“How often does it storm here in Athens?” my boyfriend asks our tour guide as he drives in the pouring rain at 7:30 in the morning.
“Quite often,” he says.
We look at each other, then our gazes turn to the cruise ship, which was then being swayed back and forth by the wind, as we passed by the port, with our guide telling us this was one of two major ports in Athens. It was at that point seeming more like a monsoon than just rain.
I give my boyfriend one more uneasy look, thinking, are we sure we want to do this today, i.e. are we going to drown in Greece? But we’re in Athens, and we were determined to make the most of it. Seemingly unaware of our doubts, our tour guide tells us, by then around 8 am, that he was going to drive us directly to the Acropolis. First thing in the morning, he says, is the best time to go, for us to beat the crowd. We drive a few more miles and as we go the monsoon-like weather slowly turns to drizzle. He drops us off at the gate of the Acropolis, and it was the best thing he did for us — we had it almost to ourselves, maybe us and three other people in the entire place.
To be able to marvel at a place that has so much history and myth behind it and that you’ve always wanted to see; and be there almost by yourself, early in the morning, after the rain just stopped, was surreal. Standing at a place that was so much the genesis of a civilization’s art and philosophy was overwhelming.
Before our tour guide took us to our next destination, he brought us to Filoppapos Hill, where we got a very good view of the Acropolis from afar.
Our next stop was the first ever olympic stadium. After which, our tour guide took us to lunch in this restaurant where locals go. They have amazing specialties at reasonable prices. As soon as you enter the door, you could smell the aroma of the food being cooked. My boyfriend had the gyro and I had the pork souvlaki (the best I had, ever!). They also had one of the best tzatziki we had during this trip. They served us another dish which we didn’t even dare ask what it was, some sort of stew, it was just good.
After lunch, our tour guide took us to a mountain that overlooked all of Athens. On the way there, the contrast between two sides of the city was obvious — the modern, more contemporary Athens where there seems to be progress, little spots of colorful artwork that have signs of modern flare, and the side where the Acropolis stands.
It was the perfect way to look at the old and the new, where we have been and where we are going. A commentary on the great thinkers and doers; the struggles of today, where we are now and the promise of the human spirit.
Footnote to a post: our great experience in Athens was mostly due to the decision we made to go with a private tour. We highly recommend PK Travel if you are planning a trip to Athens. The package we got inclusive of the car and the driver was for a cost that came out much less expensive than what we would have paid if we would have gone with one of the tours being offered by the cruise line. The driver was knowledgeable of the area since he’s a local, and more importantly, he was very passionate about what he does, perhaps because it is a family-owned business or he likes what he does or both, but either way, it translated to the customer service which in turn translated to our experience that day.