I was very happy when I saw Athens on my roster last month – it is usually a turnaround flight (and a fairly long one at that, around 4 hours each way), and I was rostered it as a 48 hour layover!
The flight left Dubai around 7am, so an early start, as we have to be in briefing 2 hours before departure. The flight was actually 2 sectors, first to Larnaca, and then on to Athens. We only had 1 passenger in first class on the way there, and he closed the doors to his suite and instructed us to let him sleep as much as possible – a very easy first sector!
After landing in Larnaca, most passengers got off, and after a quick job by the cleaners we were ready to board the next set of passengers. Only 38 in total – on the whole plane! As you can imagine that sector went by in a flash, and it’s only just over an hour to Athens.
We are usually 15 crew on the 777, and usually a pretty good mix of nationalities. However on this flight the Greeks were out in full force, and there were only 4 of us who didn’t speak Greek! Once we arrived into Athens, it was a fairly long drive to the hotel, but on the plus side we were staying in the city rather than by the airport.
After a quick nap a few of us (non-Greeks!) met up for some dinner. One of the crew had given us a huge list of all sorts of restaurants and bars to try out during the layover. We headed to one of them for some delicious dinner, and called it a night ready for some sightseeing the next day.
Since we had a longer layover we had a bit of a lie-in the next day, but soon myself, the purser Danijel and the cabin supervisor Dusan were up and ready to explore.
Our first stop was of course the Acropolis. Despite having visited with my parents a couple of years ago (you can read about that here), I didn’t mind going again as I was hoping that it would be slightly less crowded this time of year.
The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located above the city of Athens, and it contains the remains of several ancient buildings, the most famous of which being of course the Parthenon. Despite the chilly temperatures and it being a weekday in January, the Acropolis was fairly busy.
The word itself “acropolis” comes from the Greek ἄκρον (akron, “highest point, extremity”) and πόλις (polis, “city”). Thanks Wikipedia!
Unfortunately half of it was under construction – I suppose winter is the best time to do it as it’s such a popular tourist attraction in summer (and all year round, really!).
Nevertheless we managed a good walk around, admiring all of the incredible work that was constructed in the 5th Century BC.
Since it’s located higher above the city, the view goes out for miles and on a clear day you can see out across to the surrounding mountains and beyond.
After the Parthenon, our next stop was to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Since they were closing for lunch shortly after we arrived, the entrance was free. Perfect!
From the entrance we could see back over towards the Parthenon, up on the hill, with the Greek flag flying proudly.
Once we entered this friendly kitty followed us around, happy to be cuddled and even jumping onto my lap when I crouched down to stroke her!
The Temple of Zeus was constructed in the 6th Century BC, but wasn’t finished until the 2nd Century AD, almost 640 years later. During the Roman period the temple was known as the largest temple in Greece, but was reduced to ruins only around a century after completion.
Our next stop was a visit to the Panathenaic Stadium, which we had driven past on our way to the hotel the day before.
The only stadium in the world built entirely of marble, it was originally built on the site of a simple racecourse around 330 BC, and later around 144 AD it was rebuilt in marble. The stadium was excavated in 1869, and after being refurbished it hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.
Nowadays it is the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic Flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.
We were almost the only ones in there, so it was very peaceful. We took a few pictures before the hunger started to kick in!
Although it was already past lunch time by this point, we made our way to one of the restaurants on our list, called Seychelles Restaurant. Our Greek crew who’d given us the list said that we would need a reservation there, but since it was too early for dinner still we were hoping there would be a free table. Luckily there was plenty of room, although I’m sure it gets a lot busier in the evening.
The food was not typical Greek (moussaka, souvlaki, etc.) however everything we ate was so fresh and absolutely delicious! From freshly grilled sardines which literally melted in your mouth, to beef cheeks with creamy tomato risotto, everything we chose was so good it was gone within minutes!
Our last sightseeing stop for the day was to the Hellenic Parliament.
Located in the Old Royal Palace , it overlooks Syntagma Square. Something that we were hoping to see was the changing of the guards, and luckily we only had to wait a few minutes.
The guards wear some pretty funny costumes – almost like a skirt with white tights and huge heavy wooden shoes with metal soles.
For the changing of the guards they do what could almost be classified as a dance – all sorts of leg movements, swinging back and forth and changing positions of the guns. Quite a sight!
By this point it was starting to get a bit colder as the sun began to set, so we decided to have a quick browse of the shops before heading back to the hotel. I had quite a headache so didn’t manage to do much shopping – probably better for my wardrobe and bank balance anyway!
After a quick taxi ride we were back in the hotel, where I relaxed in my room for the rest of the evening. The boys met up later for some dinner but my head didn’t seem to be getting any better so I called it a night. We managed to get a lot done in one day, and even if I’ve been before I was still happy to see all of the lovely sights again!