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Greece 2019 - New Memories and New Friends

Shelly and I had a trip to Greece on our bucket list for a number of years.  In August 2019, we decided to book a trip.  I had wanted to plan a trip on our own, but Shelly found a great deal on Globus.  We booked an off-season tour with 7-day land and 4-day cruise of the islands for only $2,100 per person.  This included airfare, transfers, hotels, breakfasts and dinners, tours, pre-paid gratuities, and trip insurance.  I checked the itinerary and it included everything we wanted to see, so we decided to go with it.  We booked it for November 4th through the 16th.  We were a bit concerned about the weather during this time of the year as it tends to be cool, in the 60’s, and rainy.  But we would pack and dress for it.  We were excited to visit this historic area of the world, and anxious to try authentic Greek food. 

Our Itinerary

Our land excursion included 1 ½ days in Athens, with travels to Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nauplia, Olympia, Patras, Delphi, Arachova, then back to Athens.  We would then board the cruise ship and tour Mykonos, Ephesus, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini.  We would then return to Athens for one night, then fly home.  It was a lot of stops in 12 days.  Could we see all we wanted to see in just 12 days?  We would soon see.  Below is a picture showing our itinerary.

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Day 1 - Athens

November 4th came, and we arrived at Washington Dulles for our flight.  We flew Austrian Air to Vienna, about an 8-hour flight.  I watched two movies, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Shaft.”  Shelly watched a movie and played games.  Neither of us slept, but the flight went quickly and was uneventful.  After a brief layover, we flew two hours to Athens.  Our Globus representative was there to take us to our hotel, the Hotel Zafolia.  The weather was fantastic, sunny in the mid-70’s.  We hoped this was the start of beautiful weather for us. 

The hotel was decent, Trip Advisor gives it 4 out of 5 stars.  I’d give it 3 ½.  It was clean and comfortable.  The staff was friendly and helpful upon our arrival.  There is an ATM in the lobby, so we got some Euro.  But the hotel was about three miles from the Acropolis and Plaka, the quaint shops and restaurant area.  So, if you want to be within close walking distance to the action, the Hotel Zafolia is not for you.

Following a recommendation from the front desk, we ate dinner a couple blocks from the hotel at Meivtavi Restaurant.  The shrimp saganaki was excellent but the calamari was a little tough.  We later found out from fellow tour friends that the restaurant Alexandra, a couple hundred feet further down the road, was excellent. 

We returned to the hotel and sat in on a trip orientation given by our tour director.  She went through day-by-day travel and activities.  It was going to be a trip jam-packed with sights, sounds, food, and excitement.

 

We then enjoyed a few drinks on the rooftop terrace and watched the sunset before heading to bed.   Here's some pictures from the rooftop terrace.

Shelly on rooftop of Hotel Zafolia
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Day 2 - Athens

We had an early wake-up call and had the breakfast buffet.  It was nothing to write home about, but we filled up. 

We then boarded our tour bus with 41 other fellow tourists.  Most were from the U.S.  One couple was from Indonesia.  Our tour guide for the land trip was Marina, and she was great.  She was very knowledgeable in the sites, architecture, art, and the history.  We embarked on our short trip to the Acropolis.

We arrived at the base of the Acropolis, and it looked magnificent.  You could see the ruins of the Parthenon, and we had a steep climb of 80 steps to reach it.  The rocks were well-worn and slippery.  There were a lot of people there, and I could not imagine being here during the height of the season.  We made it to the entry gate and listened to Marina discuss the history of the site.  Unfortunately, she fainted and hit her head on the marble steps.  We had two nurses in our group who tended to her.  EMT’s were called, but she refused treatment.  She said she was OK and wanted to continue the tour.  Below are pictures of the Parthenon taken from the base, and the entry gate.

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The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.  The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron.  Here are some pictures and a video of the Parthenon.

The Erechtheum with its Porch of Maidens is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis  which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.  Here are some pictures of the Erechtheum.

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We also enjoyed a panoramic view that includes glimpses of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the colossal temple at the center of the Greek capital Athens. It was dedicated to "Olympian" Zeus, a name originating from his position as head of the Olympian gods. 

We also saw the Theater of Dionysus, a major theater in Athens, considered to be the world's first theater, built at the foot of the Athenian Acropolis. Dedicated to Dionysus, the god of plays and wine (among other things), the theater could seat as many as 17,000 people with excellent acoustics, making it an ideal location for ancient Athens' biggest theatrical celebration, the Dionysia.

The beautifully preserved Theseum, where Socrates taught, is dedicated to Hephaestus and Athena as patrons of the arts and crafts. This is the best-preserved ancient Greek temple in the world, is slightly older than the Parthenon (i.e., c. 450–440 BC). 

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We finished seeing the amazing Acropolis and trekked the marble steps down to our bus.  We then did a city tour of Athens sites such as the modern Olympic stadium where the 1896 Olympics were held.  Here are some pictures of Athens through the bus window.

We had the bus drop us off at the National Archaeological Museum.  It is a premier museum and houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece from prehistory to late antiquity.  It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world and contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity worldwide.  It houses some impressive statues and artifacts, and lots of vases.  Here are pictures from the museum.

We then walked about two miles to Plaka, the old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens. It is known as the "Neighborhood of the Gods" due to its proximity to the Acropolis and its many archaeological sites

 

We had dinner in Plaka;  I had sea bream and Shelly had chicken kabobs.  As we ate, we watched the pickpockets on the streets.  Some we so obvious with their eyeballing tourists and hand-signals to partners.  Here's some pictures of Plaka and our dinner.