Oh, Athens. After the loveliness of Santorini, arriving in Athens was slightly jarring. The capital of Greece and the 4th most populous city in the European Union, Athens was packed with people and had a gritty feel to its modern urban landscape. As we walked past rows of shops with boarded up windows, it was also impossible not to notice the effects of Greece's economic crisis.
After making it to the Marriott (thank you Chuck!) and grabbing some drinks and snacks (thank you again Chuck! ;-) we explored the hotel's rooftop pool and bar with lovely views of the Acropolis and spent a lazy evening in our hotel room taking naps and watching movies. Not exactly the most glamorous of days, but we were exhausted!
The next day, we woke up early, grabbed a yummy breakfast, and headed over to the Acropolis. Visiting the Acropolis was everything you dream it will be and more. The site is huge, much bigger than either of us anticipated. It took many, many hours of walking around before we had even seen most - but not all - of it. There is really too much history on the Acropolis to even begin to give a brief synopsis of the site, so suffice it to say that the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike, with its caryatids, were my favorite sights. In general though, it is literally breathtaking to stand on such ancient and significant ground, to touch the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilization.
We stayed at the Acropolis Museum until is closed, and then walked over to the plaka neighborhood so we could find a spot for dinner. After exploring a bit and reviewing our options, we settled on a fantastic little place. They didn't seem to have any menus in English and we kept asking our waiter for one, who seemed confused and kept abandoning us. We were so annoyed we almost left, but then the owner came by with a huge platter full of different plates. He explained that the restaurant had a kind of fixed menu, and that we could pick 5 different plates to go with some bread, a bottle of wine, and dessert. It was a great deal, and we picked out our plates with the help of some Germans who were sitting next to us. Dinner was absolutely delicious, and we left happy and full.
The next day, we woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and went to the lobby to meet the rental car guy. We were both a little apprehensive about renting a car, and I spent an inordinate amount of time making sure he had noted every little scratch on the car before we set off for Delphi. Driving in Athens is not for the faint of heart, and I used up the international data roaming (thank you Momma!) to help us navigate through the busy, winding streets. Brett was a total champion and kept us from crashing into the local Athenians, who seemed to think that things like traffic lanes and lights were, at best, a suggestion. Once we got outside of Athens, driving was much easier, and we were pleasantly surprised at how well-marked the roads were. We had heard of people who got lost on the way to Delphi, but with our trusty map in hand the trip was easy (of course, it helped that Brett can read Greek).
The 3-hour drive to Delphi was lovely. It was fun to see the mainland outside of Athens, and once we got up in the mountains the scenery was truly stunning. We wound our way up and up, until it felt more like we were in the Swiss alps than in Greece. After passing through an adorable little ski town, we arrived in Delphi and happily got out of the car to stretch our legs and breath in the fresh mountain air.
People say that, of all the ancient sites, Delphi has the most spectacular sense of place. It couldn't be more true. Standing on the side of the mountain, looking out into the spectacularly blue Bay of Corinth, you can easily see why the ancient Greeks thought Delphi was the center of the world and particularly holy. Delphi is perhaps best known for being the site of the most important oracle in classical Greece. The oracle was dedicated to Apollo and prophesied from within the Temple of Apollo. She was always an older woman, and sat on a tripod chair over an opening in the earth. She would go into a violent trance, probably the result of a gas emitted through the opening in the temple floor, and her "ravings" would be then be translated by the priests. The oracle at Delphi was consulted on all important matters, everything from policies to wars to personal matters. It is said that Alexander the Great dragged the oracle out of the temple by her hair when he didn't receive the prophesy that he had hoped for. I found the entire site fascinating, and spent much of the time preoccupied thinking about these women who simultaneously had so much power and were, at the same time, almost voiceless. After exploring the site for several hours, Brett and I walked over to the town of Delphi to grab lunch, and we enjoyed our last Greek salad peering off the side of the mountain down into the Bay of Corinth.
After leaving St. Luke's we drove back to Athens, dropped off the rental car, and had dinner at the hotel before packing up our stuff to head back home. We were so sad to be leaving, but we were also so grateful that we had had such a wonderful honeymoon. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!