After our day exploring Dubrovnik, Croatia, we enjoyed a day of relaxing at sea aboard the Norwegian Jade. Having time to sleep in and relax as well as jump in on any onboard activities planned throughout the day made for a perfect rest day before our next port of call – Athens, Greece.
Once again Bryan and I were among the first off the ship and we hurried to grab a taxi. What we didn’t plan on was that the taxi drivers would only take you in their car if you paid them more for a full day tour. We found ourselves being denied repeatedly, which had us concerned about how we would get around for the day. We, however, were not alone. As we made our way to each taxi available, we ended up bumping into a sweet Canadian family of three – also off of the Norwegian Jade – who were also looking for a cab to the Acropolis. So we teamed up to see if we could find a taxi together. All of a sudden, a Grecian man in his 50’s or 60’s jogs up to us and says “You need a taxi to the Acropolis? Follow me!” We start to follow him hurriedly only to realize he was jogging a few blocks. Hmmm. He then turns around and says “Wait here, I will bring a yellow car around.” Our driver then whips around the curb in his unmarked cab and waves for us to jump in while he was still on the street. All of a sudden we realized this was going to be an interesting experience. As shady as it was, by this time we were out of options so we all headed his way. If you do the math, there were a total of 6 people in his 5 person sedan. It was time to become acquainted with our new Canadian friends as we piled into the car – the little pre-teen gal sitting on her mother’s lap. We swerved and swayed around the bustling morning traffic only to discover our driver would heavily pressure us to pay him also for a day tour. Fortunately for us, Ryan was in the hot seat up front. What we didn’t know is that he was very familiar with Athens, and that he knew enough to continually decline the day tour offer in a friendly way until our very friendly and animated Cab driver gave up his sales pitch.
Being the shady situation this was, our driver then said that we have to get out on a street corner so he doesn’t have to pay some fee… show some taxi authentication to authorities… or get in trouble for having too many passengers – I can’t remember which reason was the actual one because he was talking so fast…but we all hopped out and laughed about it. Bryan and I had just planned to wander the Acropolis area, tour the Acropolis Museum and then wing it from there in the city. Fortunately for us, Ryan, his wife Nicole, and daughter Charlotte invited us to join them for the day. Not only did this turn out to be a huge blessing and as they were pretty awesome at navigating walking routes and using the subway (which most definitely saved us from probably hours of figuring it out ourselves), but they were fun and really interesting to hang out with! We were talking about their plans for the day and Bryan said something about “as long as we make it back to the ship in time we’re good!”. Nicole laughed and said “Oh yea…we were watching funny videos of people running to their cruise ships hoping not to be left the other night.” All I will say is – remember this conversation! 😉 As it turns out, we beat hundreds and hundreds of tourists and had a chance to see the Acropolis literally when it opened minutes before a wave of people flooded the area. As we walked up to the Acropolis, we learned that, in college, Ryan studied Archaeology and spent a lot of time actually uncovering ancient artifacts in the Greek Isles. Every time he visited Greece to dig, he would spend about 2-3 days in Athens before heading to the island. This was so so awesome because Bryan and I learned so much more about all the ancient treasures and structures than we would have on our own. For example, Ryan told us that the “Porch of Maidens” of 6 Caryatids you see as columns on the Erechtheion in the photo below are replicas because one was taken by Lord Elgin originally to decorate a Scottish mansion and is now in the British Museum. The other 5 had major damage and were restored and brought into the Old Acropolis Museum and then moved to the New Acropolis Museum where they are today.
After an incredible start to the day, we wandered some back roads off the main path and eventually made our way to the Acropolis Museum.
Outside the Museum, and all throughout Greece actually, there are stray dogs and cats. I wish I could take them all home!
The Museum is really wonderful because you walk over an actual Archaeological site as you enter, many of the incredible sculpture work from the Parthenon and surrounding structures are preserved inside, and there is an incredible wall of windows with a view of the Acropolis from inside!
However, the museums are very particular about when and where and how you take photos, so I only took a few.
Once we finished admiring the history in the Acropolis Museum, we made our way to see the changing of the guards.
The city of Athens is rather…like any city I guess. But it has incredible historical ruins scattered throughout the city!
One of the coolest things of the day was visiting the National Archaeological Museum. First, Bryan and I never planned on making it to the Museum since we were totally going to wing it in Athens after the first big things we planned…so actually getting to visit it was a bonus. Second, it was cool because it was Air conditioned 😉 …bonus. Third, although museums usually lose my interest after a while, there is nothing like looking at ancient artifacts with someone who literally dug pieces from the places and time periods shown! It was crazy to see Ryan show his wife Nicole and daughter Charlotte (and Bryan and I!) the kinds of artifacts from the Late Helladic IIIC period (1200-1100 BC) he worked on in college on the island of Paros (if I am not mistaken). Talk about bringing history to life!
I comically refer to this day on our cruise as the “most embarrassing moments” day for myself. As I mentioned before, Museums are very particular about photos and behavior in museums. I thought, as long as I respectfully did not take photos when prohibited or touch the artifacts, I’d be fine. NOT the case. Bryan asked me to take a photo of his arm next to a piece of a sculpture of Zeus’s arm (shown below without Bryan – you’ll see why). Nothing happened…except for a photo showing the scale of the massive sculpture. But then I thought I’ll pose like this lady sculpture here…so I go…stand next to her, and across the room I hear a woman scream “MAM!!! NO POSING!!!” Apparently, I was a poser. *Facepalm #1.* How embarrassing! Though I would really love a sign to be posted when something is prohibited, I will say I will never pose in a museum again! I would share the photo of Bryan and the one of my shocked face while getting in trouble…but I am afraid they’ll find me online too so use your imagination! 🙂
Right about this time, Nicole and Charlotte and probably Ryan and Bryan used the restroom before catching the subway back to the ship. How intelligent. Me? I didn’t feel the need, so you know I waited for them.
Then, (you should have known this would happen to me) as we headed down to the subway about 15 minutes later, all of a sudden I had to pee (graphic – but yes we are going there). I looked for a bathroom but didn’t see one. Bryan in his ever patient and helpful way, asked a guard who graciously led me to a locked private toilette. He said “You are fine. the next subway will be here in about 12 minutes.” I kid you not: as soon as I started peeing, I hear a subway come in….and my nervous husband yelling “It’s here!!!” I whipped up my shorts as fast as I could and yelled “Go ahead and get on!!” as I flew out the door…only – as I approached the subway, the doors began closing. Unfortunately they are not like elevator doors that bump you, reopen and let you in. My life flashed before my eyes. I am the most incompetent navigator, I have no phone, no money, nothing – nada. Just my camera – yay. I would never find my way to the ship if I didn’t make it on that subway with Bryan. I guess at least I could have photographed myself helplessly lost in Athens. SO… I did what I had to…and literally threw myself like in the shape of a canon ball with feet and hands first through the closing doors with an ever humiliating but involuntary squeal as the doors bumped by bum on the way in. Close call. What a humiliating sequence of events. And I had to ride with all those witnesses back to the ship – (*Facepalm #2*). But it turns out that not only would it have been a bad day if I missed the subway, I would have also totally missed the ship! Remember the joke about running to the ship? *Sigh*…I had been on autopilot following our group all day and had no clue what time it actually was. Our subway took us a little further away from the ship than was planned. And the 6 of us then became the people running to the ship. Seriously. (*Facepalm #3*) We all had a hard laugh about it and a sigh of relief when we were safe and sound on the ship. I have to say, as embarrassing as it was, I had a fantastic day and will definitely never forget it or think back on that day without laughing! Nicole, Ryan and Charlotte – you guys were such a blessing and joy to get to know. I hope your cruise vacation was amazing and that our paths cross again one day!
Up next on the 14 Night Adriatic Cruise Highlights Blog Series, a group-turned-private tour in Ephesus Turkey.