Back at it again, finally getting to go to Europe after my entire trip for 2020 was canceled. This isn’t the same trip I had planned for the previous summer. And for this trip, I am planning my travels only a few days in advance. With COVID you never know what’s going to change or if a negative test will get you locked up into quarantine haha. I plan to be in Greece for about two weeks and then head to Albania from there I have no idea where I will go next. I purchased a roundtrip ticket because it was cheaper than a one-way ticket, so I am supposed to come back at the end of July. I hope to change this and stay until Mid to Late August.
Flying from MSP to AMS then to ATH. About halfway through my flight on the way to Amsterdam my phone broke. Everything I needed access to was on my phone, my tickets, my negative COVID tests, reservations, etc. When I got to customs in Amsterdam they had asked for proof of a return ticket, which I couldn’t access. I was shocked but they let me through without having proof or even showing them that my phone broke.
Last flight to Athens and I’m a bit worried that I won’t get in without access to my negative covid test documents. Luckily we made it through and my brother was able to show his documents when I arrived in Greece customs just trusted we were brothers and let me walk through without proving my negative covid test. Insane and don’t worry I had the negative test I just couldn’t show them.
Day 1 – Get to the City & Rest 06.26.2021
My brother and I arrived in Athens around 17:00 which didn’t give us too much time to explore the city so we decided to just head to the hotel to get food and rest up for tomorrow. We took the train from the airport into the city and then walked to our Hotel, Crown Plaza Athens – City Center. Normally I wouldn’t stay at such an expensive place but the location was good and I had two nights free from credit card points, so win-win in my book.
It is a long train ride from the airport to the city center about 70 minutes. And the costs for a three-day pass for Eur 22. I’m not sure how worth it was to take the train as it takes significantly longer than a taxi but it does include unlimited metro and bus transit. The three-day pass does include a return to the airport as well.
Day 2 – Explore the City 06.27.2021
The plan for today was to see the Parthenon and to walk around a lot of the city and see ancient ruins. The train ticket we bought included the metro so that did make it worth it for how much we used it. We got off at the wrong station, Syntagma, which turns out is actually the better part of town for restaurants and walking around for “city life”. If you do stop here, you can get a photo of Hellenic Parliament, a cool building, and then there is a National Garden behind it that you can walkthrough
We walked through the garden and over to the Panathenaic Stadium, which is the first stadium to host the modern Olympics. The stadium still hosts events today and is made entirely of Marble. Built-in 330 B.C. and then renovated in 1896 the stadium holds up to 45,000 people.
You can walk up and down the stadium stairs and if you go to the top you can see Acropolis.
IF you have time you can go on the track and even go in the tunnel. I ran a lap against myself and took first place! It was 36 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) out. The cost to enter is EUR 5 and they do take credit cards.
Off to Arcoplois, a 25-minute walk from Panathenaic Stadium, so we decided to walk back through the national garden to the Sygtama station. From the Panathenaic Stadium to Acropolis there is no Metro service you can take the bus but the busses were packed so it made more sense to walk to the metro.
We walked up to the Acropolis Ticket Office to find out that it was closed during the day due to excessive heat. We had about three more hours to kill so we walked up to Areopagus Hill and then down the road to Thissio View Bar & Restaurant. This place has outdoor seating with a street view overlooking the Acropolis.
Back to the Top of the Hill to see the Acropolis of Athens. The tickets for entry cost EUR 20. There are two entrances for Arcopoli the one at the top of the hill and the one at the bottom which is near the metro station. When we walked in on the way to Nike, I walked to the edge overlooking the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and then wanted to head down to the bottom of the hill. As I was walking a worker told me that was the exit and I couldn’t go down. This is not an exit and ended up costing me a second ticket to see the rest of Acropolis. Which I’ll cover when I come back to Athens in a future post.
First, we walked up the stairs thru the Temple of Athena Nike and then to Hekatompedon Temple. The Parthenon is heavily under construction which is a bit of a bummer but there were a few spots you could get a good photo of it. The problem is that if you go in the evening in the summer the sun lowers the quality of the photos since it’s behind the Parthenon.
As we were leaving we wanted to go down the acropolis hill, I spoke to another employee and they told us we had to go out the top of the hill exit and walk down the hill. This was completely wrong and when we tried to enter at the bottom entrance we were restricted because our ticket was already scanned. Luckily we had planned to be in Athens again for another day and would make this up then.
We decided to head out to dinner and knock out another Hard Rock Café. The location of this restaurant is near a lot of souvenir shops. We spoke with the server to ask where the place to get a Gyro was and made a note to go to this place tomorrow. This will be my first ever Gyro!
Day 3 – Find a New Phone 06.28.2020
Going without a phone for two days in 2021 especially when traveling is a bit hectic. Thankfully I did have a camera and my GoPro so I didn’t miss anything but not being able to use maps or access electronic tickets was becoming a mess. I ended up going to a local electronic department store and bought a Samsung A32, it’s rubbish but it works.
Next stop was to have my first ever Greek Gyro. I never had one in the US and also had thought it was always Lamb but the options here were chicken and pork, much better in my opinion. Last night the server at Hard Rock Café recommended a place at Sytgama station but didn’t know the name. She described it next to Mcdonald’s. We found it and so you can too, here is the name Μπαϊρακτάρης Σύνταγμα- Bairaktaris Syntagma Square. They have four locations in Athens. After trying a Gyro about 20 times on this trip, I can confidently say this place has the best in Greece and Albania.
We took a COVID test at Athens Medical Center Maroussi so we could go to Crete. The cost was EUR 20 each but each test purchased through Aegean airlines came with a EUR 10 voucher. The test was done emailed within two hours. Currently, if you want to island-hop you have to have a negative covid test. The Taxi to the airport from the city center took about 25 minutes and was EUR 35 and it’s a flat rate from the city center.
Off to Crete, Cheers!