“I am not Greek or Athenian, but I am a citizen of the world” – Socrates
These immortal words really strike a chord with me for two reasons. First, they adorn the entry gate to my business school; the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. Secondly, they show the forward thinking of the great Greek philosophers and thinkers. Greece has contributed more to global civilization that any other current nation. Athens, the capital of Greece, is one of the most important cities in the history of our world. Athens is timeless.
I have to admit that I have had a love hate relationship with Athens over the years. My first visit was over Thanksgiving 1998 when I was living in Europe for a study abroad year in college. During that visit, I thought Athens was just plain dirty and I was extremely disappointed. Then a funny transformation happened.
Athens was awarded the 2004 Olympic Games and the whole city transformed. The city was cleaned up, facilities were modernized and life and business was brought back to this once great city.
I have since visited Athens on three different occasions and each time I like it more and more. Nowadays, there are great outdoor cafes, a general feeling of safety and a lot to do aside from just the historic sites.
Athens is of course home to the epic World Heritage Sites of the Acropolis and Parthenon; which cannot be missed and believe me, you can see it from most spots in the city. That said, as a big sports fan, my favorite site in Athens is the original Olympic Stadium from the very first modern Olympics in 1896. You can actually go onto the field of the stadium and run a lap and feel like you’re in the ancient Peloponnesian Games. It’s really cool!
After a day of sightseeing, relax for some cocktails and food. Maybe some local ouzo with a gyro and feta-trust me you will be quite happy! At the base of the Acropolis there are a ton of touristy type places to sit outside but just ask the locals what’s good when you’re there, if you want a little off the beaten path. Athenians love to help tourists and share their city.
Athens is a cool town because it’s different than the other well-known European capitals like London or Paris. It’s a place where you can get some mud on your shoes, metaphorically speaking. It’s well worth a few days before you head out to the Greek Islands. When you’re in Athens, you can feel the history around you. Embrace it and embrace Athens. You’ll be glad you did.
I really look forward to visiting Athens and Greece again this October with Azamara. They have several sailings from Athens including:
- 8 Night Classic Greece and Turkey Voyage, October 2014
- 16 Night Route of the Frankincense Voyage, November 2014
- 16 Night South Beach to Acropolis Voyage, April 2015
- 9 Night Greek Isles Voyage, July 2015
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