11.23.2016 24 hours in Athens

Alright, so the next stop on my little European adventure is Athens, Greece. Originally, Athens was just a side thought for me. I hadn’t originally planned to go here so that is why I only spent literally 24 hours here. Originally I had planned to fly straight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Paris France on the 23rd; however, me being me, I decided to mess around with flights a little bit and from what I found, it was legitimately cheaper for me to leave Sofia a day early and go to Athens, and then fly from Athens to Paris the next day. So as you can tell from me writing this post, I booked it.

My flight arrived into Athens at 12pm. My instructions to my hostel said that I was to get on the metro to get into the city and then get off at Syntagma square. Simple enough right? So I followed the signs for the train out of the airport, which was very clearly marked and easy to follow. When I got to the ticket booth the lady said something, which I could not understand; and then basically said, take bus.

I’m not going to lie, I had a little mini internal panic when I heard take bus. I know I sound like a complete chicken when I say this but there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to figure out taking a bus into the city. So I walked back into the arrivals area to try to figure out what to possibly do next.

The Athens airport is a little bit far from the city so I really was trying not to take a taxi, but with my chicken self that was really the only option for me. For the taxis, you basically just wait in a cue and then once you reach the front you get in the next cab. The taxis from the airport had a flat rate of 38 Euros one way, which I’m not going to lie is pretty pricey (my cab ultimately cost me 42 Euros… Gulp)

With that being said, my cab drive was super awesome! He gave me a lot of great recommendations of things to try in the city, which I actually ended up doing!

I stayed at the hostel called Dioskouros and for paying no more than 12 dollars to stay there for the night it was perfect! Location wise, it was basically a street back from the Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Zeus Ruins.

When I checked in there was another women in the dorm who was actually Greek herself who helped me out a lot in regards to navigating the city and more things to do.

My first stop of the day was the Acropolis. I was told to make a right out of our building and then a left once I reached the street with all the shops and restaurants, and then follow that until you basically run into it. And so I did until I saw an entrance.

When you get to the entrance you can either pay 10 Euros for just the acropolis hills or 30 Euros for a ticket that includes everything. I paid for the 30 Euro ticket because I thought to myself, well if I’m only going to be here for a day, better just see all of it. My advice, don’t buy the 30 Euro ticket, just purchase the 10. I could never find formal entrances to any of these extra things I paid for and my ticket was never checked again granting me special entrance to somewhere else. The 10 Euro one would have been just fine. Oh well, at least now I know.

Immediately upon entering you see ruins of different things from so long ago. The walk up is literally incredible because you literally feel as though you are stepping way back in time. As you walk up the hills the sites keep getting more grand. As well, the view as your are walking up (as well as from the top) is so incredible. After a fair bit of walking, but a very entertaining walk, you reach the top of the acropolis where you will see the Parthenon, the Old Temple of Athena, and the Erechtheum. I probably spent a good hour just marveling at all the columns and just the pure architectural magnificence of it all.

On top of all that, there is an absolutely brilliant, panoramic view of the city of Athens. Truly outstanding. I could have spent all day up here just taking it all in. But, as you read earlier In this post, I barely have a day in this city so once I had my fix it was time to keep going.

Now this is the part where I sort of search for the other things I paid for but never really found.

On the way down I followed signs to the Agora which brought be down a beautiful set streets. I stopped frequently because there were all of these adorable little cats everywhere that I just couldn’t resist.

As I was walking down the hill I had a moment of genuine happiness thinking to myself, wow Hannah you really did it, you made it. I never expected this trip to bring along such feelings of empowerment. In this moment I truly felt unstoppable. Oh what a great feeling. My whole body was filled with bliss and I just kept thinking to myself, you really did it, you’re here standing next to the Acropolis. Nothing like the feeling of having a dream and making it come true.

This is more than a moment I will remember, but truly a feeling I will remember. Even writing this now I’m not sure how to explain the feeling but I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt that way in my life.

Okay so eventually I ran into another set of ruins which I think was the Agora, but I simply just admired from the outside (partially because I was getting hungry). I then continued back up the huge hill toward the back entrance to the acropolis, and then back down to the street where I came in on, just a little further up.

As I was walking down the street to find lunch I came across a cute place that smelled very good, so I walked on in. I ordered myself a Greek Salad Sandwich and then once I finished, ordered a piece of Baklava to go.

Funny story about the Baklava. Every time I have ever had it I really don’t like it, yet it feels like everyone around me is always urging me to try it and eat it. So, my thought was alright Hannah, get a piece of Baklava so next time someone offers you some you can say something snobbish like, Oh I only eat Baklava when I’m in Athens…. What a fun thing to be able to say. Well, I took a bite out of that Baklava and it literally tasted so good. You see, now I’m in a pickle because I kind of want to see if I like the ones my family tries to make just as much, but at the same time, I really don’t want to spoil this association with Baklava.

I enjoyed this as I wandered down streets covered in shops and restaurants. I also tried one of the coffees the taxi driver recommended to me. I don’t remember the name unfortunately but I think the shop was called coffee island  and the drink is basically an iced cappuccino but the foam is like a very sweet, think whipped cream. Wow is this good! The cream is definitely very decadent but of so delicious and a very tasty treat! I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get home without all this amazing coffee. After a little bit of exploring in the Plaka area, crossed the street over to where the Hadrian’s Arch is.

I walked around here for a little bit and ultimately chose to not enter the Temple of Zeus ruin because I felt as though I saw enough from the outside.

After this I looked up at the sky and noticed the sun was starting to set. While I was getting lunch, I had wifi so I was able to quickly check some messages and noticed my friend who was in Athens last spring had messaged me and suggested to go to the highest point in Athens and watch the sunset from there. After reading it I had no idea what he was talking about and honestly wasn’t going to do it cause I figured I’d be able to watch the sunset from anywhere in the city.

Well, for some reason once I saw the color of the clouds in the sky starting to change from bright white to slightly more golden and pink hues, a spark ignited inside me and I became a women on a mission to find the best spot to watch the sunset.

I walked up the street to get to the Acropolis and started walking up those hills to see if I was high enough to see the sunset. From this point I was able to see it a bit, but not fully as though I had imagined I would have been able to. So I walked down and kept walking.

On the street you would take to get to the entrance of the Acropolis, if you keep walking you will get to the point where the road comes to and end and it looks like a round about with probably a lot of tour busses. It also looks like you aren’t allowed to go any further.

Well I decided to continue anyways because I realized there was a nice little path that take you all the way up the other huge hill you will see from the ground when you are in Athens. I think at the top of this hill is also what was said to be Socrates’s prison.

Never before have I ran so fast up a huge hill to make sure I didn’t miss the sunset. Running up this hill, quite literally chasing the sun, I know it sounds stupid, but I felt like I was Hercules going the distance. Here I am, running uphill on this path, yet smiling ear to ear.

The view from the top of this hill is one of those views that brings a person so much hope… the kind of view that makes you feel like anything is possible. From up here you can see the acropolis, a panoramic view of the city, and also the water. The sky was painted with all sorts of shades of blues and golden yellows. It truly looked like something that came straight out of a movie, only I’m fortunate enough that this in no movie but that life I am living. What a blessing and what a brilliant reminder of what our beautiful world is capable of. Once again, bliss.

As the sky started to darken a little more, I started my way back down the hill and back toward my hostel. I eventually got back around probably 7pm, had a shower, and then went to bed.

So here’s the part where it really sinks in that you are paying 12 Euros a night to stay somewhere. The shower that I used was one of the kinds that detach from the wall so you can move it around. The problem was that there was no place on the wall to attach it to. What I ended up doing was balancing it over the nozzles for hot and cold water, which caused me to ultimately shower kneeling.

One thing I have definitely learned from this trip is I surely do not need a lot of luxury in my life because this was just fine for me. Like I said, this hostel was perfect for everything I needed it for, what works for me doesn’t have to work for everyone else.

After a busy day, I fell asleep easy and woke around 9am to go on a mission to find Greek olives and see Syntagma square. Out of my hostel, I walked straight to the main road and then made a left.

It was pretty easy getting here because you can quite literally follow the street signs and then you’ll run into it (basically just walk straight).

I’m not going to lie, I thought that this square was gong to have a little bit more to it, so I didn’t really spend a long time here. I did, however, walk up and down the one street that had a whole bunch of trendy shops.

On my way back to my hostel to check out, I stopped into a juice bar, which appears to be a chain here, nova gea for a cappuccino and a juice, which was good. I then walked back to the area I was the day before with all of the shops because I knew at least one of them had these olives in a bag. When I got there I bought three different kinds. I will say though, I am a little upset that this was all I was able to find for Greek Olives. I kind of hoped I’d find a little stand with fresher olives but oh well, this is better than nothing!

After I walked back to a walk up restaurant on the road to the acropolis to get a falafel pita, which I ate on a bench right next to the Temple of Zeus. I had a couple of cats come and sit next to me, which I think I would be the only person who actually enjoyed that.

Once back in the hostel I asked the lady at checkout what the best way to get back to the airport was and she told me the Metro. Although hesitant, I went with it and walked back to Syntagma Square to where I would catch the metro to the airport.

I was very happy when it all worked out! I am the biggest chicken in the whole world when it comes to taking public transport so when I say that taking the metro into the airport was easy you can believe me. It cost me 10 Euros (much better than 42) and took me directly into the airport on the last stop.

I am so very thankful that I chose to spend a day in Greece! What a great place! I cannot wait to go back and explore the rest of the country.

As far as do’s and don’ts go, I would say do try to see the sunset from the highest point in Athens and don’t pay for the 30 Euro Acropolis ticket, just do the 10 Euro one.

Alright, hope you have a great day!

 

Hannah

02.02.17 The Universal Language of the Cappuccino

So for those of you who don’t know, I went on a solo-backpacking trip through Europe over the course of 11 days over my Thanksgiving break. I had the absolute blessing of being able to travel to 8 countries, 7 of them new to me. Out of the man lessons I learned, one thing that stood out to me is 1. If there was a universal language the word ‘cappuccino’ would be in it. 2. Whenever I feel awkward and don’t know what to do with myself I find myself in the nearest coffee shop ordering a cappuccino.

Now, some of you might say, Hannah, aren’t you vegan? How did you drink cappuccinos? To that I would like to respond with when you are by yourself and menus are written in a Cyrillic or Greek alphabet you have to make the call to either try to figure out a way to explain no dairy or eggs, or you can just go for it. In this situation, I just went for it. I will say that throughout the whole time; however, I never found myself feeling like I really missed these dairy products I was consuming, which was reassuring to me.

 

Okay so now we begin my journey through Europe: one Cappuccino at a time.

 

Sofia, Bulgaria

Long story short, when I got to my hostel I was told that I needed to stay at the sister hostel just a short walk away. Fortunately this walk helped orient me in this new city and also showed me where the main shopping and eating street, ‘Vitosha’, is After getting to the hostel, and being shown my room, I had one of my first chances to take my backpack that I had been carrying around for literally past 24 hours off. I can’t lie, from here I fell asleep in my bed and didn’t wake up till about 4am the next day (thanks jetlag).

img_0111So the next morning I made it my mission to start my day off with a cappuccino from one of the cute cafes on Vitosha street, which I could enjoy sitting in one of the outside, covered patios. I never would have been able to predict how intimidating it is to walk into a café and order a coffee from places where the signs are completely foreign. Seriously. The first café I went into I got embarrassed when the lady told me I had to pay with cash, and left. So now, not only am I on a hunt for coffee, but also an atm. Long story short I found and atm and eventually built up to enter a café that wasn’t that crowded and also allowed me to sit outside.

So basically I walk into this café, take a deep breath, look the man behind the counter in the eyes and say cappuccino please. This is when I had my first inkling that ‘cappuccino’ was going to be a go to of mine. So I grab my drink and head outside to people watch in the covered patio situated outside on the main street.

As I am sipping my beverage watching the average person go about their day-to-day life I sort of remember that I haven’t had this much dairy in one sitting since august. There is a good chance that in oh lets say 15 minutes I will be up running from this café to find the closest bathroom. I guess that was my price to pay for going against my vegan ways for a couple of days. Long story short I was fine and was able to enjoy this delicious cappuccino before a long day of walking, site seeing, and getting a sample of Bulgarian culture.

Athens, Greece

My time in Athens was very short, quite literally 24 hours, but I believe I made it extremely worthwhile. In my taxi from the airport to my hostel, I was fortunate enough to have a driver that gave me a whole bunch of tips and things to try during my time here. He told me I had to the coffee shop chain ‘Coffee Island’ and try a local special called a Cappuccino Freddo. So that beverage became my coffee mission for Athens.img_7330

When you are walking on the street up to the Acropolis, there is a road called Makrigianni. Here you will find a whole bunch of restaurants and shops. The Coffee Island I went to was here, basically right across from the Acropolis metro stop.

So this cappuccino is an iced drink. Instead of milk that blends in easily, the espresso is topped with a very thick, sweet cream. The cream is almost the consistency of a custard and tastes absolutely incredible. Definitely the kind of drink you would save for a dessert or if you are really in need of a sweet kick but 100% worth it.

I walked with my drink down to a bench next to Hadrian’s Arch and the temple of Zeus and enjoyed this refreshing yet decadent beverage whilst once again, people watching and reflecting on all this things I was able to do thus far on my trip.

Paris, France

The tale of the voyage of the cappuccino continues. It was here that I began the ‘lets order a cappuccino because I don’t know what else to do trend. It was started out in the Paris airport. As I walked through the baggage claim exit, I was expecting my passport to be stamped and it just so happened that no one did. So I quickly texted my dear mother and asked if I should be worried. As I waited for a response my café raider seemed to have turned on because I instantly saw a Relay café where I had my first cappuccino in Paris. This cappuccino was honestly nothing too special, but like I said before, stay tuned for a trend to follow. I guess you could say this beverage was also necessary because I was meeting a friend who was studying abroad in France that night and needed any little extra boost of caffeine I could get.

On to the next morning.

img_0390Before my trip I had joked with my family that my Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a Pain-aux-chococolat and a cappuccino. Being that today was Thanksgiving, that was my mission. That morning I was meeting my friend at the Notre Dame so I left a little bit early so I could stop in at a patisserie on my way to the metro station from my hostel. I conveniently passed the café ‘AM Martinho’ so I popped in for my desired Thanksgiving meal and the opportunity to test my French.

I was able to successfully avoid embarrassment and ordered my breakfast in French. Feeling like a champion, I walked out of the café and proceeded to the metro, sipping what tasted like victory, or a cappuccino. Happy Thanksgiving to me.

The next morning was bye-bye to France and hello Croatia for me. In typical Hannah fashion, I arrived to the airport very early. But as you can probably guess, that means one more cappuccino and two more pastries for Hannah. I should probably apologize to the French people for being the reason why they need to restock their espresso bars and pastry shelf but hey, it had to be done.

Zagreb, Croatia

I got to Zagreb around 4 and made it to my hostel around 6. I spent 2 nights in Croatia However, my time was mainly spent in the evenings because I took morning bus trips to both Ljubljana and Graz (stay tuned).img_0658

The next morning I was taking the bus to Graz Austria just for the morning and afternoon. My first cappuccino experience occurred at the Bus station where I happily arrived early to enjoy a delicious pastry and cappuccino at the café called Dubravica. In my opinion, what better way to pass time than indulging? Luckily I was doing more than enough walking everyday to make up for it. Heck, even if I wasn’t I would still have no regrets. No pastry or Cappuccino left behind.

As you can imagine, the next morning followed the same way. I left my hostel a little extra early and sampled a different pastry and yet another cappuccino.

Graz, Austria

img_7944img_7932What a beautiful little city. My morning started out with me finding my way from the Bus station to where the town square area was. I immediately saw to a hill/ mountain you could go to the top and found drawn to it like a magnet. After my climb it was time for a reward, which was my lunch. I walked around the square and considered many tasty options I chose to sit outside at the café/ restaurant AUER, situated right in the square surrounded my many shops with gorgeous architecture and detailing, as well plenty of people for to fancy my people watching obsession. With it I enjoyed a delicious little sandwich, which it is possible may have even been vegan.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

This was my favorite stop; however also the shortest stop my entire trip. This city was quite literally something from my dreams and honestly, I wasn’t going to go because the bus left at 7 am and I would return around 3:30. But like I said 100% worth it.

The walk from the bus station to the old city area was quick and easy. I roamed around for a little bit getting a lay of the land while also making quick decisions as to what I wanted to do with my short time here. After finding myself in constant awe from the beauty of the town during my walk around I found a café situated on a street where there was what appeared to be a little flea marketimg_8077.

Prior to entering the café I walked into a convenience sized grocery store where for literally about 2 Euros I walked out with two different pastries. Then I proceeded into the shop, ordered my cappuccino, and enjoyed it outside with my pastries, watching the locals interact in this charming town.

While I was at the bus station, I got a little bit hungry again because I took another hike up a mountain to see a castle. At the bus station, my choice of food was McDonalds, however I wasn’t really upset because I quite enjoy trying seeing how it differs from in America. You can probably predict the next sentence, so yes, I did order a cappuccino with my meal. The funny part about this one is that I had planned to eat my meal on the bus back to Zagreb.

Unfortunately the spot where I was supposed to catch my bus from wasn’t necessarily clear so here I am carrying my backpack, purse, a salad, a bag with a pastry, and a coffee back and forth along the length of the bus terminal looking for a bus that said to Zagreb. After a couple laps up and back I eventually got on my bus but I could only imagine how silly I looked thinking what would happen if I missed my bus while holding on to this McDonald’s for dear life, while also making sure I don’t lose my bus ticket.

Once on the bus though, I was able to take a deep breath again and sip this McDonald’s coffee in a state of bliss.

Warsaw, Poland

I arrived at my hostel in Warsaw around 8pm and honestly I was exhausted so I basically went straight to bed. The next morning I wanted to find breakfast at a local coffee shop. I took a walk through the old town area and told myself I had to pick place before I arrived back at my hostel. I passed several Costa Coffees and Café Neros, however, I really wanted to go to a place that wasn’t a chain.

img_8188I found myself in a small café called café trackt ordering a tasty almond flavored pastry in addition to my cappuccino. It was much colder here so I enjoyed my breakfast in the warmth of the café. After this, I took another walk through the old town, venturing a little further this time and got myself lunch. After this I walked and checked in to the hostel I would be staying at for this night.

img_0990At this point, I was at this awkward time where it wasn’t really appropriate to eat dinner yet I had done enough walking so I decided gee, I better try one of the chains. Into the next café nero I went and honestly I may as well have just gone to dinner. I ordered a medium cappuccino and this huge slice of apple pie with a meringue on top. I can not begin to explain how good it was but I also laugh at myself because I was avoiding eating dinner early yet here I am ordering a slice of decadent pie probably bigger that my face. But like I said this was a voyage of the cappuccino/ no pastry left behind mission. It had to happen.

The next morning I successfully took the polish metro to the airport and rewarded myself with not just a cappuccino but a mocha cappuccino. Yes, a Mocha cappuccino. I would like to say I was stepping out of my comfort zone but really this was one of those machines where you simply press the button of what you want and your beverage is dispensed because I was in a convenience store. Poland you were so good to me.

Riga, Latvia

Alright so my final stop, you can only imagine what happens here. This was my last chance to leave no pasty and no cappuccino behind. How American of me. Indulge, Indulge, Indulge.

The first cappuccino I drank here is kind of a funny story but also not at all. I was following my screen-shot on my phone of the directions from the hostel website and ultimately ended up walking the completely wrong direction for about 5 minutes. My intuition started to kick in and I ended up turning around. However, about 2 blocs before I got back to where I started my phone had died. I’m not going to lie I began to worry a little bit. So what do I do?

Fortunately the bus stop I was supposed to get off at was a mall, which happened to have a costa coffee at. I had a feeling that they would most likely have an outlet and I would be able to recharge my phone. So in I went, found a seat near an outlet and let my phone begin charging as I specifically ordered a large cappuccino. Yes, I ordered a large. I figured my the time I finished it I would not only know where I was going, but also be more calm. Fortunately I figured it out and was able to not only enjoy the rest of my day in Riga, but also fall in love with the city.

img_1104The next morning would be last morning waking up in Europe. I new I needed to wake up an extra hour early so I could get one last coffee shop visit in. Into another Costa Coffee I went and got myself a caramel macchiato a slice of cake and a muffin. If you were wandering if the barista looked at me like I was crazy, you thought correctly. But, no shame in my game. This ended up being the best piece of cake I have consumed in my entire 20 years of existence plain and simple, no questions asked. I was also able to save the muffin I ordered for the airplane, which ended up being perfect!

Is it ironic to say that my over-caffeinated, over sugared self left that café feeling bittersweet? My cappuccino voyage had come to an end and let me tell you, absolutely no pastry was left behind. So if you’re ever feeling lost or like no one understands you, simply walk into a coffee shop and say cappuccino, you’ll be quite surprised.

If you want to read more, hopefully I will have the rest of the blogs about the places I visited up within the next week!

Have a glorious day!

Hannah xx