I remember borrowing a book on Greece from the school library when I was a teenager. You know, the generic textbooks you see lined up in the European History section, where the books’ titles are simply the name of the country. This was in the early 2000’s, which means the book itself was probably published in the 90’s (at best). Anywho, I remember flipping through the pages and learning about (read: falling in love with) Greece’s customs and history, and browsing pictures of what the country looked like pre and post war.
Since then, well, since reading about the beauty of Santorini, the history of the Acropolis, and further hearing about country’s marvels from friends who had travelled there, I added a little red thumbtack over Greece on the world map that was hanging in my (then) bedroom. I could see myself travelling on some of the local tours in Athens, taking in the sights and sounds, and listening avidly to every piece if information and history about the islands and their buildings. It was something I thought about every day and a that moment I realised I wasn’t going to give up on this dream.
Santorini, Athens, and Greece in general had made it to the list of places I must visit.
So, inspired by the travelling stories on hotelcamea.com, myself and five of my closest friends decided we would backpack our way across Greece and Italy when I turned 19. It was a first for all of us (I think) in both countries. As a group of six young Canadian travelers, we thought it best to stay in hostels, travel on a budget, and live out of our backpacks for about a month, spending more money on beer than on food! LOL no regrets though right? Travelling as Canadians in Europe just had everyone we met naturally drawn to us, and extra friendly!
Unfortunately then, I wasn’t quite as “sophisticated” or “experienced” as a photographer as I find myself to be now. I also didn’t have quite the same equipment, so sincere apologies on the photos’ quality and resolution. But it’s ultimately the experience I’m here to share with you!
I can say that visiting Athens was one of the best experiences of my life!
The trip was great! We ate souvlaki and fries regularly, we drank the local beer; Mythos, visited the Acropolis and partied the nights away like we were locals. It isn’t exactly how I would do Greece nowadays in my later 20’s, married and settled down, but it was definitely an experience of a lifetime. Now, perhaps renting a car to explore the island would be a better decision! My friend suggested taking a look at somewhere like rental-center-crete.com to find a rental car. Hiring a vehicle could suit some tourists better as you can discover the sites at your own pace!
Here are some of the highlights from my trip and three attractions I definitely recommend visiting when in Athens – Greece!
1 | The Acropolis & Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis demands attention by nature. It’s one of those things that just does. You can’t help but marvel at it. To think that it was once built by hand, no machines, no robots, nothing to facilitate the work, just by hand, is incredible. I think it’s for this reason that so many of us have an appreciation for Europe in general. Don’t you always hear your friends tell say how much they love the history of Europe? Exactly.
The climb to the top of Acropolis was pretty rocky, but it was worth it! Apparently the word “Acropolis” means the “highest point” in Greek because at one point, the hill on which the Acropolis sits was the highest point of the city. The view from the top was insanely gorgeous, we had an angle and view of the city that was incomparable to any other.
The Acropolis Museum was a great way to learn more about the history of the Acropolis if unlike me, you didn’t read a textbook on the country from the 90’s from cover to cover. I actually wish I had spent more time at the museum to learn more. The Museum sits onsite at The Acropolis, and it is huge! I read online recently that it was re-built from the original museum erected in 1976, while the Acropolis itself was built in the early 17th century!
2 | Souvlaki from Petros Grill House
I swear, these are THE absolute BEST souvlakis in all of Greece! Trust me, like I said, when I was in Greece, my friends and I ate souvlakis regularly. And having visited countless restaurants on four different islands and cities, our sample size was pretty significant.
Apparently the restaurant’s been around for decades and the owner’s been doing this almost his entire life. The ingredients were SO fresh and the taste was just unlike any other souvlaki I’d ever had in my life! An authentic must-try when in Athens, for sure!
3 | Monastiraki Flea Market
Flea markets in any country are always a must-visit in my opinion. I just love seeing the different foods, arts and creations that local vendors sell. Flea market vendors are such hard workers when you think about it. They wake up before the crack of dawn, often six days a week, to see they’re crafts, food, art, you name it, all because their passionate about it. And I like to visit them because I’m naturally drawn to these types of people, creatives. I’m also pretty passionate about food, well more about eating food (no shame admitting it) and some of the best eats in any country often come from the local produce and local vendors you find in flea markets!
So when in Greece, I tried to navigate my friends to any and every flea market I could find! The Monastiraki Flea Market was conveniently located to one of the hostels we stayed at, and anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a morning runner. So every morning, after all of the joys that come from a European Pub Crawl from the night prior, I would wake up early to detox and sweat it out. And on every run, I would make sure to drop by The Monastiraki Flea Market to browse all of the different market’s vendors. It seriously gave me an entirely different type of appreciation for the city, so I definitely recommend a visit! Walking through the flea markets at night, you often smelt cannabis. After some research, I found that although it is illegal for recreational purposes in Greece, the rules are becoming more relaxed in anticipation of it being legalised. There are even Marijuana Friendly Hotels here! Not for me, but I’m sure many of my readers will be interested in this.
Nick Joly | Inspired by Nick