by Samuel Gabbara-Venegas

Compact Scholars and program leaders at the south slopes of the Acropolis, with the Parthenon in the background (prior to the steep hike to the top).

We spent our first full day of the trip in Athens — and what an adventurous first day it was. We visited the iconic Acropolis, which is the home of the Parthenon and other classical Greek archaeological ruins, as well as the nearby Acropolis Museum. The ancient Acropolis was truly a sight to admire, as the ruins somehow all still retained that grandness that they so bolstered in their times of prosperity and richness.

View from the top of the Acropolis, looking out toward Mount Lycabettus.

As we trekked up the steep hill upon which the Parthenon sits, the view increasingly — without a doubt — got better and better; the greenery and bright green trees that surrounded Acropolis were plentiful and surprising — I’m a sucker for any sort of environmental loveliness (public service announcement: help save the planet while we still can!).

Stadium at the Acropolis site.
The Acropolis Museum entryway, built above the archaeological dig sites, with viewing points open to the patrons entering and leaving the museum via these walkways.

After the awe of laying eyes upon the still intact ruins first-hand, and enjoying the panoramic views of Athens from the hilltop. we visited the nearby Acropolis Museum, which was intriguing on a different, more artistic level. We were able to view actual dig sites and artifacts up close, see ancient Greek pottery and sculpture on display in an iron and glass modern-styled museum, as well as visit the museum’s bookstore, cafe and rooftop terrace with views of the Acropolis and Parthenon.

Ancient Greek sculpture of an owl, the symbol of the Goddess Athena, inspiration of Athens, at the Acropolis Museum..
Menu at Ermina’s restaurant.

Afterwards, two buddies of mine — Valerie and Marc — decided that we should remain in Syntagma Square which is a local favorite gathering space where we would have transferred trains to return to the hotel. We walked through the Plaka neighborhood to the flea market area of Monastiraki to further explore the nearby areas and to eat. As we strolled through the local flea market, there were various shops and a multitude of restaurants from which to choose from for a quick bite; while looking, we were approached multiple times by hosts of different restaurants to eat at their place, as they claimed they each had the “best, cheapest and LARGEST” foods from which to eat. This crazed enthusiasm, I thought, was a red flag, and we thus decided that it’d be better to find a street food/more local/less touristy place instead.

Thankfully, after continuously making random turns and asking a kind gentlemen for a recommendation, we stumbled upon Ermina’s cafe, which had delicious and cheap quick food — I got myself a nice medium-sized gyro for only €2,20, which is about $2.50 in U.S. currency. Nóstimo! (That means delicious in Greek.)

Afterwards, finding a metro station was in itself quite literally an adventure, one with minor thrills and major where are we???’s. I guess that’s part of learning how to travel and navigate, but in reality, it all seemed less overwhelming because we stayed together as a small group and worked together. With Marc’s good sense of direction — which he is proud of —and Valerie’s decision to ask two different hotels for directions, we were able to safely and somewhat swiftly (not really) make a return to our metro stop Megaro Moussikis, and then walked the short two blocks up Vassilissis Sofias Ave. to our hotel. Success!