My friend Natty and I became close on our whirlwind travel abroad program Semester at Sea. Though we grew up in the same town, went to rival high schools and even played against each other in field hockey over the years, it was our love of travel that finally brought us together as friends.
Years later we still embark on adventures together, the latest of which brought us to Greece this summer. On many of our trips we’ve planned to visit attractions at various elevations including Masada, Mount Sinai and St. Catherines Monastery to name a few. Not to follow the status quo we’ve tried to do these trips on our own ending up with humorous and not exactly intended consequences. Our trip to Masada left us stranded with our luggage on the side of a dirt road and took us two attempts to finally complete a very altered version of our original itinerary. Mount Sinai was met with slightly more success (click here to read about that adventure in depth) which was most likely due to the fact that the Bedouin guide we used was required.
After our journeys together Natty and I have concluded that with basically anything on top of an incline: Masada wins again. We’ve learned our lesson and even make jokes to the fact that Natty + me + site on mountain = total fail. One would think with the main objective of our day Athens being a visit to the famed Acropolis of Athens, the ancient Greek collection of monuments on top a prominent plateau rock, we’d make our visit foolproof or more importantly, Natty and Sarita proof.
Our balmy day in Athens this past June was planned to the T. After arriving at our hotel we’d get our orders in for hand crafted leather foot apparel and then spend the rest of the afternoon shopping and dining in and around the Monastiraki Flea Market and Plaka district. The Acropolis, we would save for late afternoon, to beat the crowds as all the guidebooks recommend. Once finished with our day of shopping and eating (the restaurant we chose for lunch had a beautiful view of the renowned Acropolis) we began to make our way up the bluff stopping to peak into storefronts, chatting with locals and taking in the incredible vistas of contemporary Athens down below.
It is here that our plan, as we should have predicted, would fail. While guidebooks are great, it takes on average a year from the time one is written until you can hold it in your hands. That only goes for the most recent of publications, with many books used by travelers promoting information gathered two to three or even more years before. The lag between initial writing and final print is not a major concern when using the guides to plan out the mostly unchanging staples: major sites and areas one would like to see. Even recommended restaurants and hotels can be useful as the really good ones tend to last a while. However, in the time it takes to publish a travel guide, essential information such as hours of operation can easily be out of date.
Frequent travelers, Natty and I were aware that this discrepancy of information can sometimes be the case and utilized various internet resources to confirm the most current hours of operation. As luck would have it, even the Internet could not keep up with Greece’s rapidly deteriorating economy. In order to save on costs and reduce national debt, the operations government run sites were drastically cut. At the Acropolis, this would mean the last visitors would be admitted at 2:45 PM instead of the highly publicized 7:30 PM during summer hours. Natty and I arrived promptly at 3:45. With only the one day in Athens and an early flight out on the next, our mission to visit the Acropolis had failed.
While traveling you learn many lessons on the way. Our trip to Athens and failed mission to the Acropolis reminded me that even the best laid plans experience bumps. No matter how well planned for, those bumps can throw you wildly off course bypassing intentions or setting you on a different path entirely. You have to be flexible, roll with them and be thankful for the other opportunities still available.
Natty and I don’t do well with attractions at heights. However, we do not let elevations be our Achilles’ heal. The adventure in itself is worth the ride.
The Acropolis of Athens, +30 210 3214172, open daily though obviously call ahead for times