Part 3 - Piraeus (Athens)
Day 4 – Piraeus/Athens
Piraeus welcomed us with pleasant temperatures and beautiful sunshine. From the deck we could see the cruise terminal and next to the tour buses on the left we saw the HoHo buses waiting for customers
The warm, friendly light of the morning sun was shining on the Lawn Club and the outdoor space of the Ocean View, where we had had our breakfast again.
We left the ship at around 9.30 am to take one of the HoHo buses. I had looked up their schedule on the internet and had decided that this was a good time to start the day. Early enough to still have plenty of time in Athens, late enough to avoid the morning rush.
At the terminal there were blue, yellow and red busses, which differed slightly in price. Before the trip I had checked the fares and routes of the red busses, which would take us to the Acropolis and continue through the city on another route. The price was some EUR 20 per person. Our plan was to first take the bus to the Acropolis, visit the ancient site and then take the tour through town.
The tour started by taking us past the Piraeus marina. During the tour we were given explanations via headphones on the historical evolution and importance of Piraeus and Athens as well as the modern sports facilities which we also passed on our way.
After an entertaining drive we reached our first destination, which everybody has probably already seen on photos and postcards – the Acropolis.
The term Acropolis simply means Upper Town or High Town and isn’t actually specific to Athens. Here, the Acropolis is actually made up of various temples, the most famous of which is surely the Parthenon. Forgive me if I keep using the familiar term Acropolis. The Parthenon as well as some other parts of the buildings were surrounded by scaffolding and partly concealed.
We bought our tickets at the entrance and, together with many other tourists, climbed the stairs towards the anncient temples.
From up here we also had a great view of the Agora and the Hephaisteion.
But first we explored the area up here.
The Parthenon – the temple of Athena, the city’s goddess.
It is probably the building which for many represents the term “Acropolis”.
From the Acropolis we already got a good view of Athens and an idea of its size. On the right you can see the prominent building of the Greek Parliament.
Our bus ticket also included a walking tour, which we originally wanted to join. But in the meantime, after wandering the ruins on our own, we had changed our minds and didn’t feel like walking around in a pack.
So, passing more columns and ruins, we left the upper area of the Acropolis and walked downhill, past the Odeon Theater towards the city.
On our way towards the parliament building we walked along the National Gardens and decided to do make a little detour through the park.
The tranquility and coolness of the gardens were wonderfully refreshing. Birds were chirping and singing their songs. Fountains were splashing and ponds were home to many turtles in various sizes.
We left the park through a side exit behind the Parliament. We walked around it so we could see the famous guards (Evzones) with their pompom shoes in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Moving in slow motion, the guards changed their position every few minutes. With the temperatures we had, we really didn’t envy them in their woolen socks and felt hats.
From afar we could hear the change of guards approach, who would replace and release those poor guys.
We continued on our way into town across the Syntagma Square in front of the parliament.
Through the modern shopping streets we made our way towards the old town.
Soon we reached Monastiraki, a “flea market district” in the old town of Athens. This area is also home to the Tsisdarakis Mosque and the ruins of the Hadrian’s Library.
Delicious looking fruit was sold across the square.
We turned into a side alley of the flea market with all sorts of curious shops. Leather goods, army clothes, old records – anything and everything was on offer here.
At the end of the alley we reached the site of the Agora and enjoyed the impressive sight of the Acropolis.
We crossed the area around the Agora and walked up the hill to return to the parking lot below the Acropolis, which was also the stop of the HoHo busses. Just before the parking lot was a large rock which offered another beautiful view of the Acropolis, the Agora and the city.
And so it was already time to hop on the bus and return to Piraeus. The timing was perfect. On our way to the ship the sky darkened, and as soon as we were back on board, it started pouring with rain. We stopped at Café al Bacio and had an Igloo – a kind of iced coffee with white chocolate – while a guitar duo next to the café entertained us by playing beautiful and relaxing music.
We both enjoyed our day in Athens. But in retrospect we wouldn’t have needed to take the HoHo bus. We basically only used it to get to and from the Acropolis but walked the rest to discover the city itself. Other guests either took the train to town or an express bus, which also left from the port terminal and only cost a few Euros.
For dinner we returned to the BLU. For the first and only time on the entire cruise we had to wait a few minutes for a free table. So what … Waiting is easy when you can enjoy a drink at the Ensemble Lounge just around the corner.
Again, the food at BLU was excellent. The meals are served in a tranquil and cozy environment and are extremely well presented. And believe me, they don’t just look good … Here are a few examples:
For us, the BLU is the main reason to book Aqua class. All other perks are nice to have, but to us the BLU is the real asset of the cruise. The food in the dining room is without any doubt very good and the restaurant very attractive. But BLU is quieter and provides a more intimate atmosphere.
After dinner we returned to the Sky Lounge, which we had already come to like. They had a very good band performing later every evening, but we found it a little loud to end a day. So usually we’d have a drink or two and then went to listen to the sound of our pillows before others would rock the lounge.
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