Athens, Greece, May 2021
We visited Greece during Covid times, just as Greece became one of the few European countries that had started gradual slow-opening up for tourist in April 2021, with full opening on May 14. Since Greece was on our bucket list, we decide to go before too many tourists decided to go and over-run the place.
We flew to Athens on May 19, 2021, via Frankfurt, and had to show proof of vaccination, proof of where we were going to stay at, and have Passenger Locator Form (PLF) paperwork that would allow contact tracing etc. etc. And since we entered the EU in Germany, but were not allowed to enter Germany (which was still closed to tourists); we had to show onward confirmed air tickets which we had to buy on Lufthansa and could not use stand-by travel that we normally use. We were thoroughly grilled and all documents carefully scrutinized. The Frankfurt airport was unusually quiet, and after a long grilling at the Immigration counter, we were allowed to proceed and board our flight from Frankfurt to Athens. Entry into Greece at Athens was quite simple and straightforward, as we had taken care of most formalities in Frankfurt, the first point of entry into the EU.
Greece was one of the first countries to open up to tourists after Covid, as 20% of their GDP before Covid used to come from Tourism, and an estimated 25% of their workforce was employed in the tourism sector. We stayed initially at the Intercontinental Hotel Athenaeum in Athens, which had ridiculously low rates as they wanted to attract business, and took taxi’s and public transportation to check out various places. Since Greece has a lot of ancient history, we came across ruins everywhere we went.
Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, theatre and the Olympic Games. From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organized into various independent city-states, known as poleis (singular polis), which spanned the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Philip II of Macedon united most of present-day Greece in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the ancient world, from the eastern Mediterranean to the North Western parts of the Indian subcontinent. The subsequent Hellenistic period saw the height of Greek culture and influence in antiquity. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its continuation, the Byzantine Empire, which was culturally and linguistically predominantly Greek. The Greek Orthodox Church, which emerged in the first century AD, helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox world. After falling under Ottoman rule in the mid-15th century, Greece emerged as a modern nation state in 1830 following a war of independence.
Athens is a major coastal urban area in the Mediterranean and is both the capital and largest city of Greece. With its surrounding urban area’s population numbering over three million, it is also the eighth largest urban area in the European Union. Athens dominates and is the capital of the Attica region and is one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence beginning somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennia BCE . Classical Athens was a powerful city-state & was a center for the arts, learning and philosophy, and the home of Plato‘s Academy and Aristotle‘s Lyceum & therefore referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political influence on the European continent—particularly Ancient Rome.
We spent our time in Athens exploring the ancient historical sites, and the various neighborhoods. The most important and significant historical site is the Acropolis citadel which has multiple ruins of buildings & temples including the most famous Parthenon, dedicated to the Goddess Athena. Since Acropolis is on a hilltop, it is visible from most of Athens and is therefore unmistakable. We had a choice of either a long climb up or take a shortcut ride on a golf cart and then an elevator up; a privilege given to seniors; that we decided to claim. There was a lot of walking at the top anyways so we wanted to reserve our energy for that 😊 . Below are some scenes of the Acropolis
A view of the city from the Acropolis
We walked downhill from the Acropolis to the Acropolis Museum, and spent a good few hours here checking out the statues, artifacts and learning about the Parthenon and history of Greece.
Next, we walked over to Plaka, the oldest neighborhood of Athens, which was also in the shadow of the Acropolis. This is a nice old neighborhood with cobblestone roads, and lots of small boutique shops and restaurants everywhere. We spent some time here over several days. Unfortunately, it was already quite touristy ☹ .
Here we had many a time when a restaurant would show us their menu for dinner, and inform us which items were not available that evening. We found out that this was because they run out of food towards the end of the day, because they only bring fresh food every day to use that day only. That may explain why all the food we had tasted so good; it was fresh daily and hopefully organic. Seafood was also brought in daily and frequently ran out towards the end of the day. Amazing concept.
One day, we checked out the ancient Agora of Athens, which used to be the heart of public life of the ancient city, and housed the administrative officials, the judiciary, religious and cult center. Social and cultural activities also took place here. There are many ancient ruins here; many are well preserved. Some images from the Agora below.
The Monastiraki Fela Market is right outside the Agora; where we headed to next. It has a lot of nice eating places as well as lots of goods for sale to look at and admire; scenes from this flea market below
Dinner was at a small restaurant away from the city center/touristy areas; and not only had excellent Thai food, but also was reasonably priced. We did find that prices were much lower than in the touristy areas and the food was just as good if not better. Good rule of thumb that is almost always true.
Next day, more exploring….
We tried getting into this mosque but it was closed, and had been converted into a Museum, that was in the process of being renovated.
Not far from Hadrian’s library, was the Roman Agora, another cultural and admin center built by the Romans during their time in Greece. Some scenes from the Roman Agora below
At one end of the Roman Agora, was an Ottoman mosque built during the Ottoman occupation. Well preserved and we were able to enter it, but it was deserted and empty and unused it seemed
The 5 senses and how we felt? This was a feast for the eyes; felt we were walking down history everywhere because the ruins are generally in very good shape and well preserved. Made us wonder how they built all these places without heavy machinery. There was a lot of walking to do; so we did get tired and beat at the end of the day; but that is all good 🙂 . The Food was simply delicious because it was fresh daily and hopefully organic. Highly recommend feasting on seafood while in Athens as it is brought in fresh daily. The best part is the restauranteurs are proud of their fresh foods daily; as they should be 🙂
So much more to explore in Athens; to be continued in the next blog….This entry was posted in Athens, Greece