Then of course, came the cool part. You know those old movies where you walk out onto the tarmac to board the plane? The Parent Trap (version Haley Mills)? Anyway, we totally got to do that! They took everyone out on this shuttle to like the center of the tarmac and there was this smaller plane (a la Southwest kind of) and we got to walk up the little staircase and everything! It was so cool! Simple pleasures, I know.
As the pilot flew us over the Italian countryside he pointed out Naples and the Amalfi coast below.
It was a quick two hour flight, and when we landed in Athens, things went MUCH smoother than they had in Rome. For one, we'd arranged for the hotel to get us a Taxi Shuttle. He met us at the gate, got our bags and then gave us a personal quick tour of Athens, telling us what we should and needed to see. Along the way, we passed this glass sculpture that was created for the Olympics just made out of sheets of glass!
Our hotel, the Athens Lotus . . . was a breath of beautiful fresh air! Since we couldn't check in yet, they took our bags for safe-keeping and we sped walked to the location where the English-speaking branch was meeting. Again, we got lost:) Turned around, talked with the wrong building, and then FINALLY I saw a sign in Greek with the picture of a pioneer family. The familiar font of the letting let me know that we'd found it! We made it to the beginning of Sacrament meeting. They were right in the middle of the opening sacrament hymn.
The speakers were two young adults/teens from Africa, living in Greece, trying to afford to make money and get an education so they could help their family in Africa. Never have I heard such simple but strong testimonies. It's something I'll never forget.
After the meeting finished, we met the missionary couple in the branch (from Scotland, I think if I remember) and got a little familiar with them. They said we were welcome to go to the top of the building and see the Acropolis from there. So, we used the restroom, took pics, and headed back out to the street to walk to the Temple of Zeus.
What can I say? It was big, it was wide, and it was mostly gone.
Then? The Acropolis Museum.
The museum is brand new (within the last few years) and Athens has done a fabulous job with it. They're doing much better to preserve their antiquities than they have in the past--nothing at all like Rome, however. Athens is much more run-down, and is still trying to pick itself up. They're also trying desperately to get BACK pieces of the Parthenon that are in the British Museum.
However, as impressive as the museum was, it didn't hold a candlestick to the restaurant:) The Greek Salad and the chickpea dish I had . . . I still have dreams about them, and I haven't been able to find a recipe since that fulfills the burst of flavor those chickpeas did to my mouth.
The hike up to the Acropolis actually was quite short and easy, but once we were at the top . . . it was beautiful. And the Parthenon? It's more impressive than you can imagine.
We saw temples, we saw theaters, and we saw lots of people who looked like Wizards trying to fit in as Muggles:)
But the best part of the day was yet to come. As we made our way over to Mars Hill, we ran into the missionary couple again, along with their son and his friend. They told us that all missionaries in Athens get to go to Mars Hill their first day of their mission, and the last day of their mission and bear their testimony, which is totally cool. After chatting for a while and slurping down our ice-cold lemonades with vigor (it's even hotter in Greece!), we walked up to the slippery hill and found a seat among the throngs of people who were there (make out couples, smokers, and raucous teens), pulled open the book of Acts, read Paul's sermon. We also pulled open Elder Christoffersen's message that he recorded on Mars Hill last year. Despite the crowded overwhelming feeling, it was also beautiful and peaceful.
It was the perfect end to a wonderful Sunday! Check out the rest of the photos from our first day in Athens!