Eastern Europe Day 17-18. Athens
September 17, 2023
We were told last night that we had to change our clocks – moving one hour ahead. Since it’s a Sunday and a day at sea, they offered breakfast in the buffet from 7am to 10am, and they offered a Brunch from 10am to 12:30pm in the main dining room.
I have to say, I have appreciated the unusual meals. On most cruises, it’s the same almost every day. Breakfast in the main dining room and buffet, lunch in the buffet (and dining room on sea days), dinner in the dining room and buffet. We’ve had 4 unique meals – the White Night (dinner buffet by the pool), Az-Amazing evening (dinner buffet in the main dining room), early port day (lunch buffet by the pool), and Sunday Brunch (main dining room). It’s nice to have something different!
We had onboard credit left to use, so for our 40th (Ruby) Anniversary, Vic bought me a ruby necklace! 😊
I’ve given a lot of thought to my impressions of this cruise ship. It was not what I was expecting – based on prices and marketing, I thought it would be superior to Celebrity. It definitely is not. It is marketed as a Luxury line – I’m not sure I’d put it there. The cruise line was purchasedfrom the Royal Caribbean Group by a private equity company in January 2021. This ship, the Azamara Onward, went through a major refurb in April 2022 when it was rebranded as an Azamara ship.
September 18, 2023
Disembark in Athens
Our ship offered a transfer from the ship to Athens, a tour of the Acropolis, and drop off at either a centrally located hotel or the airport. It was 129 Euros per person, and we would get to the Acropolis in the morning before it got hot and before the crowds, so we signed up for it. Our meeting time near the luggage area off the ship was 7:45am.
Once off the ship we all were guided to the buses. We had to bring our own suitcases, surprisingly. Once on the bus, we had about a half hour ride from the port of Piraeus to Athens, and our guide gave us some facts and info during the ride.
· Piraeus is the 3rd biggest harbor on the Mediterranean (after Marseilles and Genoa). All commercial and military water traffic goes to this port instead of Athens.
· 98% of Greeks are Orthodox. It used to be primarily Catholic, but in the 11th century they divided, and the Orthodox people do not recognize the divinity of the Pope. The head of the Orthodox church is a patriarch in Constantinople.
· There are 4,000 islands in Greece, and they are divided in groups
· Athens has 4.6 million residents
· Acropolis took 29 years to build. They used all translucent marble from north of Athens. Every 4 years,sports games were played there. The games were 5 days, and the winners received food for life.
· There were also music contests held in the music hall.
· Athletes came from all over Greece, so for the 2 months before and one month after, all areas declared a truce for the safety of the traveling athletes.
· There is an “acropolis” in every Greek city, this is just the most famous, so most people think of this as THE Acropolis.
· Olive trees were sacred. All olives are green, and if left on the tree to get more ripe, they turn black.
· Athens is named for Athena, the Goddess of wisdom. The Greek 1 Euro coin has Athens on one side, and an owl on the other.
· From the Acropolis, you can see the Hill of 9 Muses.
· The first Olympics were in 776 BC, and ran every 4 years until 393 AD. The modern Olympics started in 1896.
· Every year, there is a race from Marathon Greece to the Olympic stadium, which was built in the 4th century BC out of wood. In the 2nd century AD, they added marble, and in the 19th century the stadium was modernized.
· When the subway was built, they left the historic areas below the city, and there are glass walls so people can see the old pieces of Athens.
The bus left us below the Acropolis, and we followed our guide. She pointed out where we would meet back up again at 11:30am (approximately 2 hours later), and it was at a store called Xenia. She said they make pendants that have your name in English on one side and in Greek on the other. If we were interested, we should come back a little early and place our order, and they can deliver the jewelry to your hotel later.
The first thing we saw on the walk up is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It is a Roman theater structure built in 161 AD (and renovated in 1950). It was built by a Roman emperor for his opera singing wife. It holds 5,000 people, which was a remarkably large structure when it was built. It has very special acoustics for music (not theater), and they still hold concerts there in the summer. But don’t wear high heels there – they’re not allowed because of the marble flooring and steps.
We walked up the hill, and thankfully past the long, long line of people waiting to buy tickets, and up to the Acropolis. We came through the Propylaea(gate), and the Temple of Athena Nike was on our left, and the Parthenon on the right.
The Parthenon was built from 447 to 432 BC. There were sculptures at the top just below the roof that were taken in the early 1800s by a British Lord, the British ambassador to Constantinople. He claimed he had an edict to make casts and drawings, and to remove the sculptures that were on the ground. This claim was never proved, and the pieces are now in the British Museum – the Greeks continue to try and get them back to their rightful home.
I always pictured the Acropolis and the Parthenon to be in a desert-like setting, but the hillside is covered with trees, with lots of parks around it. The weather was beautiful – warm but with a nice breeze. Vic said that he didn’t expect to be as “wowed” as he was.
There are SO MANY tourists! This is the most people we have seen in 3 weeks! Many large tour groups, people all over the place – LOL!
Once the group reassembled, we walked back to the bus area and got on our bus. We stopped first at the Hotel Bretagne (which was closer to our hotel than the Intercontinental Hotel), so we got off, grabbed our bags, and got in a cab to our hotel. We are staying at the Academias Hotel, an Autograph collection. We generally enjoy the Autograph Collection of Marriott hotels because they are older, often with history in the buildings and hotels, but run by Marriott. This hotel was not like that at all – nice hotel, but quite modern. And the location was not what we expected – more in a business kind of area than an old town.
Our room wasn’t ready yet - they said it would be ready around 3pm, and it was only a little after 1pm. We asked for a local place for lunch, and they recommend a place up the hill called Nice and Easy. So we walked up and it was nice and easy – good Mediterranean food, and fresh fruit juice (I had watermelon).
Vic got a text just as we finished lunch, so we headed back to the hotel. We caught up on a few things, including trying to call Air France about purchasingentrance to the Air France lounge at the Paris airport (since we have a 4.5-hour layover) and Vic also had a business call.
We had 6:30pm reservations at the Japanese restaurant on the rooftop of the hotel – NYX. We chose our table, and the sun was just getting ready to set. It was bright for a bit, and then beautiful, and then as it got darker the lights came on at the Acropolis. Just beautiful. The food was good, although It was very unusual Japanese food.
Wonderful first day in Athens!