Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle Walk Into a Bar… An amazing first experience in Athens, Greece

The Acropolis at sunrise

I don’t think I know of anyone who does not have Greece on their bucket list of places to visit. I’ve long wanted to see it in person.

Part of my “excuse” for visiting Greece was that there is a class tie-in as one of the classes I was taking was Style and Rhetoric and Professional Writing. Of course, the study of rhetoric necessarily involves some discussion of ancient Greece. As it turns out, there was also a link to the history class I am currently taking in that one of the required readings involves torture in Greece following a coup in 1967. Not that I needed an excuse to visit Greece, but hey, it made the decision every so slightly easier.

Nighttime view from the hotel. Not bad at all. Like most tourists, I knew that the Acropolis would need to be on the short list of things to see, but I honestly had no idea it would be this easy to enjoy from the hotel. This was not planned, just a lucky choice when the room was selected online.

Among the surprises on this visit was just how much there is to see without ever leaving the proximity of the Acropolis. Of course, you want to venture out and see more of the city and even get out of Athens and see the rest of Greece. But you could have a rich travel experience without ever going more than a few hundred meters from the Acropolis. In addition to the Parthenon atop the Acropolis itself, there are many other historically-relevant sites that sit alongside the base of the hill. For example, while walking to the Acropolis from my hotel, I passed the Odeon of Pericles, the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, the Stoa of Eumenes, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Sanctuary of Asclepius, and I am sure other significant sites I was not even aware of.

Full disclosure, this was a total vacation, and while I used school as an “excuse” to go to Greece, there was very little by way of study, but still, to see the birthplace of so much of Western Civilization was a fantastic growth experience.

– One of the Greatest Runs of My Life –

One of my favorite ways to learn my way around a new place is to start running. I sometimes have to be careful to pick a significant terrain feature, tall building, or another landmark to use in finding my way back home. Fortunately, for this one, there was the Acropolis. I only had to remember which side was facing my hotel.

An amazing early morning run through Athens

I didn’t plan this run out very well, and it was only sheer dumb luck that I happened to be on the western side of the Acropolis just as the sun was rising behind it. This is shown in the featured image that opens this blog post. This view alone made this trip worth the time it took to get here. Most of Athens was soundly sleeping at this time, and I felt as if I had these scenes all to myself.

Agoraphobia — The fear of public spaces. The agora (/ˈæɡərə/; Ancient Greek: ἀγορά agorá) was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is “gathering place” or “assembly”.
The ancient agora in Athens, with its amazing view of the Acropolis, is not only beautiful, but it is also one of the richest historical sites in Western Civilization. Here is, among other sites, the Temple oh Hephaestus (5th century BCE).

– Amazing things can be built with enough time and dedication –

Most of us have some understanding of the ancient nature of Athens. It is sometimes easy to forget; however, just how old it really is. Ancient Greek civilization starting with the Greek Dark Ages, through antiquity, runs roughly from 1200 BCE up to around 600 CE. So, when we think of ancient Greece, we are not only talking about something long ago, but also something that lasted a long time.

The deep time inherent in Greek civilization allowed for some pretty amazing feats of architecture. Consider the Temple of Olympian Zeus, for example. While visiting this, the largest temple in the ancient world, I couldn’t help but marvel at how people so long ago, without the aid of modern technology, could build something so amazing. It was only later that I learned that construction on this temple began under the Athenian tyrants in the 6th century BCE and was not completed until the 2nd century CE — 638 years after construction began!

Things that I already knew about Greece so not surprising but still interesting: We owe democracy, philosophy, theater, the art of rhetoric, the Olympic games, and some of the world’s most amazing food to Greece. What I didn’t expect to see in Greece? Streets lined with orange trees, marble streets, and the word music, which comes from the Muses, or mythological goddesses of the arts.

Marble street in Athens

As a self-described travel junkie and collector of stamps in my passport, I often avoid going to the same place multiple times, though there are exceptions to this rule. Greece is one of these exceptions and I definitely plan to see it again and more extensively.

Tony Davis is a professional writer, adventure travel junkie, and author of God Loves You: Some Restrictions May Apply (and Many Other Christian Dilemmas)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store