Remember Kostos, Lena's handsome Greek boyfriend in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? And how they rode donkeys together and went sailing on the Aegean Sea? I feel like that was the first time I fell in love with Greece... either that or when I tasted gyros and Greek yogurt for the first time. I knew it was a country I had to visit one day and ever since has stayed on my list of top four places I want to travel - that (currently) being Greece, Australia, somewhere in Africa and Peru.
In April, Garner and I decided that this summer would probably be the last time we would have three weeks to backpack somewhere in Europe without having to worry about jobs and other "real world" responsibilities. So we booked flights to Greece, checked off one of the four places on my list, and hoped that we would be the American version of Kostos and Lena sailing the Aegean Sea, riding donkeys and exploring all that the country had to offer.
After many flight delays, a few sprints through the airport and absolutely zero sleep, we somehow made it to Athens, one of the oldest cities in the world with records dating back 3,400 years.
I soon realized that traveling in Athens was going to be much more difficult than say London or Rome because there was no English anywhere. In countries like Spain you can kind of guess what the words mean on the bus or street signs, but in Greece the letters aren't even the same! So when we ask for directions and the person says "Aiolou Street," I don't expect the sign to read "Οδός Αιóλου."
After a bus, two cappuccinos and a few phone calls, somehow we made it to our first hostel (check out my reviews of all our hostels here). We chatted with the manager who was a 23-year-old student also majoring in Journalism PR.... what are the odds? Then went to grab dinner and were asleep by 8 pm Greece time.
We walked the three miles to get to the infamous Acropolis where I ran into my friend from high school, Jamie! How crazy is that?! The temples were gorgeous and nearly two thousand years old.
Afterwards we walked back to the hostel, took a nap (still weren't on Greece time yet!) and then ate dinner at a restaurant nearby while watching a Greek "futbol" game.
We started off the day with a little devotional and reading about God's work in Athens. That gave us an even bigger desire to get out there and see His beauty. We took a taxi to the top of Mt Lycabettus where we saw the most incredible views of the city. There was a church and two restaurants at the top so we stopped for frappes and Greek salads (I was amazed to learn that true Greek salads don't have lettuce - only tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives, oregano and olive oil!)
That night we ate a great dinner in Plaka which is a really cute and touristy area near the Acropolis. Afterwards, we visited the younger part of the city and enjoyed meeting new friends, listening to awesome DJs and trying yummy cocktails.
After failing miserably at public transportation, we decided to give it another chance. We took a bus, the metro and another bus which eventually got us to the Vouliagmeni hot springs. I don't know about you but when I hear "hot spring," I think like 100 degree hot tub... No, this one was so cold I couldn't get in past my knees. But Garner swam, I sunbathed and we had a wonderful afternoon.
This was also the day where we discovered the best things -- gyros. Filled with chicken or pork (none come with the beef/lamb mixture like so many in the U.S.), tzatziki sauce, french fries (!!!), onions, tomatoes and for only 2 euro, it's actually the best thing. We would each order one, an order of pita and tzatiki sauce, a side of french fries and a beer for 12 euro. We felt like kings.
After four days in Athens, we packed our bags and caught a 6 am ferry to Mykonos (my favorite island!!!) which I'll be posting about soon.