Athens - Getting there and getting around
Oh Greece, beautiful Greece! Most Romanians have been to Greece at least once in their lives, as this is an easy and affordable destination for us. There are countless offers, charters, buses and travel agencies eager to show us the Greek Islands and the beauties of Ancient Elada.
Even so, I've only made it to Greece in May, 2015 for the first time in my life, after one failed attempt to travel to Thassos for a week in the previous year (I'm not letting go of that dream!). Anyway, thanks to my two BFFs, with whom I take a girls only trip each year, last May we set foot into the sunny city of Athens.
There are many ways to reach Athens from all over Europe - I know that Ryanair offers cheap flights from multiple destinations. We chose Tarom at the time, as we were able to score a deal on round trip tickets. Only one hour and a half away from Bucharest, Athens was waiting for us with it's white buildings basking in warmth, with streets lined with orange trees, with the ancient ruins seething with history and myth, the proverbial olive trees and the amazing fresh food drenched in unctuous olive oil. Seriously, how great is it to be able to pick an orange from a tree on the street - I did not do it, and you shouldn't as those are only decorative :)
We hired a car to take us from the airport to our hotel, but I would absolutely recommend taking the metro instead (like we did when we got back to the airport for our flight home) - it is cheaper, it is on time, it's fast and clean and if your accommodation spot is somewhere near a station, it's totally worth it.
We stayed at the Fresh Hotel, which was pretty nice, had a roof top pool, a great bar with really nice staff and wonderful views of the city & the Acropolis. However, the overall area was kind of shady and getting there from the Monastiraki subway station involved walking by a stinky fish market, which was quite dirty and filled with all kinds of interesting characters - not exactly a nice stroll in town, but a good splash of local color, after all! Other than that, I would absolutely recommend this hotel as a good and budget friendly place to stay.
And speaking of things to watch for in Athens, be mindful at the fact that there are not a lot of indicators in English outside of the touristy area and getting from one place to another is not very easy if you do not know the language & don't have a lot of time. For example, one of our biggest mistakes of this trip was trying to get to Piraeus by metro and ending up in the cruise port, instead of the Marina Zeas, home of all the nice restaurants and promenades.
So, after walking for about 30 minutes trying to get to Marina Zeas from the commercial port, we surrendered to a hop-on, hop-off bus to help us get to the main attractions and provide us with reliable transportation for our two days stay. This way we visited both Athens and Piraeus and got to find out some interesting facts about the places we were seeing.
But, if you do your homework well in advance, you can get by perfectly with the public transportation. The city is well served by buses, electric trolleys and a subway network - with cheap fares. A fun fact about the Metro - it took forever to finish, as they could not dig for 5 minutes without hitting undiscovered antiquities!!!
Also, keep in mind that most historic landmarks are situated in the Acropolis area, so if you stay in the Plaka / Monastiraki area, you can easily cover the most interesting sites, restaurants and popular markets in just 3 days by foot.
Have you ever been to Athens? Share your experience!