Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 3 in Athens, Panathenaic Stadium, National Archaeological Museum, Greek Orthodox Good Friday

I woke up a little after 8am this morning, not as early as on some days, but early enough to get the Hostel's free breakfast.  Our hostel serves hard boiled eggs and toast for breakfast, I just get the toast, it is whole wheat, they provide butter and jam, not bad for free.  After breakfast I talked to my hostel mates for awhile, everyone was planning out their activities.  I briefly thought about trying to catch a ferry with a hostel mate to one of the Greek islands close to Athens, we ultimately decided against the plan.  We had heard all the ferries were booked, but considered checking in person, there was not much information online.

Yesterday, the retiree from Mesa gave me his ticket for the Athens Original Hop on Hop Off Bus tour, he had gone on the tour yesterday and the ticket was good for 48 hours, I could use it today.  I am not one to waste a free bus tour, unless I am going to a Greek island to relax on the beach, so I got on the bus around 10am this morning.  My plan was to go to the Athens National Archaeological Museum, I had seen most of the other stops listed on the tour. I got on the bus at the Acropolis Museum stop, plugged in my headphones, and sat back for the ride. 

I listened to the guided tour, we passed some of the sights I saw yesterday, then we approached the Panathenaic Stadium.  The bus tour recommended we get off and see this sight, I knew I going to get off as soon as I saw the stadium from the bus.  The Panatheniac Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and is the only all marble stadium in the world.  It was an impressive sight from the bus, more impressive when I walked up to the entrance, I decided to pay the 3 Euros and buy a ticket. Many people were taking pictures from outside the stadium, I figured, I came all the way to Athens, I might as well pay 3 Euros and see the stadium. 
Lynnae on Track at Panatheniac Stadium
The 3 Euro entrance fee to the Panatheniac Stadium included an audio guided tour, the tour was great, the best audio guide I have used during my trip to Europe.  The Audio guide included the history of the stadium, descriptions of the marble, architecture, best of all, it was concise and the numbers clearly corresponded to the locations.  I listened to the entire audio tour, took a lot of pictures, I spent at least an hour at the stadium. If I had not gone on the hop on and hop of bus tour, it is likely I would have missed the Panatheniac stadium this trip to Athens.  
Lynnae at Panatheniac Stadium
After the stadium, I went back to the bus stop, my next stop was the National Archaeological Museum.  I listened to the audio guide on the bus, there were no other stops on the way to the museum I wanted to see, I briefly considered going to the National Gardens, but I decided to go straight to the museum.  The National Archaeological Museum was impressive, it gave a lot of history on Greek sculpture, it was relatively crowded, there were several tour groups, but it was not packed.  I took a lot of pictures of the sculptures, I read some of the descriptions, I probably spent an hour and a half  at the museum.

After the museum, I took the bus back to the Acropolis stop and transferred to its blue line.  The blue line goes to the Athens cruise terminals, there were not many sightseeing stops, but I decided to go along for the ride.  The bus emptied at the port, I did get to see some nice views of the sea from the bus and background on Piraeus, the part of Athens serviced by the hop on hop off blue line. 

View of Piraeus from Hop on Hop off Bus
I went back to my hostel after the bus tour.  I talked to my hostel mates, found out what they did during the day, later I told them some of my CIA/FBI story, a story impossible to tell from beginning to end.  I gave them each one of my business cards so they can read the story themselves.  They said it sounds like I am living a movie, sometimes it feels like I'm living a nightmare.  We made plans for the evening, today was the  Good Friday, part of the Greek Orthodox Easter Weekend, we wanted to attend.

We went to dinner around 6:30 pm, one of my hostel mates had gone to an inexpensive restaurant with really good food the night before, she described the food, we all agreed to go.  Smile restaurant is located around the corner from our centrally located hostel, the owner was very nice, we had a great time eating.  The owner also told us where to go for the Good Friday procession, we saw an orthodox Greek Good Friday service on TV at the restaurant.

Me & Hostel Mates at Smile Cafe 

After dinner we went to the church for the Greek Orthodox Good Friday processional.  We bought candles, we decided to participate in the processional, instead of just observing it from the sidewalk.  People were gathered around the church, crowds filled the street, waiting for the Good Friday service to end and the procession to begin. I had never been to a religious ceremony anything like this, it made my extra day in Athens well worth it, I am happy I stayed an extra day. 

Me at Orthodox Greek Good Friday 

Orthodox Greek Good Friday Processional 

Orthodox Greek Good Friday Processional
The processional ended at the church, we observed the ceremony outside the church, we could not understand what the priests were saying, but it was still interesting to see and participate in the Greek Orthodox Good Friday tradition.  We left the ceremony when they began entering the church, we were a short walk from our hostel, we had decided beforehand we would stop to get frozen yogurt after the Good Friday ceremony. 

Me & Hostel Mates After Greek Orthodox Good Friday Procession
We walked back to Plaka, the Athens neighborhood where our hostel is located, we stopped and bought Greek frozen yogurt.  I have eaten Greek frozen yogurt three times in Athens, it is the best frozen yogurt I have had in my life, the Greeks know how to make yogurt.  This evening I got a mix of strawberry and coconut frozen yogurt, this afternoon I had plan frozen yogurt with strawberries and honey, both delicious. We sat down, ate our frozen yogurt among the Plaka crowd, then headed back to our hostel. It was a good day, my 3rd day in Athens was well worth it, I enjoyed the city, hope to return some day.

Greek Frozen Yogurt I had tonight 
I leave for Istanbul tomorrow, I am not sure what my destination will be after Istanbul, either Sofia, Bulgaria or a trip to Israel.

Day 3 in Athens Photo Album

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