Trip to Athens
Before leaving Mo’s place at 07:30, I wished him the best of luck on his degree, his job, his housing, and his application to immigrate to Canada. Thanks to another great Couchsurfing host! To prevent being gouged at the Istanbul airport, I picked up a cheese and tomato sandwich (₺5) at Koleti before going to the Marmaray Metro Station.
As you might expect during the current political climate in Turkey, the airport enforced a security check on luggage just to enter the departures area. Although the passport control line looked daunting, it only took me 30 minutes to get through, so it was only a minor version of the nightmare I had when I arrived in Istanbul. Make sure to find a counter that’s not for Turkish nationals!
In the secure area near gate 213, I tried out a TravelersBox kiosk and turned in my leftover liras into iTunes credit. The fee was basically only ₺1, so it was a good deal. The bad thing was that the touchscreen was all screwed up, so I had to spend an inordinate amount of time hunting and pecking for a lucky spot on the screen for each key while typing in my email address.
The flight was uneventful, and we arrived at the Athens airport safely. I was ecstatic to discover a water fountain: the first time I’d seen one in a European airport in the past month!
I originally thought I could get a return metro ticket from and back to the airport for €18, but they’re only good for 48 hours. A single €10 metro ticket from the airport did just fine for me. After one transfer from line 3 to line 1 at Monastiraki Station, I arrived at Petralona Station to meet up with Thanos, my fifth Couchsurfing host.
He had two other CS guests in the living room and one [Airbnb] client who was leaving that afternoon. I would be taking over her room. The two sisters staying in the living room are named Anran and Wanning. One is studying in Vienna, and the other is studying in Waterloo. They planned to visit Corinth the following day.
The sisters and I left the apartment at the same time: they headed for the beach, and I went towards city center. Since it was already 17:00 by the time I left the apartment, I visited Thanasis for their signature kebab plate (€8.60). It was generously portioned, and I devoured the entire plate, fried pita and all.
I quickly learned that you will come upon ruins unexpectedly everywhere in Athens. It must be an archaeologist’s dream location! My first surprise ruin was the Lysicrates choregic monument, which was completed around 335-334 BC. It’s decorated with a marble frieze showing scenes from Dionysus’s life, which is appropriate since the street it is on connects the Ancient Agora with the Theater of Dionysus.
My intention was to visit the Acropolis Museum, but Google Maps confused me about where the entrance is. I saw a long line and started waiting in it. I finally got to the front after waiting for 15 minutes, paid for a ticket, and asked the ticket-takers why I was charged €20 for a €5 museum ticket. They told me that I just got a ticket to the Acropolis, not the museum. Fortunately, they let me cancel the transaction (despite all the signs that said that tickets were non-refundable) and pointed me in the right direction. No wonder I was baffled: the museum building is completely modern and looks nothing like the Acropolis. It might’ve been a metro station or office building.
With only 1.5 hours remained before the museum closed at 20:00, and I found it was too ambitious for me to feel satisfied with what I learned. I wish I could have spent at least another hour in there. Pretty much all the architectural details from the Acropolis have been moved to the museum for preservation (although I caught some children and Japanese tourists touching some artifacts even with signs that said no photography or touching). The only thing related to the museum that you’re allowed to photograph are the ruins they’re still working on underneath the ground floor of just outside.
After being kicked out of the museum promptly at 20:00, I decided to walk back to Thanos’s apartment, which took less than 30 minutes. The route I chose to take cut through the park where Philopappos Hill is. I got to walk alongside an ancient road called Koiros and watch the sun go down.
I invited Thanos to enjoy some Greek beers with me before I went to bed, but he had just made a cup of coffee when I got home. So I got ready to catch up on some lost sleep in my own little room. I had to keep the door open for the temperature to remain tolerable: the heat and humidity would’ve kept me awake otherwise.