I originally visited Athens in 2005 (you can read about it here and here)
I like to go away for Christmas. We visited 2 destinations in Greece, and it gave me a chance to go back to Athens.
Straight out of the airport, we buy a metro tickets and head for the centre of Athens.
It wasn’t particularly warm, but we had a fab time.
We arrive at Kubik Athens Smart Hotel. It was a budget affair, and I wasn’t sure what it would be like.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. It had a friendly bar, exemplary customer service and a hotel room out of tomorrows world.
It was so modern in fact, that the curtains, lights, tv and everything were controlled from a tablet.
But were no Rock Stars and we don’t travel to hang out in hotels.
Out exploring. Its a few years since I was in Athens (the recession happened in between times). The people were still very friendly but some of the streets were really dirty.
We start off by wandering around the Monastiraki flee market.
The Agora museum entrance is super for taking pictures as it really leads the eye.
On my first visit to the Agora museum, I completely missed this fascinating Spartan shield.
From the battle of Sphacteria in 425 BC. A priceless artefact, it’s the only one of its kind in the world.
In practical terms, its hard to imagine someone running around the battle field with this heavy thing, but its said that the Spartans were “a special kind” of men.
I decided to pick out a few places I didn’t visit last time – Hadrian’s Arch.
The stunning Panatheniac stadium.
Finishing point for the modern Athens marathon, the site has been used countless times for sporting events and the first Olympic games were held here.
The guard on the front gate is a member of an elite group of commando’s, but unfortunately has to wear ridiculous clothes out of tradition.
Back to our hotel, quick clean up then drinks in the hotel bar.
Some idiot Japanese students order take out Pizza’s and stank the place out. Shame, were were enjoying ourselves.
Never mind, we decided to head out for the evening.
An enchanting restaurant, done out like a general store with cans and supplies everywhere.
Next morning and we head for the Acropolis to see the Parthenon.
Last time I was here, the Parthenon marbles were stored in this small building.
The Greeks have always argued for the return of the other half of the marbles, (referred to in Britain, as the Elgin marbles), presently housed in the British Museum.
The British museum had argued that the Athenian museum was not appropriate for such significant artefacts and that was their bases for keeping hold of them.
The Greek government had countered, by constructing an incredible new museum to host the collection. So, this building was now empty (it would have made a superb cafe, and there didn’t seem to be anywhere else to get coffee !).
A view from the Acropolis, showing the new Acropolis museum bellow.
It was only half built, the last time I was here, and I was disappointed not to be able to see it.
The museum is literally built on top of an archaeological site, which we see as we walk towards the entrance.
Excavation of the site bellow the museum continues.
Opened in 2009, I wandered around, and I really was impressed with its informative displays, overall quality of the building and the professionalism of the staff.
Lunch in the cafe delicious and the service superb.
A re-creation of the Parthenon, with the marbles displayed in relative position. The ones that are missing have an ostentatious sign that says AWAITING RETURN FROM THE BRITISH MUSEUM.
the walls around the museum are glass so the marbles can be viewed in daylight, as they would be if you were wandering around the outside of the Parthenon.
A design feature of the museum is this viewing gallery, which allows the Parthenon view to interact with the viewing of the marbles.
We head back to our hotel in a reflective mood. A few drinks and dinner near out hotel, then off to bed to prepare for our trip to Meteora.
Arriving back in the evening, its dark and some of the streets we walk down aren’t particularly inviting
No matter, we get to our hotel without problems and go out for dinner (its New Years Eve and my thoughts are off the amazing possibilities of the coming year).
Back at our hotel (360 degree pop art hotel if your ever near there).
A drink on the rooftop terrace has views of the acropolis.
As its New Year, they have a fireworks display.
In the morning, standing in the same spot.
We had breakfast, but decided to eat indoors as the weather wasn’t very nice.
Our first top on New Years day, is the National Archaeological museum.
The place was massive and it took me 2 hours to see all of it.
But were on holiday, so after lots of exploring, they have a nice garden in the middle, so we stop to relax in the cafe.
A pigeon had somehow got inside the cafe.
Nobody seemed to mind, and the pigeon just seemed to wander around (and why not, he wasn’t doing any harm).
We continue on our way and decide to visit another place I missed last time – Lycabettus hill.
I wanted to take the cable car, but Nikki insisted we walk.
Has spectacular views of the city, and there were hundreds of people at the top.
The 360 degree views of Athens were incredible.
Strangely, there didn’t appear to be many skyscrapers, which for an international capital, was a surprise.
Back into town, the Metropolitan cathedral, a modern building that contrasts with all the ancient stuff I’ve been seeing over the past few days.
A few drinks, then back on the metro to the airport.
At the Airport, about to go home.
A machine allows me to vote: Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Athens ?
I visit the British Museum frequently. They’ve got enough artefacts to spare.