Thursday, September 11, 2014

frunneymoon, part one - athens

never one to do things halfway, i wrapped up my birthday week with the boys juuuust in time for another wonderful trip – my college roommate / soul sista liz came over for a mediterranean-style friend honeymoon (we coined it the “frunneymoon”). for the sake of efficiency, she arrived into istanbul just a few hours after the boys had departed. we hung around for one night with my friend alex (of previous post fame), and then left together the following day for 10 wonderful days in greece!

our first impression of greece was highly favourable. it wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but it was certainly a pleasant confirmation. everyone was exceedingly kind and helpful, from the concierge at the airport to the bus driver in the city center (who let us ride for free because the ticket kiosk was sold out - what?!). moreover, most people spoke excellent english, which was a definite surprise (and relief) for me. we did put some individual effort into learning some basic phrases before we arrived, which always makes a huge difference; starting with a few words in someone’s native language can result in a major change in the attitudes of people you meet along the way! plus, it’s fun to learn new ways to communicate.

the first half of our frunneymoon was spent exploring the city of athens, another amazingly historic place. if you can’t see the trend here, i like history-cations. we had an absolute blast for four days in the city. my favourite part (no surprises here) was seeing the ancient ruins; the enduring presence of millennia of history never ceases to astound me. i loved climbing up the acropolis, seeing the remnants of what was once the shining city on the hill that birthed modern democracy. we stood under the shadow of the parthenon, and it wasn’t difficult at all to imagine what it must have been in its glory days. (the full-scale replica in nashville helped a bit on that front.) we walked along the same paths that some of the greatest thinkers in history – plato, socrates, aristotle – might have strolled down, expounding on their philosophies to the young men who followed in their wake. it was so easy to picture that ancient city, the thriving culture that truly believed itself to be the pinnacle of all human history.

even apart from the overwhelming historical significance, athens was wonderful. we had some truly excellent food – i never liked gyros until i went to greece! like morocco, everything was fresh and often made right in front of you… also, the feta cheese was incredible. the best thing we ate, though, was the yogurt. yes, greek yogurt. on the recommendation of one of liz’s belmont friends, we went and found the yogurt shop “around the corner from the acropolis metro station, across from the gelato shop” and it. was. incredible. we went the first day.. and the second.. and the third.. and the fourth. literally, we ate this yogurt every day we were in athens. it was so fresh and creamy and delicious, and you could add fruit or cereal.. and then the honey. oh my lord, the honey… i have never had anything so delectable. i got the same thing every day – regular yogurt with bananas, corn flakes, and pine honey. the last day i added strawberries. i had to ask panos (the worker, who i ended up friending on facebook because he was so awesome) to give me the same quantity in a bigger cup so i could mix it all better. sigh… i miss you, fresko yogurt bar.

our time in athens wasn’t just spent eating yogurt on the acropolis, though. we saw a good part of the city in those four days! everything from the more modernized “academy” and national library to the little shopping streets of the plaka neighborhood. we checked out a couple museums, the panathenaic olympic stadium (the birthplace of the modern olympics), saw an enormous group of soccer fans gathering in a huge park on their way to a game, and even made some friends in our hostel. on the recommendation of the internet, we took an afternoon/evening trip out to the coast, to the temple of poseidon at sounio. it’s this isolated little temple on the tippy top of a cliff, overlooking the mediterranean on three sides. kind of makes sense why poseidon would want a temple there! we enjoyed watching a gorgeous sunset before taking the final bus back to the city. our last night, we hiked (read: took the cable car) to the top of the tallest hill in athens, lycabettus hill. there’s a teeny little church on top, and a restaurant, and that’s about it! we treated ourselves to a nice dinner, looking out over the city as the sun set and the lights started to twinkle. seeing the parthenon lit up from a different vantage point was certainly awe-inspiring!

on the fifth morning, we headed to the port to catch our boat for the second half of the frunneymoon… but i think that’s a story for a different post. :) if you would like to see photos from greece, check out this facebook album!

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