|
Our savior was the Athens Metro which we ended up taking twice during our three day stay. If you can find a station you can generally find your way home - but if truly lost you are sure to stumble across a taxi which is also generally reasonable in Athens. Athens is a gritty, dirty, beautiful, colorful ancient city. Some love it, some hate it. Hubby and I dislike big cities generally but due to it's history and walkability, we loved Athens. If anyone tells you that you should bypass Athens when going to Greece I would argue otherwise. I am not even sure the 3 nights we spent there did it justice but that is all we had and there were still a lot of things we would have liked to have seen and done.
I have a zillion more photos and stories from our trip to Greece but this post is long enough so will be sure to include more in future posts. This was a fabulous trip - and worth every hard-earned penny-pinched dollar spent. We hope to return to Greece one day, maybe to explore the interior or venture to more islands. I have been blessed enough to go there twice in my lifetime (hubby's 1st trip) and hope to see it again one day.