Piraeus and Athens

It’s the end of September and I realize how long it has been since I’ve updated this blog. But truth be told, Summer is not for sitting at home and typing endless texts about traveling. Even though I haven’t been on the road as much as I wanted to, there’s still a few stories to be told.

While I already had typed in a headline for my Portugal trip, I decided to be a bit more German and organized than I usually am and will start with my first trip in 2019, not counting the Sri Lanka trip you’ve hopefully read about a while back.

Piraeus

My friend Tony had invited me to come along and visit his parents in Piraeus, Greece (in case you haven’t heard of that city – it’s right next to Athens and if nobody would tell you, you’d think it’s one humongous valley of endless white buildings). Tony always calls it the harbor of Athens and it probably is. He grew up there and knows it inside out, so it was actually fun to ride along and see it from the eyes of a local, not necessarily the tourist I’d usually be.

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Piraeus in the back of the pic, with Athens and the Acropolis in the front. Shot from the Lykavittos.

We started off with a walk through Piraeus, which has some interesting corners, but generally seems to be a normal southern European city. Lots of 3-4 story buildings, lots and lots of cars and tight corners. What I thought was nice, are the orange trees everywhere. I don’t think I would like to try one, but it really adds to the scenery!

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A nice area in Piraeus is the the coast line and the marina. You’ll find plenty of cafés and little restaurants to sit, talk and just let the day go by. Which, I have to admit, quite a few people were doing on a weekday morning. DSCF2153DSCF2147

One of the cooler things to do in Piraeus is going to watch a football match. IF, big big IF, you can get a ticket. That is not because it is always sold out, but rather because the club / league is making it almost impossible to buy one. You actually need to become a fan club member for 10 Euros a year AND you need a Greek person with a social security number to vouch for you, as they don’t let any away fans into the stadium. If you manage to do that, which we did, you’ll get a good atmosphere and lots of singing by the home fans. You can enjoy your soft drink or water with it, as they don’t sell any alcohol. There’d be a riot in Germany if you’d do that.

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My fan card!

 

Athens

There’s of course a must see in Athens and that’s the Acropolis. But there’s actually a lot more and I think you can easily spend a week going through all the different areas. The most touristy places are (of course) the Acropolis and the surrounding areas. We took a train to downtown and got out at the parliament building, where you can watch the changing of the guards Greek style if you time it right.

There are nice little streets leading to the Acropolis from there and you can easily get yourself lost and just walk around with a camera in your hand.

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At the bottom of the Acropolis hill, you’ll find plenty of Ancient sites. I think you’ll have to come quite early in the morning to not have a million tourists in your pics. Some of them are also lit up at night and that might be interesting for long exposures. I still have that on the bucket list, as well as the Acropolis at night.

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The Acropolis from the Ancient Agora of Athens

We went into the Agora, or better known as Ancient Agora of Athens, a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”. To quote another friend, this place is full of old stones. Not quite that easy, but as with many ruins, you need a bit of imagination of what it looked like in the past. 

The nicest site in the Agora was the Temple of Hephaestus, which has quite an interesting history.

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One fun place for photographers is the Stoa of Attalos, which was rebuilt between 1952 and 1956. Good fun to play with the columns, avoid tourists and get a few good shots! I thought black and white worked best.

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When you look at the Acropolis, you wonder how the hell you’ll up there. Well, lazy me thought that. But it was actually not THAT rough and along the way you get plenty of photo ops.

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When we got to the entrance, we didn’t have any waiting time. That was in March – and yes, I’m aware of how long it took me to write this blog after getting back – but if you go in a more crowded month, make sure you book tickets online. Even then you could end up waiting for an hour or two to get in.

Once you’re in, you might want to turn right first and follow the path down to the Theatre of Dionysus.  I’ve never been to a concert in an ancient theatre like this, but man, I’d love to sit in right here. Built in 500 BC, this is probably one of the coolest places to do it…Bucket list. Big Time!!!

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Further up the hill you’ll find the main attractions. The biggest one and most known is of course the Parthenon. Commonly mistaken for being the Acropolis itself, the temple for the goddess Athena was completed in 438 BC. There’s a big dispute going on between Greece and the UK, as the British Museum holds quite a number of ancient artifacts that can (supposedly) be traced back to the Acropolis and other ancient sites. Don’t miss out on the Acropolis museum as well.  For photo purposes, it was quite unfortunate to have the scaffolding around the temple, but if they don’t renovate these sites, they’ll be gone soon.

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What you can’t miss out on, as it’s right in front of you, is the view over the city. The pure density of buildings, almost as far as you can see. Maybe not everybody is a fan of that, but I found it almost unbelievable.

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The other hill you should visit is the Lykavittos. Simply for the reason that you can see the city AND the Acropolis from there. Bring a longer lens than I had (135mm max) in case you want a closer shot of the temples.

As mentioned before, this would be a great spot when the lights are on. You’ll have to fight tourists left and right, even when not busy. To get up, I’d suggest the funicular, but it’s not too hard to walk down after your visit.

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And don’t forget to eat! Can’t beat a good Tzatziki with bread, followed by lamb chops or a good Souvlaki. Grilled Feta and a good Greek salad, olives….There’s quite a lot of choice and usually you won’t be disappointed!

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