After an 11 hour bus ride we arrived in Athens; our bums have never been so sore. Having spent such a long time in the Balkans, we had a reality check with ‘Western’ prices. Luckily we found a dingy hostel that fit our budget/lifestyle. The first thing the hostel worker told us was to always wear tight pants and watch out for pickpockets, especially in the metro. It’s interesting to see that less developed countries tend to be safer than a more developed one.
Our first night we checked out Monesteraki to see the night market, it was an endless stretch of restaurants and trinket sellers. There are also quite a lot of hustlers trying to sell fake merchandise. The next day, as it was a Sunday we went to Parliment to see the changing of the guards. It is especially fancy on Sunday as they parade down the main road but the whole event only lasts a few minutes. During the high season, I would imagine you would have to go before the 11am start time in order to be able to see anything.
Guards in fancy costumes and giant pom-poms on their feet.
Afterwards we went up Lycavittos Hill to see the view; many people choose to go up by cable car but we walked up it like a pair of troopers. At the top of the hill, we realized how large of a city Athens is. This is urban sprawl at its finest.
Of course, while in Athens, we checked out all the main sights such as: The Acropolis, Panathinaiko Stadium, Ancient Agora, etc. Being on a budget, we didn’t pay to see any of them as most of the sites you can just look through the side of the fencing. I suppose the Acropolis is worth paying the 12 Euro’s for but you can get a good view of it from Lycavittos hill and this other rocky outcrop near the Acropolis; anyways, there is always scaffolding to destroy the good view.
The highlight of Athens was definitely the Athens Central Market. It is near the centre of the city and where all the locals do their shopping. In fact, while we were walking in there, we didn’t see any other tourists at all. We ate at this restaurant in the meat section of the market and the food was delicious and fresh (the butchers would run in with fresh meats). All the food was clearly bought at the market, the bread was fresh from the oven, there were no other tourists and even the butchers and fishmongers from the market ate there nom nom nom.
In order to survive in Athens on our budget, we ate a lot of souvlaki. There was this one souvlaki store near our hostel by Victoria station that we went 3x in 24hours; it was that good. Also, it was only 2Euros for a really tasty souvlaki.
Afterwards we took the train to Meteora.
Travel Tip: There are 2 busses from Sarande direct to Athens. They leave at 630am and 630pm daily and cost 25 Euros.