By no stretch of the imagination could you call the capital of Greece a “pretty” city. It has occupied this location from something like 4,000 years. Apart from a spectacular era as the birthplace of modern democracy and culture, it has spent most of that time languishing as an overpopulated labyrinth of modern buildings surrounding monumental collections of ancient stone.

With high unemployment, perhaps 25%, the city struggles economically, and we were shocked to see graffiti everywhere (except on the ancient sites, where it is a felony). But they welcome tourists, and are well set up to show off their proud heritage. We spent a couple of wonderful days exploring the city before our cruise began, and took a side trip to ancient Corinth, the next blog following this one.

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