Having always been a traveler coming and going from the States I have certain expectations. Like customs and passport checks, and invasions of privacy at security. So I always make sure to have my passport handy and wear easy to slip on and off shoes. Well, we arrived at the Nuremberg airport, went through security, boarded our plane, landed in Zurich, boarded our second plane, landed in Athens, exited the airport (notice the lack of customs), took the train, and finally checked into our hotel. Guess how many times we used our passports? You have your guesses ready? The answer is once, and that’s between the two of us. And at what point might you ask did we have to show this? At the hotel! It was just my passport they needed to confirm the hotel booked under my name (any form of ID would have done). That means Billy did all of this never once even pulling his passport out of his pocket. I checked us both in online to get our boarding passes and no one even looked at our tickets boarding the plane – it was a self-scanner! While yes, it made traveling quite speedy and simple, being an American traveler married to a military man, I had my reservations about the process and was a little bit on alert to my surroundings. I suppose those of you traveling from within the European Union are used to this, but I actually refused to leave the airport in Athens until I confirmed with someone I wasn’t doing something illegal. I felt a little bit silly after asking but still felt like I was doing something wrong upon exiting the building into a new country with no stamp in my passport. (I will admit though I also really wanted the stamp)
And so that brings us to the hustle and bustle of Athens, Greece.
Public transportation, while a little smelly and sometimes uncomfortable, proved to be much easier to figure out than the internet lead me to believe. I planned some of the things we did around the expectation of the public transit being difficult to understand. We exited the airport, climbed up a flight of stairs, and purchased a ticket for the train to the center of Athens. It was about a 45-minute ride. Not the best first impression of Athens though. We saw just how vandalized the city was and realized that Athens wasn’t going to be a very “pretty” city. We also got a surprise show on the train. In our experience, it is very common for peddlers and buskers to ride the train all day selling and asking for donations. The most common of these we ran into were children playing rinky-dink accordions, shooting dirty looks at everyone who didn’t give them any money. But Syntagma Square, where we exited, proved to be full of life and excitement. Our hotel was a quick walk from here down what is probably the busiest street in Athens during peak Christmas Shopping. I loved it! Billy wasn’t quite as entertained.
A quick walk from the train station and we made it to the Hotel Metropolis and it was perfect for us! The rooms might not be the fanciest I have ever stayed in, but for under 50 bucks who can complain! The room was clean and comfortable with a wonderful view out across Athens. Not to mention the staff! They were extremely helpful and very pleasant to talk too. The guy running the front desk when we checked in gave us all the directions we needed for the following day and even called the port to find out when and where we needed to be the next night to catch our boat (without my even asking). He also suggested we eat dinner at Tzitzikas kai Mermigas and it was amazing!
Tzitzikas kai Mermigas was our first Greek food in Greece experience and it was a perfect opening act to what ended up being a food tour of Greece. Those Greeks make an event out of eating every meal! I ate seafood and Billy had pork. Let me tell you, though, if you don’t know any better, some Greek food has shrimp fried with the shell, legs, tail, and all – and you eat it all. I was confused at first and tried to peel them but they were just little prawns so that didn’t work. This was when I realized I should probably just eat the whole thing (not the tail though). They were good, but I don’t think I could ever get used to eating all the parts. I ate most of them and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the tasty bites on my plate!
We went back and had a quick nap before heading out for a walk around town – and dessert! I wanted something sweet and there was an ice cream shop that looked good called chill box. Again, not disappointed… I will sadly crave their mango sorbet for the rest of my life.
This ends the first, mostly uneventful day as we wanted to rest up. The next day we went to the Acropolis, a few museums and more. I will post all about it tomorrow!
For now enjoy the video of our trek to Athens!