The cradle of democracy, the center of the greek empire and the home to many of the
most impressive and well preserved antique builidings in the world: Athens.
While I have visited a variety of the greek islands and I can say that I know Crete as well as my own backyard thanks to having family there and first boarding a plane to this gorgeous island at the innocent age of only six months, I had never set foot into Athens until I was 19.
But I have spent a lovely weekend in the greek capital and can recommend a layover there before you head to the gorgeous islands of the Mediterranean.
Flights to Athens are funnily not that easy to come by, most smaller german towns do not offer tours. But from Hannover and Hamburg catching a flight should not be too difficult and prices are around 300 to 400 Euros.
From the airport both buses (45 minutes for 5 euros) and the metro and subway (30 minutes for 7 euros) go regurlarly.
I have spent my nights in Athens in the lovely Athens Backpackers hostel just across from the Akropolis hill. For just 25 Euros a night you get a bed in a 4 bed dorm, a breakfast with eggs, toast and jam, free wifi and an amazing roof top bar from which you have a beautiful view of the lit Akropolis and the sorrounding area with all the important sights, which are all in walking distance.
From the hostel the Akropolis hill is basically down the street. This hill has been inhabited for over 4000 years and the ruins there are absolutely mindblowing just like the incredible view across this huge metropolis. Athens is so kind to offer entrance to most archaelogical sights (like the antique Agorá, the Kerameikós and the temple of Zeus) for european students for free, so remember to bring your student I.D. For everyone else, who is not as fortunate there is a combination ticket for only 12 Euros.
I also especially enjoed the visit to the antique Agóra, the former marketplace of Athens with a musem that is filled with everyday objects from a few thousand years ago. I love this kind of stuff. The Agóra spreads over a large area and is very idyllic and ideal for a walk. The Tempel of Zeus is on this grounds as well.
Another little highlight of mine: the teeny tiny church Agía Dínami, that is build directly under a huge multi-storey building. This church to me is a perfect symbol of the traditionalism in greek culture and the wonderful easygoing mentality: "Oh we really like this church! Let´s just build this huge building around it and keep it." There are still services held and candles lit at all times. We northern Europeans could learn to live like this from time to time as well.
Walking on from the Agóra you walk directly into shopper´s paradise: the fleamarket streets of Athens spreading between the Ermoú street, the Monastiráki and the Thissío square. From cheeky tourist shirts to gorgeous cheap leather bags you can find anything you can think of. There are also large fruit stands with fresh delicious fruits, so it is the ideal stop after a day full of sightseeing.