Saturday, March 28
Sites Visited: None (day off)
Where did we stay tonight?: Athens
Leaders: Jerry Guo and Kathryn Mammel
GREECE 2009 FSP GUIDE TO SEEING ATHENS IN ONE DAY
What to do when you’ve been working too hard and want to enjoy your first free day in Athens:
Having nearly emptied your bank account eating in London, be sure to take advantage of the free buffet on the tenth floor of the Astor Hotel. If you’re feeling ambitious and particularly hungry/broke, attempt to get in all 2000 calories for your day at the buffet like Jason and Jerry. And if free food isn’t enough, the Acropolis view makes it well worth the money you’re not spending to eat there.
Armed with a more legitimate guidebook than ours, spend your free day in groups or on your own prowling around the city. Here are some sites you don’t want to miss.
Parliament Building (formerly the Royal Palace) on Syntagma Square
It’s not much, architecturally speaking, especially when compared to the Parthenon which towers over it from some angles, but be sure to visit the Parliament building for one of the hourly changing of the guards. The ceremony is something like a well-choreographed interpretative dance, and the guards all wear stockings and puff balls on their shoes. If you can’t make it to one of the ceremonies, be sure at least to check out our video on the bottom of the page.
Not far from the Parliament building are the National Gardens, a pleasant escape from the constant droning and dangers of Athenian motorcycle traffic. The gardens are extensive and a pleasant place to spend a beautiful day like today. And if the hordes of well behaved, well fed stray dogs of Athens and the pigeons which flock the streets aren’t enough for the animal-deprived traveler in you, check out the small zoo at the center of the gardens where Ally, Jason, and Kathryn got up close and personal with chickens, goats, and donkeys.
Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch
If you manage to make it out of the gardens without getting completely disoriented and off –course from the walking tour planned out by your more legitimate guide book than this one (which we learned is more difficult than it sounds), be sure to stop next by the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest temple in all of Greece, completed by Hadrian in 131 CE. However, if you’re cheap like we are, you’ll skip going inside and just take pictures from the outside, hoping to go back as a group on Dartmouth’s dollar later in the term. For no charge at all, however, you can see Hadrian’s Arch just outside the fenced in area of the temple, and not far off is a pretty cool statue of Hellas embracing Lord Byron, also worth seeing.
Make your way next to Plaka, a busy maze of shops and restaurants in the shadow of the Acropolis. Be sure to hide your more legitimate guidebook, however, as carrying it openly like Ally, Kathryn, and Jason did, will cause you to be solicited by every restaurateur in the neighborhood, each promising his restaurant was the rated #1 by your guidebook. If you manage to escape the area without falling prey to one of these overly friendly restaruanteers or buying too much from the stores blaring James Blunt and the Killers, make your way to Tom’s Recycled Garden, also known as “the Irish Republic of Plaka” or “Korydallos Prison,” a garden of discarded mannequins and other politically-charged junk, created by an eccentric Irish expatriate.
The Flea Market at Monastiraki
Moving to the next equally-tourist packed neighborhoods, find yourself in the flea market at Monastiraki, a pick-pocketer’s paradise. Countless small stores line the crowded main corridor of the market, and on weekends, venders selling really cool, somewhat old, often shiny, European flea market junk congregate to peddle their wares. The area is the perfect place to purchase a counterfeit designer bag from one of countless unlicensed merchants, assuming the police aren’t around, and it’s great for turopita and spanikopita as well.
The Rest of Your Day:
After a busy day of sightseeing, make your way back to Syntagma for a nap at the room or some last minute errands in preparation for Crete. Forget about trying to do laundry at a Laundromat, though, as they’re closed on the weekends. Plan to go to Crete with lots of dirty clothes. If the free breakfast wasn’t enough to hold you over for the rest of the day, make your way back to monstiraki for gyros and ice cream, and insist on speaking to the locals in broken Modern Greek while they speak back to you in English. Pass on the happening night-life of Athens, and make your way back to the Astor Hotel after dinner and ice cream, and get ready for Crete and a 7:00 am departure for the Acropolis.
Intro to Day 8:
Changing of the guards in Syntagma:
Day 8 Concluding remarks:
Day 8 Photo Gallery: