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How Not to Stay Cool in Athens

Acropolis Athens, Greece

Acropolis Athens, Greece

Jet lag takes on another dimension in Athens. Sixteen hours out of LAX, we touched down at 9 am. The general population had just gone to bed. The lovely couple I met en route spoke of the offbeat rhythm of Athenian life. The norm for Athens was to have dinner at 10 pm and dance until 7 am. The husband was Greek. I asked him for the skinny on tipping. “Don’t,” he told me. “It is not expected.”

Like a bum, I changed in an airport bathroom stall and washed up as best I could before making my way to the information desk. A young woman who was far too congenial to have been out until dawn handed me a map and talked me through navigating the city via public transportation. Astonished at the notion that I’d only come to Athens for the day, she circled my destination and then encouraged me store my luggage. At a reasonable rate, I rented myself a locker.

It was a straight shot by way of the Metro Blue Line from the airport to Syntagma Square. The ride takes forty minutes and runs every thirty minutes, and a round-trip ticket costs €14. Along the way, listening to the other passengers as they spoke loudly and animatedly into their cell phones, it reminded me that I do not speak any Greek. That subtle terror that is known to all, but a select few world travelers started to creep in. What if I got lost? What if I could not order lunch? What if a piano was falling from a twelfth-floor apartment window and I did not understand the voices warning me to get out of the way?

Athens Metro Syntagma Station

Athens Metro Syntagma Station

As one of the world’s oldest and most popular tourist attractions, Athens has its fair share of foreigners milling about, and, as luck would have it, a local population willing and able to accommodate them. Oh, and the ability to count comes in handy, too. A precise number of train stops lie between any start and end points.

Syntagma Square Changing of the Guard

Syntagma Square Changing of the Guard Athens, Greece

Unscathed and swelling with pride at having survived the rush hour, I alighted at Syntagma Square in time to watch the changing of the guard. Pedestrians, cyclists, and pigeons not yet oppressed by the coming summer heat crowded the place, passing through in every direction. It was here that I hopped on the Hop On/Hop Off tour of Athens.

Spice Market Athens, Greece

Spice Market Athens, Greece

I cannot say enough about the experience. Truly, it is the best way to take it all in when you do not have the time to meander. From Syntagma Square, the route on an open-air double-decker is on a 90-minute circuit to the harbor and back. A word to the wise: if you are going to ride on the top of an open-air double-decker bus on a summer day in Athens, wear sunscreen. I did not.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

I did, however, get a few shots of the city that were worth the resultant sunburn. The guide was knowledgeable and clear as he presented each site as a seasoned waiter offers the evening’s specials. From the menu of options, I chose the Acropolis and then Herods. After riding the bus around once, I hopped off at the base of the marble steps.

Bloody HOT at the Acropolis Athens, Greece

Bloody HOT at the Acropolis Athens, Greece

By this time, the sun was overhead, and it was a blistering 108 degrees. I shelled out the €20 admission fee and spent a couple of thirsty hours exploring the ruins and discovering muscles in my legs that I had otherwise been unaware of. So many stairs!

Theatre of Dionysus Athens, Greece

Theatre of Dionysus Athens, Greece

However, heat, thirst, and physical exertion could not dampen the magnificence of the architecture, the Parthenon and surrounding structures gleaming in the harsh sunlight.

Herod's Temple Athens, Greece

Herod’s Temple Athens, Greece

After losing myself for the afternoon, I had trouble finding my way back. Herods was no longer in the cards when I hopped on the next red bus. I discovered too late that I was traveling in the wrong direction. When we came in sight of the harbor, I panicked. Not only was I missing Herods, but I was also in danger of missing my flight to Preveza. The driver put my mind at ease. I could hop off at Herods on the way back and get the metro.

In the end, I made it to the airport and my luggage with time to spare for a little window shopping and a light dinner. Caesar salad. I felt a bit culturally insensitive in that, if I am honest, after such a pleasant experience in Athens and with the Athenians, but, hey, I did not write the menu.

Have you been to Athens, Greece? Comment below on your experience so we can Go! See! Learn!

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Michelle Rae

Michelle Rae

Michelle Rae is the creator of The Traveling Vixen, which captures her adventures around the world. Her passion is to inspire others to grow by experiencing and learning new things in the world.

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