After getting lost the first time we tried to take the tour (it was all Google Maps’ fault; we went were it said, but that took us to the wrong place), Chad and I tried again yesterday and found it.
Our group was small but lovely – a couple from Australia, and a couple from New Zealand joined us. Our guide, George, was awesome. It was great to walk around with a local, and I had no idea that the people of Greece had a manditory 1 year military service when they turn 18 (that being the first of many things I learned on the tour).
We started in Monastiraki Square, which is the centre of a huge flea market, and worked our way around the sites from there, learning about occupations over the centuries. I was delighted to find out that when we get out tickets for the Parthenon, we will actually have access to 6 sites in the area, and the ticket lasts for 4 days (which is a fantastic deal at €12, with a dicount for students, and free to students studying in the EU). Restoration work in underway to rebuild many of the marble sites around Athens, and they are even getting the marble from the same location as the original buildings. Chad and I will be visiting those sites in the next couple of days.
We also went into the first building specifically built for the modern Olympics, and saw the “finish” line of the first ever “Marathon” (look up “Battle of Marathon” in 490AD if you don’t know the story). We also got a beautiful view of the city from Ares’ Hill (Hill might not be the right word, but it is definetely named for Ares, and sometimes called after Mars, as he is the Roman equvilant and the Romans occupied for a long time). The city is completely filled with graffiti.
I’ve seen a few pictures on the internet of Greek monuments that have been tagged and since repainted (and I don’t agree with graffiti on momuments, but the amount of art around the city on what would otherwise be plain walls interests me).
I also had an old man pour seeds into my hand so I could feed pigeons (his ultimate hope being that I would pay for a photo). Chad snuck one while I tried to explain that I didn’t want him to take a Polaroid of me.
They have sharp beaks, but I came away unscathed. Chad was also “pigeoned” and then reacted in horror when he used his pigeon hand to wipe his face. “That guy should just charge €1 for the photo,” he exclaimed. “And €5 for hand sanitizor!”
All in all, if you are ever in Athens, take the Athens Free Walking Tour. Be sure to e-mail ahead of time, to make sure the tour is running on the date you want to go. The website also lists a different start point at current, because they are trialing a new one, so make sure you go to the right place. Tell George that we say hi 🙂