My experience visiting Athens and Corinth in December 2019
One of the CC members found a full-day trip split between Athens and Corinth. Our driver who gave us some background information didn’t enter the sites with us, and in retrospect, it might have been better to have a tour with a guide. On the other hand, I probably was able to get major info on my own. https://www.athensshoreexcursion.com/shore-excursion/full-day-christian-athens-corinth/
Corinth, an hour away, was an excellent choice and my favorite part of the day. We toured the ancient ruins of Corinth and the museum and viewed the remarkable Corinthian Canal. It is amazing to think that the ancients dragged ships over this land before it was turned into a canal in the 1800s. The most special time was a stop at the ancient pier of Conchae where the Apostle Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla left Corinth for Ephesus. We were the only ones there, and it seemed so authentic.
The hour drive to Athens was marred by the traffic coming to a standstill in the downtown area. It seems some group wanted to do a spontaneous protest, so the streets were gridlocked on the way to the Acropolis. It was nice with a smaller van as the driver could take some side streets.
One thing that strikes visitors is the incredibly large amount of graffiti in Athens. It is quite a tragedy, although some people view some of the vandals as street artists. No building, private or public, is safe from graffiti, and they even paint on ancient ruins. Most are done by vandals as gang tags or to support sports teams.
Despite being seniors, we were in good enough shape to walk to the top of the Acropolis, but it was quite cold and windy. That might be a surprise to those who go during the summer! Of course, it was spectacular, but watch out for those very slippery large rocks.
We went to Mars Hill, which is where the Apostle Paul spoke to groups who wanted to learn about the gospel. Because of the previous traffic issues resulting in reduced time, we did not get to go to a few other, more minor areas.
Highlights of Athens
For the independent and DIY travelers- how to get from the port to Athens. For those on NCL, the rumor is that NCL has a shuttle bus that takes passengers to the train station. I’ll update when the 2022 tours are active.
The Acropolis Museum- rated one of the best in the world
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens:
Highly recommended: https://www.athenswalkingtours.gr/athens-tours/25-acropolis-city-tour-free-time-in-plaka-with-transfer.html
A nice article on how to DIY in Athens: https://www.wendyperrin.com/athens-greece-cruise-shore-excursion/
Another review with suggestions:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Another Tour Company for those who would like a tour centered on Christianity: This tour company comes highly recommended and has a “In the Footsteps of the Apostle Paul tour” to Athens and Corinth.