Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Solo Travels: Athens and Aegina

This is Greece!
Now I have momentum on my blog writing, so I figure I should keep it going and jump straight into relating the last leg of my trip in Greece.  Again, getting into our hostel for the most part went smoothly.  There was a wrong turn here or there and Alana and I were both tired and cranky but we made it.  This hostel, however, was my least favorite.  The accommodations were fine, clean sheets and all that but, I mean, 3 plugs for a six man room, are you serious?!
Regardless, our first day in Athens we were up bright and early and our hostel (despite the plug situation) was actually located in an amazing area.  We were only a short walk away to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus and from there it barely took us five minutes to reach the Acropolis.  We knocked both out before even eating lunch.  The weather in Athens, unlike the gloomy and cold Hungary, was beautiful (a little too beautiful, Alana and I, in our paleness, are both suffering the consequences of some serious sunburns).
Alana and I in front of some pretty cool rocks
The stones left standing were incredible and sometimes looking at them you had to remind yourself how incredibly old they all are, but my favorite part about the Acropolis was the view of Athens.  It was really, truly incredible.  It was so weird walking around the Acropolis and hearing all the American voices around me, it had been so long since I had heard that out in public.  Obviously my house and classes are filled with Americans, but the streets of Copenhagen are rarely filled with anything but Danish.  It almost felt uncomfortable not being surrounded by a cacophony of foreign languages, I felt weird and out of place.  And dear God, have American accents always sounded that obnoxious? Funnily enough, I think Greece gave me my first real taste of what it's going to be like going back to the US.
Pensive look on the Acropolis
Barring that disturbing thought for the time being, we had this really amazing lunch from this restaurant we'd found on trip advisor (our constant companion and life saver).  The waiter was so sweet the food was freshly made and the produce was locally grown and there were so many vegetarian options, a welcomed change from Hungary.  Seriously, if you're ever in Athens I highly recommend Makalo.
After lunch, we took a walk around the park and found the Olympic Stadium that hosted the "first" Olympic Games.  I thought it was a little dishonest to call them the first in Greece, since the stadium was from the 1896 games and not the ones dating back to the BC years (776 BC exactly, according to Wikipedia).  After that, we made our way back to our hostel and had dinner at yet another wine bar.  Also fantastic, also highly recommended called Kiki de Grece.  Again, our waiter was super nice and helped explain everything on the outdated English food menu and explained all the Greek wines (interestingly, he gave us two of the more expensive options for us to choose from...)  After this dinner and trip in general, I think our bank accounts were and are sufficiently wiped and we decided that there should probably be minimal wine bar-ing in the near future.
On top of the Acropolis
The next day, after the suggestion of my dad, we took a day trip to Aegina, an island not far from Athens.  Honestly, Athens has a lot of really incredible history as a city, but it does kind of lack in the European charm that we'd grown so used to.  The roads are jam packed with cars, bumper to bumper and the smell of gasoline was something that I did not miss and don't look forward to going back to.  Aegina was really beautiful, and I would say that Greece is one of the view countries I've been to where the best trips would be had away from the cities.  After a minor panic of my alarm not going off, I woke up at 8:45 and we were meant to leave by 9 if we wanted to make the 10am ferry (and we still made it out the door on time, dammit!).  The trip to Aegina took a little under two hours, we had to take a train and a ferry and the trip only cost 23 euros round trip,  There wasn't too much to do on the island, but it was so incredibly picturesque that taking a walk on the coastal road was good enough (though it would have been better had we been doused in sunscreen).  We had the tiniest lunch and a very large dessert of baclava (me) and gelato (Alana) before getting back on the ferry.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the hostel, until we were forced out by our awkwardness (these two really cool girls checked in to the beds next to us and asked us what we were doing in on a Friday night.) We grabbed the cheapest possible dinner of a veggie pita (1.40eur!) and then went back to our hostel, praying that the two girls had left so we could be bums in peace.
View of Aegina from the Ferry
The last day we flew out at night, so the morning was spent using our remaining euros at the central market to buy fruits and dates as well as another veggie pita for lunch (I had less than 10 euros to get me through the entire day.)  We went to the Acropolis museum and hung around the neighborhood until we felt it was acceptable to leave for the airport.
And we were finally, finally back in Copenhagen.  The more I leave, the more coming back to it feels like home.

And now for some overall reflections of the trip:
Planning is so stressful.  And not just planning, oh no, when you're done with fretting over planning then you have to move on to the execution of said planning.  How are you going to get to the airport? How about to the hostel? How much money should I take out? How much am I going to spend?  How much should I spend? etc, etc, etc. It almost takes away from some of the magic of the trip since you always have to worry about the next thing.  However, it's so much more fulfilling when you complete them successfully.  Yeah, all the mistakes are your fault but all of the successes of the trip are also yours!
The Central Market
Travelling as a young, (mostly) solo adult is so much different! I mean, other than the fact I got to buy drinks and stay out until 2 or 3 in the morning, I also got to do the things I wanted, and only the things I wanted.  Sorry, Mom and Dad, travelling with you guys is always amazing and I know and appreciate that you're always very considerate of what I want to do. Not only do I make the trip my own, but I also have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities to be independent and survive. I also gained an appreciation for all the planning that my parents have to do when we travel.
Getting to travel with Alana was so helpful and eye-opening for me.  Having someone there with similar interests was always so nice, but it was wonderful to travel with her specifically since she hasn't traveled much at all.  I've realized that, despite my love of travelling, sometimes I don't get as excited or enthusiastic about some things.  Having Alana there looking at all these things with new eyes, so to speak, allowed me to take a step back from my cynical self and really appreciate what it was like to be at this place, at this very moment, at this point in my life and take it in.  Her enthusiasm rubbed off onto me and made me appreciate the smaller things, as cliched as that sounds.

There are so many other things I could say, but I'll leave it at that for now.  I'll try to write soon (maybe a post on some travelling horror stories or my upcoming weekend in Samso, Denmark, we'll see!)

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