The day we returned to Athens from Skiathos, there was still enough daylight to hike up the Acropolis, on which the Parthenon and other ruins sit. It was blazing hot, and we were weary from our return trip from the island. But we were nearing the end of our time in Greece, and – not only was the Acropolis still very much on our to-do list – but once a month, they offer free admission to the site (normally around $15 per ticket).

That free admission day was this day. If we didn’t take advantage of the free admission, we’d still go another day before leaving. We’d just have to pay $30 that we’d rather spend on souvenirs.

We were still feeling adventurous (and frugal) so we dropped off our packs at home, readied some water bottles with lemonade (featuring fresh lemon juice from our lemon trees in Skiathos!), and walked to the subway station. Next stop, Akropoli.

DSC_0097

DSC_0114-3

DSC_0099

DSC_0111-2

The hill to the top was somewhat steep, with small ruins littered about. Soon enough, we came upon those ancient stone steps, and up we went.

DSC_0124-3

We were a little disappointed by all the scaffolding, but the Parthenon was still pretty impressive.

DSC_0167-3

DSC_0158

You can see where they’ve restored/recreated some of the missing pieces in order to rebuild parts of it. We made sure to point out to our nephews that some of the pieces look remarkably similar to Legos.

DSC_0131-2

DSC_0132-2

From the top, there was much to see. Lots of other edifices surrounded the Parthenon, although there was very little information provided about which building was which. Regardless, it was surreal to imagine what it must have all looked like 2500 years ago.

DSC_0174-2

DSC_0164

DSC_0180-2

I love this next photo, and I wish I knew exactly what we were looking at. Allison likes to point out her toasty, sunburned feet shmeared with a coat of shiny sunscreen.

DSC_0141

The view was great. You could see all of Athens, all the way out to the sea on the western horizon. You could also see lots of other Athenian landmarks, like the Temple of Hephaestus, the Temple of Zeus, and the Panathenaic Stadium.

DSC_0116

We’d hike down to the temple of Hephaestus by sunset.

It was cool to see the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch from up there, and seeing some of those areas that we had explored earlier in our wanderings around the city.

DSC_0144-2

The Panathenaic Stadium stadium was originally built around 500 B.C. and more recently reconstructed/restored just over 100 years ago on the remains of the ancient stadium. Shortly after it’s restoration, it was the site of the world’s first modern Olympic Games, held in 1896.

DSC_0153-3

On the way back down, there was still plenty more to see.

DSC_0231-2

DSC_0214

DSC_0222-2

DSC_0225-2

DSC_0228

Down at the bottom of the hill (just across from the market at Monastiraki), we walked through the Museum of the Ancient Agora. We didn’t take photos inside the smaller rooms where they displayed a variety of artifacts, including ancient pottery, tools, jewelry, demolished spear tips, and even a heavily worn, battle-damaged Spartan shield. It might have been the only thing in the whole place that I genuinely cared about. I wondered about the man who bore it, what battle he was fighting, and his family that he likely left behind.

Outside those smaller rooms were these large halls with modern replicas of the columns that once stood in their place, housing the headless sculptures of ancient gods and generals.

DSC_0260

DSC_0255

DSC_0253

Outside the museum, we walked through the garden grounds of the Agora.

Agora means “gathering place,” and we’re told that it was a favorite spot for some of the great minds of their time, including Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.

DSC_0265

DSC_0268b

It was cool to see ancient ruins mingled with a Byzantine church built centuries later.

DSC_0264

DSC_0289-2

DSC_0293

The open grounds of the Agora have many pathways leading all over, but the one we took led us right to the Temple of Hephaestus. We got there just as the sun was waning in the western sky.

DSC_0285-2

DSC_0280

DSC_0282-2

The sun continued to set, and – with the sunlight – our energy levels grew dim.

We made it back home after a subway ride and an 800-mile hike back to our apartment. We were so exhausted.

With this and so many other boxes checked off on our to-do list before leaving Greece, we were beginning to feel the reality of our approaching departure date.

It was a good feeling. We were about ready to return home to Utah.

At this point, I had written off the idea of a motorcycle ride here in Greece. We were barely able to afford the trip to Skiathos, after all. I was trying to convince myself that I’d be fine without my daydream of renting another motorbike and riding through Corinth and across the Peloponnese peninsula to Sparta.

I consoled myself with the fact that we did get to see and do so many amazing things already, and that I was able to ride a bike all through the amazing Tuscan hills of Italy, earlier in our travels. The trip had been a great adventure and I was trying to be satisfied with it all.

Secretly, though, some part of my consciousness was doing everything possible to make that Sparta ride happen.

. . . there’s no need for a spoiler alert, right? At this point, you all know what’s coming next.