Greece: Athens, Crete, and Rhodes

 

Athens, Greece

From  Lavasurfer.com   Athens, Greece

Athens Acropolis
This is another port with way too many cool things to see. To make the best use of our time, we opted to join a fellow passenger’s private all-day 6-passenger tour that he pre-arranged with MyAthensTour.com. The cost was a bargain at $95 pp, plus tip, lunch, and about €39 in various entrance fees.

Athens Parthenon
Stavros Striligas was our driver and tour guide. He’s a very educated and smart guide intent on showing us all the key sites while proving good historical context. He was also able to get us to most of the sites when they weren’t too busy. Since this was a private tour, we were able to give Stavros our personalized list of sites we wanted to see and allow him to figure out how to best achieve it and add anything else interesting that he could fit in.

Athens Herodion Ancient Theatre
Our first stop was The Acropolis Complex featuring the Parthenon, Erechtheion, and Herodion Ancient Theatre. Other than the Colosseum in Rome, the Parthenon was the only other site that gave us goosebumps. It’s just an incredible feeling to explore this amazing historical building and surrounding structures and artifacts on the plateau.

Athens Temple of the Olympian Zeus
The Temple of the Olympian Zeus was also an impressive site which also featured the remains of a Roman bath and The Arch of Hadrian (Hadrian’s Gate). The ruined Temple, now primarily a series of impressive columns, was built in 6th century B.C. on the site of an ancient outdoor sanctuary dedicated to Zeus.

Athens Old Olympic Stadium
Our next stop was the Old Olympic Stadium (Kallimarmaro), site of the first modern Olympic games in 1896. The first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to this spot in Athens in 490 B.C. to announce Athens victory over the Persians. Legend has it that he covered the distance of approximately 42.195 kilometers (26.219 miles) which is today’s official distance of a marathon.

Athens Changing of the Guard
We went to the House of Parliament to watch the changing of guards, but rather than watch the “show” in front of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with hundreds of other tourists, we watched a semi-private changing of the guards on a side street and these guards had to cover a lot more ground! Since we arrived a few minutes early we were also able to take pictures with a guard, after getting permission from the guard’s superior officer. (The guard was a stoic non-participant who appeared next to us in our pictures).

Athens Temple of the Olympian Zeus 2
We stopped for lunch at The Greco’s Project (located on a plaza next to a Greek Orthodox Church in the Monastiraki Flea Market area) which offered really big portions of Greek lunch favorites at very reasonable prices. The cafe was only a block away from Hadrian’s Library, so we quickly checked out that site before being picked back up by our driver. Not much of the Library, created by Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 132, remains but the north facade with its Corinthian columns is pretty impressive and worth a quick visit.

We had the option of visiting either the New Acropolis Museum or National Archaeological Museum. Based upon my prior research and our guide’s recommendation, we opted for the significantly better National Archaeological Museum where we spent about an hour before heading up to Lycabettus Hill, the highest point of Athens, for close to 360-degree views of Athens, and a return to the ship.

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes Entrance

The medieval city of Rhodes is a UNESCO World Heritage site and formerly the site of the Colossus of Rhodes — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Walk into town, bypassing the first Gate and enter the city at the main Marina Gate. At that hour shops are still closed and almost no one is around.

The streets of this old town which dates back to 407 BC. Venture up the cobblestone Street of Knights to he Palace of the Grand Masters which opens at 8:00 am. A €10 combo ticket is valid for the Palace and the Archaeological Museum.

Palace of the Grand Masters Courtyard
Walk past the Temple of Aphrodite and exit the walled city to catch the first Rhodes Little Red Train (€7), a 45 min tour “around the more out of the way sights of Rhodes town”. The “station” is on Pl. Eleftherias in front of Aktaion bakery (a worthy stop in its own right for inexpensive sandwiches and Greek baked goods).  You can walk back towards the walled city for a fascinating 1-mile walk around the outside of the city walls, primarily circumnavigating the Palace of the Grand Master, past strewn stone cannonballs, before reentering the ancient city via a moat entrance near the Gate of St Antonios.

Rhodes Moat 

Rhodes Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum entrance is part of the combo ticket. This is a huge and interesting museum with lots to see. The streets back to the ship are packed and highly festive with shops and cafes lining our route out to the Gate of Virgins, which is closer to the ship.