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One Summer in Europe: Greece


The Parthenon

The Parthenon

After a taking an enjoyable ferry ride from Italy, I eventually made it to Athens. The Acropolis was unfortunately overcrowded and swamped with cruise ship passengers, and the Parthenon was flanked with scaffolding due to ongoing restoration. Seeing so many ruins already throughout my time in Europe had left me with world famous site fatigue, so I did not find it overly remarkable, but I still enjoyed being atop this famous hill whose buildings were made 2,5000 years ago. The ruins around the lower regions of the Acropolis were in an even more derelict state, and were mostly just piles of stones. The temple of Hephaestus was the only exception, in its near perfect condition. I assumed it had been rebuilt and restored.

The Panathenaic Stadium was the location of an ancient Greece stadium. It was almost lost to history, but was completely rebuilt for the first modern Olympics. Only a few stones for the seats were salvaged. The current version is still based on the original though. In ancient Greece it would probably have been used for gladiatorial events, rather than athletics. Today though it was a long, narrow track with extremely tight turns. Bleachers with giant steps rise steeply from the track. It was the finish line for the marathon both time Athens hosted the Olympics.

The Temple of Zeus was another temple to Greek gods that had seen better days. Only a few columns were left standing, but those did give a sense of its vast size. Although I walked around the ruins, everything could be seen just as well from outside the fence. At least my ticket from the Acropolis included this spot, and I did not pay a separate entrance fee.

Although when planning a Europe trip caution is always advised to be on the lookout for confidence men, scammers, and pickpockets, Athens was the only time all summer I almost ran into trouble. Two seven year old girls tried stealing my train fare from the machine as I bought my ticket, but I was able to fend them off without losing any Euros.

Pictures from Athens

The Acropolis
The Panathenaic Stadium


Fira high up on the cliffs of Santorini

I was surprised the ferry to Santorini was crowded, since it was a shoulder season already, but I shared the eight hour boat trip from Athens with many other people. Still, it was nice to be on a boat cruising around the Mediterranean, even if I was on a simple passenger ferry. The approach to Santorini passed under its high cliffs, with cities composed of white houses perched precariously on top. The sight was amazing, but I wondered why this island was ever settled. It was a volcanic, dry, arid rock, with no water sources. Some land was being farmed, but I could hardly imagine it being worth the effort in place to hostile to plants.

There is not actually much to do on Santorini, but that is kind of the point. It was a beautiful island to relax in the sun, which was a nice break for me after a summer of hectic city hoping around Europe. Most of my time on the island was spent lounging around my very nice and comfortable hostel, reading and recovering.

The main town on Santorini was Fira, which did not have much besides a few restaurants and tourist shops that mainly cater to the cruise ship hoards. The town was at least beautiful, set on the edge of a cliff atop the sea, composed of colorful building all made from a stucco-like material. A series of 600 steps led to the old port below, with the option to ride a mule down. I used my own feet, but there was not much there except the departure point for sightseeing cruises and a duty free shop for the cruise boat passengers.

I visited a few beaches around the island, including a black sand one near my hostel. On the other end of the island was Red Beach, which surprisingly had red sand and red-color cliffs next to it. This beach was small, but still nice. I took a swim in the salty water, my first upper body exercise in a long time, and quickly realized how very out of shape I was. I wandered around to a couple of the other nearby beaches. There was not anything special to them besides being a beach, but that was enough.

I caught the famous sunsets from the cliffs of Santorini several times. They were beautiful as the ball of fire sank behind the other islands and then the ocean.

Sunset over Santorini
Red Beach