It was always on our bucket list; we just didn’t think the opportunity would present itself so quickly. With the nudge of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association and Sofia Bournatzi of PASS PARTOUT Tourism Marketing, we eagerly packed our bags and pegged September as our month of everything Greece.
Our journey would begin in Athens, with only enough time to roam this ancient city and scratch the surface of its historical and cultural wealth. Then, after a short flight to Thessaloniki, we would spend a week in the northern region of Greece experiencing the beauty of Halkidiki.
Acropolis and the Parthenon
There’s no escaping the fact that you must climb this mountain, the Acropolis (UNESCO World Heritage Site). I did it with a bum foot, so there’s no excuse. Young or old, this is one of those moments that might define your perspective of life.
First, buy the ticket. For 30 euros, this pass entitles you entrance into these archaeological sites:
- The Acropolis of Athens
- The Ancient Agora of Athens and the Museum of the Ancient Agora
- Kerameikos and the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieio)
- The Roman Agora of Athens and the Tower of the Winds
- Hadrian’s Library
- Aristotle’s Lyceum (Archaeological site of Lykeion)
Even if you don’t get to all of them (which we didn’t), it’s the most economical way, and you can skip the long lines. This ticket is valid for five days with one admittance to each location. A ticket to the Acropolis alone is 20 euros. We bought our ticket upon arrival when the line was very short and returned the next day for access.
Changing of the Guards
The ceremony of it all! Don’t miss this experience.
In Syntagma Square, home to the Greek Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, every hour, on the hour, the guard rotates in dramatic fashion. Located in Athens center, two small guard posts shelter the presidential guard and honor Greece’s history.
Greek soldiers called Evzons or Tsoliades are in their traditional pleated skirt uniform and shoes tipped with a red or black ball called a foonda. These hand-picked troops must be under the age of 25, be taller than 1.80 meters (5’10”) and be of outstanding character. Each guard stands for one hour, three times every 48 hours. They work in pairs for precise movement and rhythm. On Sundays, at 11 a.m., the full contingent is there in full ceremonial garb.
The Poet Sandal Maker
What other place in the world can you buy the original sandal? Yes, it’s here folks! Where sandals all started. Thanks to the Greeks for weaving and sliding leather strips together, forming this scant masterpiece in the form of the foot. And at Melissinos Art – The Poet Sandal Maker shop in Athens city center, Pantelis Melissinos will do the same. Prepare for a line of return customers and eager first-timers. I left with John Lennon art on my feet!
Eating in Greek Style
Located in the Plaka district, it’s a traditional Greek tavern with fried cheese, Greek salad, Souvlaki, and baklava (which will make you question why you didn’t eat here every night)! Throw in the bouncing Greek dancers (photo at top), the serenades of Opa!, and the best seat in the joint, this is where our best food memories were made!
This eatery, like many others, transformed to the shape of the space they were provided, spreading out from one building to the next, encompassing walkways and stairways. Some had enclosed dining rooms; others perched intimate tables along the sides of steeply inclined alleyways. Pedestrians made their way from the top street to bottom street right through the heart of the restaurant; all the while, you’re enjoying your dinner. It’s people watching at its finest!
Where to Stay
Airotel Parthenon Hotel: Located steps from the Parthenon, it’s the perfect affordable home base for your Athens discovery.