Well friends, we have come to our last destination in our whirl-wind adventures. Let’s recap our escapades through Europe:
-We began our adventures in Malaga full of food, drinks, sunshine, music, and great company
-The adventure continued as we celebrated my birthday in London!
-Dani and I then popped over to Austria to relived our childhoods singing “The Hills are Alive” throughout Salzburg. There was also time for a brief pit stop in Munich for beers and pretzels! We also celebrated Dani’s 19th birthday.
-My roommate, Catherine, and her boyfriend Austin joined us in Malaga to continue the party. With Dani in tow, they traveled all around Andalucia.
That brings us to our last destination: Greece. Dani and I met up with my other two friends, Christine and Michaela, for one last “OPPPAAAA” before we all headed back to the states. It was a quick trip 3 days in Athens and then 2 amazing days Santorini. Now, this wasn’t my first time in Greece; I was lucky enough to spend 4 weeks traveling all around Greece during a January Term class. Since I had a trip of a lifetime the last time, I had been putting off exploring more of Greece. However, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of running around Santorini like the girls in The Traveling Pants book series.
Once we arrived in Athens we hit a road bump…the hostel we originally booked somehow managed to overbook for the nights we had. Now normally, I don’t like to complain, but this hostel (I’m not saying any names, but…Hostel Pella Inn) was the worst about dealing with this. Yes, they did find us another hostel room at a nearby hostel, but just for the one night. Not for the rest of our stay, nor when we came back from Santorini. RUDE. After we dropped out bags off we set off for a paseo around Athens, which included some delicious Greek food.
One thing that I absolutely love about Greece, and other ancient cities, is that the history is literally EVERYWHERE. Athens is a pretty modern city with bits and pieces of it’s ancient history scattered around. You are literally walking around, and then BOOM, there are some ancient ruins. That is because it is illegal to build on top of any ancient ruins or artifacts, so many people start digging foundations and they have to stop and relocate because of ancient ruins! IT IS SO GREAT BECAUSE THE HISTORY IS PRESERVED! A great example of this is the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, located right in the center of Athens just a couple of blocks away from the Acropolis. It was originally built in the 6th century BC, but was later destroyed by an invasion in the 3rd century AD. The temple was never restored to its original glory, but used to house construction material and other various items.
Before I continue on with my long winded explanations about temples, I should probably answer the one question you are all thinking: Why did the Greeks build these amazing temples? Well it is a simple but complicated answer: religion. However, it doesn’t end there, these temples were also used for markets, government centers, town halls, courts, etc. The Acropolis is a great example of this: located on the hill is the Temple of Athena (whom this city of Athens is named after), a theatre, as well as smaller temples that were used for governmental offices. Now, there were rules, or architectural orders, to how these temples were built. First there was the Doric orders, then the Ionic orders, and then finally the Corinthian order. Each order had its own distinct plans and can easily be seen by the decoration, or lack there of, on the columns.
As you can see from the pictures, the Doric style is more classic with little embellishment, the Ionic style adds more detail, and finally the Corinthian style is the most detailed. I could go into more detail about the differences between these styles, but I’m going to bore you with other important details later with my in-depth descriptions of the Acropolis.
So the only other country I have re-visited multiple times has been London. I traveled to Greece about 5 years ago for a January Term class, and it was 4 weeks of amazing experiences. I was nervous to come back because I didn’t want to spoil my awesome memories. Once again, I was wrong because it was great revisiting some of my favorite spots with my friends and my cousin. Dani and I of course hit up the jeweler who sold my whole group the same rings, and I also found the random hole-in-the-wall gyro window that sold 2.50 euro gyros. The only thing that was different was that I could not find my stray dog, Kostos, that followed us around while we were in Athens.
Dani and I did a super informative and well-priced tour of the Acropolis, that also included a tour around Athens (through the Viator company). We got to see the Olympic stadium that was built for the first modern day Olympics in 1896. The Panathenaic Stadium was built using the remains of an ancient Greek stadium there, and is completely constructed using marble. The original, ORIGINAL “stadium” is located in Olympia, Greece.
Then it was time for the Grand showing of the Acropolis. This is the one thing that blows about traveling during the summer, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD is also traveling to the one touristy spot you are at. So along with dodging the millions of people there, we got to tour the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, the temple of Athena Nike, and the Theatre of Dionysus. The most famous building on top is the Parthenon, which was built in dedication to Athena the Greek goddess that the city is named after. This building is the perfect example of the Doric order of architecture because the columns aren’t overly decorated. Now this building was created to replace the older temple of Athena Nike, and there is evidence of a shrine dedicated to the goddess. However, since the building was damaged when the Ottomans turned the temple into a Mosque in the early 1460’s, it isn’t quite clear what function the temple had.
My favorite spot on the Acropolis is the Erechtheion. It’s much smaller than the Parthenon, but just as grand. The most famous part of the temple, called the “Porch of Maidens,” are the ladies that are “holding” the roof of the temple up. These ladies are called Caryatids, are representing priestess who carried baskets of reeds or tree nuts. It is even said that the Greek goddess Artemis was created from a nut tree, and these were the ladies who worshipped her. These types of statues and figurines can be found all over the world. Now these specific Caryatids were placed to support the roof as well as to hide a 15 foot beam behind them. Sad Fact: none of the Caryatids that are located on the Erechtheion are the real ones. One is housed in the British Museum (the rest have been taken to the Acropolis museum for cleaning and research) because one Lord Elgin thought he needed a souvenir of Greece. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a bit…but not really. Elgin came to Greece with the job to supervise a team of artist who were to paint different landscapes of Greece. He was lucky enough to receive a document that allowed his team to mold any part of the temples and take away any pieces that had inscriptions or pictures on it. Pretty broad document right? So Lord Elgin and his friends helped themselves to a lot of souvenirs by the time they finished their “job” in Greece. One FUN FACT about these ladies, each have a distinct hairstyle, not for looks, but so that their necks could support the heavy roof (the neck area would be the weakest spot of the statue).
On the other side of the Erectheion is the Pandroseion which was a small shrine area named after Pandrosos, daughter of the first king of Athens, Kekrops, and sister of Herse and Aglauros, to whom one of the sacred caves on the north side of the Acropolis was dedicated. This location is also known for the olive tree that was given to the city of Athens by Athena to celebrate her victory over Poseidon in the contest for the land of Attica (AKA the area of Athens). If you continue to the back side of the Erectheion, and look at the underside of the roof you see that there is a missing block of marble. There is a story behind that: Zeus was angry at Athena and to show his anger he threw one of his famous strikes of lightening and it hit that exact spot.
The historical fun doesn’t stop there, if you haven’t gotten enough exercise walking on top of the Acropolis you can head down and go to the museum! It’s another one of my favorites because it literally recreates the walk up to the Acropolis through the many artifacts found on the Acropolis. So, for example, as you enter the museum it is as if you are at the bottom of the Acropolis. Then as you head up the floors you are heading up to the top of the Acropolis, ending at the exhibit that includes the Parthenon frieze (the border that would have been on the front outside of the Parthenon).
Our fun didn’t end there, after a delicious lunch full of Greek salads and feta cheese we headed to this mountain that I remembered from my first time there that has a beautiful St. George’s Chapel on top. This mountain, called Lycabettus Hill (lies, it is most definitely not a hill), also has the BEST view of the city. The story behind the mountain is that Athena dropped a rock while she was building the city of Athens. Now there is no easy way for you to get to the top of the hill. My suggestion is to struggle through the flights of stairs up to the funicular (tram) and take that to the top.
The part that I was super excited for was our time in Santorini. The only thing we had to suffer through was the 8 HOUR ferry to Santorini (click here for the company we went through). We were all SO excited to go to Santorini. Yes, it is one of the most touristy places a person can go to, but there is a legitimate reason why: it is literally so beautiful that I believe it’s heaven. Hands down, the most beautiful place in the world. We decided to stay in the beach town of Perissa in a hostel/hotel that was literally ON THE BEACH…well OK we had to walk across the street BUT STILL BEAAAAUUUUUTIFUL!
Within 10 minutes of being on the beach in Santorini I decided I was never going to leave…even though I live on the Costa del Sol in Spain. First thing is that the beaches are black sand beaches. Second, it’s Santorini!!! Sadly we only had one full day there, but we made the most of it. We signed up for a full day tour that included transportation to and from our hotel, a stop at the Red Beach (a beach with red sand), a sweet boat ride to an active volcano, to a secret cove to swim, lunch on the island of Thirasia, and a final destination to Oia to watch the sunset. All of that for 35 euros (about 50 dollars)! We of course did the most touristy thing one can do in Greece: smash plates and learn traditional Greek dances (click here for videos!).