Athens- Mediterranean Cruise
Our next stop was Athens, Greece on the 12 day Mediterranean Cruise. Even though we didn't have lots of time to plan this vacation we did know to sign up for the meeting and greet through Cruise Critic. Cruise Critic is an online message forum to help connect with other Cruise travels aboard your cruise. Having used Cruise Critic once before we know that you can meet lots of great people. During the discussion on the cruise roll call board we found out that someone had arranged for a free walking tour of Athens. http://www.athensfreewalkingtour.com/ Since everyone seemed to be signing up for this and it was free. (besides the tip) We signed up.
Cruise Critic group meeting in the port terminal for the free walking tour of Athens.
The first part is getting to to meeting location in Athens. Since the boat is docked in Piraeus you had to take the Metro into the city. This started with about a 15 min walk down a busy street to the Piraeus Metro station. It was not a hard walk but it was a very busy location. The cost of the metro tickets were about 2 Euros each way. Thank goodness someone in our group had done this before and guided us strait to the train station. We purchased our one way tickets to Athens to Monastiraki station where the tour was to start. The train station and train were very busy and crowed. During this time someone in our group was pickpocketed. It is very easy for this to happen when everyone is trying to get aboard and pushing is going on so please be careful.
Train station in Piraeus. Beware of pickpockets.
Once we arrived at Monastiraki square we had some time before we met our guide. We wandered around the ruins near the square. Our guide was very nice and easy to understand. We walked past the Greek and Roman Agora and up to the back streets. All along we were in the shadows of the Acropolis.
In Athens near Monastiraki Square in the shadow of the Acropolis.
Greek & Roman Agora ruins in Athens.
Walking the back streets
He provided insight into specific sites such as the Hill of Ares, where it has two historical significance: Biblical and Greek Mythology. The biblical significance of Ares (Mars) Hill is that it is the location of one of Paul’s most important gospel presentations at the time of his visit to Athens during his second missionary journey Act 17:16-34 The Greek Mythology significance Ares was the Greek god of war and according to Greek mythology this hill was the place where Ares stood trial before the other gods for the murder Poseidon’s son Alirrothios.
On the top of the Hill of Ares.
Next our guide lead us up to the Acropolis to purchase tickets. This was our top site we wanted to see in Athens. The tickets cost about 15 Euros to enter. Our guide could not go inside so he waited on outside and gave us a time to meet. This was perfect for us because we had the (free) Rick Steves' audio guide that guided us through the Acropolis site. I know I have said it before but I love this feature and don't understand why more people don't use it. We took tons of pictures and learned a lot from the audio guide. I do wish we had more time to spend at the Acropolis site.
Finally made it to the Acropolis.
The stairs leading up to the Acropolis.
Next our guide took us down the hill past the Acropolis museum. This museum recently opened to house some of the Greek artifacts but sections of the museum are empty. Why you might ask. Well the Greek artifacts are in London at the British Museum. The British claim they "saved" the artifacts and Greece had no where to store them. But now they do with the new museum and the British are still not giving them back. It is a little weird that you have to travel so far away to see these "borrowed" Greek artifact. Our guide did give us his (I am sure very bias) political opinion about this matter. Next our guide gave us some time to grab a quite bit. Travelmista want a Greek Gyro so he was able to get take away with other people in our group.
Travelmista and cruise friends getting a Gyro in Greece
The walking tour continued past the Kalimarmaro Stadium, Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus. We turned the corner and we saw the Greek austerity protests at the Parliament Building. Our guide was very good about steering our group away. Because of the recent violence (in 2012) he did not want to take any chances. We did miss the changing of the guard because of this but understood our guide's concern. This also gave him the prefect platform to discuss the austerity measure that have recently occurred and the unemployment rate. One of the things I love so much is getting a real view on the currently politic issues while traveling. So much of us rely on national news that it is nice to see what is really going on by traveling to each country.
Parliament Building- the protest were closer to the main building.
At the end of the tour our guide walked us past little shops in the Monastiraki Market that we could return to at the end of the tour and showed us back to the same Monastiraki train station to find our way back to the pier. We had some time to wander through the shops to buy some trinkets and of course a magnet for our collection. We tipped our guide 20 Euros as did several of the other people in our group. This is a great way to see Athens with out paying an arm and a leg through the cruise line tours. I do believe that it is the same quality as paid tour. I would highly recommend this tour. We took the train back to Piraeus on our own and walked back to the boat with plenty of time to spare. On a side note there is free WiFi at the terminal but by the time we got back so many people were trying to use it at once that it made it unusable for us.
Stay tuned for more trip reports- Mediterranean Cruise
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