Following a ferry ride that seemed as if it would never end, Amy and I found ourselves back in Athens, ready to cram every last bit of sightseeing into my last two days. I have no idea when, or even if, I would ever get a chance to make it back to Greece so I wanted to utilize every last second and be able to hop on the plane back to America with no regrets. Saturday turned out to be one of my favorite days of the entire trip even though it was a day in which we saw just a couple of attractions.
We visited the Olympic Stadium, perhaps my favorite historical venue, on Saturday afternoon. The history that I felt there was like none other I had felt. Perhaps it was because I could see myself, years and years ago, sitting in those very stands, watching all types of different sporting events. Athens was chosen to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, an incredibly historic event considering they were also chosen to host the 1896 Olympics, considered to be the very first games of the modern Olympics. It was as if the Olympics had returned to their birthplace. Considering the impact that the Olympics have on the entire world, I felt as if I was in a place of incredible history. In fact, even though the city of Athens had built a modern stadium to host many of the Olympic events in 2004, it was in this stadium that all of the archery events and the end of the marathon were held. The audio tour that we were provided was great; I learned so much history about the stadium and its history. We were able to walk into the tunnel that the Greek gladiators used to enter the stadium. The tunnel was preserved exactly as it was centuries ago and I used my imagination to picture hundreds of gladiators walking onto the field prepared to fight for their lives, or die trying, while 68,000+ watched in awe. At the end, I had to run the obligatory lap around the track.
Our tour of the Olympic Stadium consumed us until dinner time; we took a short break to look at some shops and then headed to dinner at Vizantino in Thissio, a district of Athens. Vizantino is a restaurant that is frequently mentioned by numerous publications as being one of the best in Athens; I had actually read about it before flying over. While Amy had eaten there a couple of times before, I had never had the pleasure. It was about as good as I could have imagined. After my very first meal in Athens I had come to love lamb and the lamb with lemon sauce at Vizantino was top-notch. We followed our meal with a carryout baklava from a small, family-owned bakery and I was more than set for the night.
Monday was a relaxed day; I slept in for a bit and then Amy and I decided to head to the Athens Flea Market, which snakes its way all the way from Monastiraki to Thissio. Hundreds of people, young and old, peddling their wares to the masses. I saw everything from batteries, decades-old cameras, tricycles, lime green refrigerators, swords, and anything else that you can possibly imagine. Calling the flea market vibrant would be an understatement.
As soon as I arrived, it seemed as if I must leave. I spent a full nine days in Greece and it would have required another nine more, at the very least, to fully appreciate everything that Greece has to offer. I cannot wait for my return visit; I have already made a list of the islands that I wish to visit and the sites that I intend to see. Greece is a vibrant, fully alive country, and I am counting down the days until I can spend time here again.
A view of the Olympic Stadium from high in the stands.
Coming out of the tunnel, entering the Olympic Stadium to meet my fate.
Running my lap around the track at the Olympic Stadium. I have never felt so much a part of history.
A man peddling his wares at the Athens Flea Market.