Athens, Greece

We took an early early ferry from Rialto Bridge to the Venice airport before the sun even rose. We met a mom and her two daughters who were all from England on the ferry and had such a nice conversation with them during the hour we sailed to the airport. I’d imagine the daughters were in their early twenties. One of them, Jemima, told us how giddy our stories of travel were making her for her travel coming up. She’s moving to India for two months for some yoga training and then going to tour Southeast Asia for awhile with no known plan or set return date. I’m realizing more and more that Europeans do this sort of thing quite often. I don’t think our four and a half month travel is all that special to people over here. I mean, they think it’s great and they certainly encourage it, but it’s amazing how many people we meet who have done something so similar to us at one point in their lives or are currently doing it. I’m also realizing that Americans think they’re so special if they travel abroad (period) when Europeans have been travelling “abroad” (to multiple other countries) since they were just children. Now I know it’s much easier for Europeans to do this considering their proximity to other countries relative to ours, but as we eavesdrop on Americans’ conversation with other Americans on trains– there’s definitely this arrogance that you don’t hear when Europeans speak of travel. Just something I wish was different. Robbie and I constantly talk about how much we don’t want to be those people who think they’re so great just because they’ve seen a few more sights in the world than someone else– and we also do not want to be people who as soon as someone says, “I’m going on vacation to Italy soon!” we say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there. It’s awesome.” Like we want to be just as psyched and thrilled and enthusiastic for anyone to get to go anywhere without having to ruin that person’s exciting news with how we’ve already “been there, done that”! I just think, and I know there’s plenty of exceptions but still, that Americans don’t usually do a great job of getting pumped for other people to travel. And as soon as you’re going somewhere another person has been, you get an earful of “You have to do this, or you have to do that.” Robbie and I just want to be people who only say, “We loved doing *this*” only if someone asks us specifically what they should do in a place. Ahhh classic Chase. Making a paragraph that should have been two sentences, a thousand. Anyway, all that to say that the Knight family we met on the ferry was so kind and so enthusiastic about our travels. It was great. Also! Jemima and her sister Harriet are surfers (along with their professional surfing sister Peony that wasn’t on this trip with them) and they saw the photos of us surfing in Norway and they were SO truly genuinely amazed that we got up on waves our first lesson. Jemima says she gives lessons to friends and she can’t get any of them to actually ride a single wave. So that was also awesome for us to hear! haha
After a really inconvenient layover in Paris from Venice to Athens, we arrived in Athens late that afternoon. We took the blue line metro from the airport 40 minutes into Monastiraki station and emptied out into the midst of a very happening Saturday night in Athens city center. It was dark by this time and so we decided to just get to the airbnb, plan our next couple of days in the city, and Facetime my family. Brett was visiting my parents for the first time at their new place in Kansas City, so it was a wonderful excuse to see all three of them and talk. (Jeff was away at a Husker game with his family). Loved that call and love how everyone we are able to Facetime is always making time for us on a moment’s notice. (Which isn’t very many people. Boy, a 7 and 8 hour time difference this whole trip has made contacting people on the phone incredibly difficult. It usually can only happen on weekends, otherwise by the time people are off work, it’s midnight or 1am our time). We are so thankful though, as we were also able to connect on Facetime with my brother Austin and his wife Ani and their brand new baby boy! (more on this later).

Athens, like Rome, is overwhelming with history– so it was pretty fun when we walked to the rooftop terrace of our airbnb apartment and could see the Parthenon all lit up, glowing on the giant hill above the city. I got to read Acts 17 out loud to Brett and my parents so we could all have the sermon Paul preached to the Athenians fresh in our minds as Robbie and I prepared to visit Areopagus (Mars Hill– or, more simply, the rock that Paul preached Acts 17 about the “unknown god” to the citizens of Athens) the next day. Man, this sermon is so badass, let’s be honest! Paul is fearless. He doesn’t care what people think of him and he doesn’t hold back in front of these unbelievers. His faith in the one true God is so big– and he’s distraught over arriving to the city and seeing a multitude of worthless idols being worshipped. Favorite part of the sermon is this (but you should definitely go read the rest! He preaches some serious TRUTH in it! Gets me so excited!!):

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worshipβ€”and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 β€œThe God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

We awoke to our first full day in Athens excited to go experience history the way we did in Rome. It really took us by surprise when we left the apartment and stepped out onto one of the main streets in Athens, Ermou, into a very chaotic scene of book sellers lining the whole street. hahaha This made us laugh. There were wheel barrels, large shelfs, open car trunks, carts, buckets and piles of old books stacked high along walls that a mess of people were frantically searching through. It didn’t really make sense to us. These books seemed like they were mostly falling apart and in very poor condition. But honestly, it’s great that people were out on a Sunday buying books. There’s a lot worse things we could have seen, right? πŸ™‚

We happened upon a Greek restaurant we liked the smell that was coming out of it. I’m so glad we did because the Kebab Pita I ate became my favorite meal of the trip so far. The pita was the fluffiest pita I’d ever had, and had the most deliciously crispy sections that gave a flavorful “grill taste” and crunch to certain bites. The lamb was clearly grilled fresh to order and was so tender you didn’t need a knife to cut it. This dish didn’t even come with a sauce (which is usually what makes things good to me) but it didn’t need one at all because the meat was so juicy that it tasted exactly as it should. Now, I love Greek food. I’ve always been a kebab/gyro freak at home– but just don’t end up eating much of it because Robbie isn’t a huge fan of it (not that he doesn’t like it, more just that he likes a lot of things more than Greek). But the great thing about Athens is that it even converted Robbie into a Greek food lover. We found that as much as our Italian food experience was very yummy and authentic, we can still find Italian in the states that is nearly just as good (I said NEARLY, but it is still better in Italy)– but Greek food?? No, I’ve never ever had something as good as the food we experienced in Athens (and then in Santorini!). Oh man, sometimes I hate it when people go nuts over a food experience because I sound like such a fat kid, but I’m telling you. It was AMAZING. [Robbie got a traditional Greek dish called Moustakas which was recommended to us by our young airbnb host who told us “Moustakas is what I always ask my mom to prepare for me when I visit home.” It’s essentially an eggplant and potato casserole with like ground up meat in it. It was served to Robbie in a pot. It was really good too!]

We walked the few hundred kilometers to the Acropolis museum next. We really find it helpful to actually know about what we’re exploring. πŸ˜‰ haha The museum was very informative and really beautiful. It had glass floors that allowed you to be on the first floor, look down and see old world ruins beneath you. Pretty amazing! And it has a wholly glass wall on the top floor that gives you a fairly close up view of the Parthenon from the windows. So the Acropolis is an ancient city from more than 2,000 years ago. It was built on a hill in the center of Athens so as to be high above the rest of the city and give off the superiority of those that were allowed to be there such as royalty. The Parthenon was built as a temple for the goddess of war, Athena. From what I gathered, Athena must have been the god that Athenians thought was most “high” because they named Athens, the city we know today, after her. She also got the biggest structure built for her. Zeus and Poseidon both have temples in Athens too but neither were built and displayed from the Acropolis, the “high city,” where everyone could see it, like Athena’s Parthenon was. After learning about the architecture and meaning of the Parthenon and other structures within the Acropolis at the museum, we made our way up the hill and entered the Acropolis.

The Acropolis is so worth seeing. It’s really amazing to imagine how these enormous temples were built so long ago without conveniences like the modern-day crane– and how somehow they’re still standing today! The powerful structures are magnificent to walk among, and just as was intended when they picked the spot for the Acropolis so many years ago, the view down to Athens is brilliant and stretches as far as the eye can see. We saw the Dionysius’ Theatre (Dionysius is mentioned in Acts 17 as one of the people who came to believe in Jesus as a result of Paul’s sermon!!! How amazing is that?!): a beautiful stone amphitheater on the edge of the Acropolis that was even being used for some kind of show for traditional Greek dancers the day we were there! So amazing some of these things are still in use!  The Parthenon itself was fantastic and beautiful in it’s own right. Seeing all of these things, along with a view of Zeus’ temple down below, makes what I’m reading in the Old testament all the more real. I am onto 2 Chronicles now, but I read through 2nd Samuel and through both the Kings books and 1 Chronicles beforehand on this trip alone. It’s sometimes easy to almost skip over the lines about how this king or that person built another temple or shrine for such and such god. Like, “Oh classic Old Testament stuff.” But to actually SEE some of these temples and shrines (I mean not the exact ones talked about in the OT, but definitely talked about by Paul in the NT!) and know that the Bible isn’t joking! (Not that I thought it was, but you get the point.) These people went ALL OUT when trying to build something “worthy” enough for their fake god. It’s mind blowing and makes the things I’m reading easier to picture. God had to watch His own creations, His own children, slave away, spend unfathomable amounts of money and work tirelessly on gigantic, ornate, beautiful temples to honor a god they made up, a god that wasn’t real. I actually get tears in my eyes thinking about this. How He loves us so much and makes Himself ever available to us, writing our stories and answering our prayers and yet, our sinful nature still leads us into idolizing people, money, art, jewels, etc. more than Him. I couldn’t help but imagine God destroying the Parthenon like He did to many false god’s temples in the Old Testament while I was there. In many ways, I’m grateful He didn’t so we can have an example of life in that day that can oftentimes be so hard to make relevant to us today while reading. It also gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing these gods are no longer worshipped today and are only taught on concerning “mythology.” Regardless, the Acropolis is the coolest flashback to an earlier time and it’s so worth seeing. Theres a couple look-out points too that let you really take everything in. You can see the Aegean Sea on three sides. So beautiful.

After a really long while reading plaques and marveling at it all, we made our way down to the Areopagus. It’s just west of the Acropolis and incredibly easily accessed from it. It’s really just a giant boulder that sits on a part of the hill that gives another beautiful view and perspective of the city. I can imagine Paul chose the Areopagus to preach because it would have given him height over the crowd that formed to listen to what he had to say. If you’ve read my blogs by now, it’ll probably be unsurprising that this experience, standing on Mars Hill, looking out at the Acropolis/Parthenon in the near background (and knowing that was Paul’s exact same view 2,000 years ago), and imagining people converting to Christianity by Paul’s fearless and convicting words made me pretty emotional. Of course we sat up on this rock for quite a long time, until the sun began to set, just appreciating what it was. I couldn’t help but think about Athens now, every building blanketed in graffiti, homeless people lining the main streets at night in their sleeping bags, the sick begging for money all around you, and how much they need Jesus. I can’t help now think of how special it was that back in Paul’s day people stopped and gathered to hear about this guy named Jesus– but anymore these days, no one cares. You try to preach anything on the streets or from a high point in the city and you’ll be ignored and scoffed at. I’m inspired by Paul’s boldness, and I hope God would use Robbie and me for His glory in whatever capacity and that we’d have the courage to preach His name no matter what the response was from the majority. Even one life changed, one heart transformed, and heaven rejoices. ❀

We grabbed some gyros (2 Euro gyros– I REPEAT 2 euro amazing pork gyros stuffed with tomatoes, tzaziki, and french fries!!! and they were big enough for a meal. It’s not like they were tiny.) from a seemingly nice restaurant along a shopping street close to our place, brought them upstairs to our apartment’s rooftop terrace and ate them as the sun set over our view of the Acropolis. This 4 euro amazing dinner with Robbie on the roof was such a special special time. We had had the best day together already and that was the most magnificent way to end it. Sometimes it’s just the most fun to end the night semi-early, breathe, talk about everything you’ve just seen, and relax over a cold coca-cola. So fun. Plus! It’s officially October now, my favorite month. The month I met Robbie, the season I fell in love with him in, and the month we got married. I’m so sentimental and I feel things in such large emotions. So it’s no surprise October is felt deep in my soul in every color.

We got to Facetime Austin and Ani and little Jude this evening. Of course he’s even more precious when you see him “live” than he is in photos (and he’s pretty darn adorable in photos). We’ve been praying for this life since February when we found out he’d make his entrance this year. He’s a miracle. We can tell Austin and Ani are filling out their parenting roles with extreme ease and it really was amazing to see my brother hold his own son and realize he’s a father!! What a blessing. He perfectly slept the whole hour-long or more conversation like an angel. I don’t even remember everything we talked about, but I do remember laughing a lot. I’m thankful for family connections from afar, for their asking questions and supporting us so intensely. It’s made this journey even more fun for us, getting to share this excitement and the things we’re learning and seeing with people we love so much. That goes for both of our families, really. Everyone has been the best and we don’t take that for granted.

Day two we saw Zeus’ Temple up close, Hadrian’s Arch, and Hadrian’s library. We saw the Roman Agora and found out the Ancient Agora is closed for an untold amount of time. We went to a great smoothie place and enjoyed the sunshine, walked to the Greek Parliament building and just coincidentally were there right at the changing of the guards for the tomb of the unknown soldier. I’m telling you, I’m such a patriotic person that I feel pride for other people’s countries!! haha Anything like this (especially in the U.S. obviously but even in other countries) it gets me a little teary. It’s such a beautiful and powerful statement the country makes in honoring soldiers who gave their life for their countries. And the changing of the guards in Athens was no simple ceremony. It was pretty neat! Then we walked through the National Gardens which were soooo beautiful! They’re huge and lovely and shaded and perfect for walking, biking, reading, relaxing. We were so bummed we had forgotten our Bibles at the apartment because it would have been the most amazing afternoon to read. I forgot to mention the Greek sun is hotter than all get out! For October?? I was sweating like mad all day both days. So the shaded gardens were a wonderful and welcome relief. We sat on a bench for awhile before wandering until we found the original Olympics stadium from 1896.

We hadn’t planned to do the Olympics museum, but then again, we didn’t know there was one! haha So we happily paid 5 euros each and ended up completely engrossed in this stadium and the included audio tour. If you know Robbie, you know he goes ALL OUT for the Olympics. He’s obsessed! And I love that he’s an all-American fan (even though he was born in Canada). We were pretty much nerding out about this venue and then got just as much excitement out of seeing every original torch from the beginning of the Olympics until now (although they didn’t start the torch tradition until a few decades later). I got to see the 1996 Atlanta Olympics torch that passed my neighborhood when I was just 4 years old too, which felt special. πŸ™‚

And in classic Robbie and Chase fashion, when we loved something, we do it again. So we ended the night by grabbing those same amazing 2 euro gyros from Thanasis Kebab and ate them on the rooftop again. It was another fantastic day and it was lovely because we hadn’t made any plans for Athens (much like most of the places we go), but we felt like we saw everything we wanted to see and got the exact experience we had hoped for. It was great and we were excited to go to bed so we could wake up and take the 8 hour ferry to Santorini. ❀