Monday, 4 July 2016

Mon 4 Jul 2016. Around Athens

Mon 4 Jul 2016. Around Athens
Happy 4th of July faithful followers.....
With instructions from our "concierge" to cross road only when lights stopped the traffic (if "we valued our lives"), and to catch the A15 or B15 bus to Larissa station, we set off to explore some of the ruins of Athens. Bus was good (although strangely no one wanted to sell us a ticket), directions to Metro worked (bought two-day ticket for all public transport), got off at right station and found ourselves in 32⁰ heat at foot of Acropolis. Nothing for it but to join enormous numbers thronging the entrances, refill our already empty water bottles, and trek upwards, ever upwards.

We were indeed impressed with the somewhat-restored ruins of the Athena Temple, the Library, the Erechthion, notable for its caryatid columns, celebrating women dancing whilst balancing baskets on their heads. 

Caryatid columns

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was similarly impressive with its steep stone sides. It continues today to be the chief venue for the Athens Festival.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The restoration of the Acropolis (castle) site is continuous - the buildings having suffered multiple incarnations, as well as being ravaged by time, fire, pillaging and earthquakes. Working on the site would be a job for a lifetime.

The most complete structure is of course the impressive Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the Virgin. On its mountain perch, the enormity of the Doric structure (made of white Pentelic marble) would have lorded it over the city in its day. 

Wondered whether we'd make it here one day....

The views from the tower were panoramic, the white buildings of Athens too much to bear without sunglasses. GirlRob found it frustrating trying to get decent shots of Parthenon between the crowds, posers, selfie sticks, and oh yes, the cranes, scaffolding, dongas, spotlights, etc. Fortunately there was a great view of Hadrian's Gate and Temple of Zeus in the other direction, and across to Chapel of St George on hill, between photo opportunities.

Chapel of St George

Temple of Zeus

Walked back downhill past Dionysus theatre (containing almost the only carved statues left in situ) and Odion of Pericles.

Dionysus Theatre

The marble steps, slabs and rock outcrops throughout were so well worn they were a slip hazard, we saw several people fall. The unsuitable shoes people wear when they go to ruins continues to amaze us: thongs, Crocs, and fashion statements with absurd high heels or wedges. One family had matching (slippery plastic!) thigh-high lace-up sandal "boots", the littlest girl clinging crying to a rope and refusing to walk a step further.

Safely back at ground level, it was a relief to get out of the sun in cafe, but lunch was a farce of poor service with complaints from at least three tables, people threatening to walk out without paying. Lined up for the Plaka Train ride round inner city, watching people writing confessions in an arty confessional, posting in box, and photographing sins of others pinned on wall outside. Labelled in English, a chalkboard: "Before I die I want to..." was also enormously popular with tourists. 


The train was a bit of fun, it went through narrow streets and alleyways, bumped over tram lines, stopped briefly at the Hellenic Parliament - felt enormously sorry for over-dressed guards (evzones) in their traditional suit coats and stockings, who had to stand rigidly to attention looking out continuously on the glare in their square concreted area without any sunglass protection. You could see the struggle to force their eyes open whilst people posed for photos beside them. There was an angry old man on opposite side of the street yelling out and shaking his fist in the direction of the parliament whilst we were there, the armed guards and police keeping their eyes on him occasionally. 

Hellenic Parliament

Evzones in traditional uniform

War Museum

Panathinaiko (Kallimarmaro) stadium

Hadrian's Gate
The poet, George, Lord Byron in the arms of an angel

Tour over, walked past statue of General Makriyannis, celebrated for struggles towards Greek independence, and for his literate Memoirs. Had a brief foray into one of the shopping alleys, disappointed that the Greek shopkeepers just won't bargain! GirlRob reluctantly declined an elaborate embroidered tablecloth for €170 and looked longingly at full Spartan uniforms for grandboys (but conceded it was way too difficult to take 4 sets home…)

General Makriyannis

Had dinner in the cool downstairs of a below-street restaurant, BoyRob happy that he finally got his (very tender!) octopus. Gin and tonics cooled us down, GirlRob enjoyed lamb souvlaki followed by syrupy sweet Greek baklava. Aperitif came with the bill (interesting how you are still eating or drinking in Greece as the money leaves your hands...) Navigated metro and bus back to our "camping" stop - home from our day’s adventure at a racy 9pm. Threw the day's clothes into a bucket to soak (going through our summer wardrobe fast in this weather!) Hot, sweaty, tired as we sat down to a cup of tea, but well satisfied to have ticked the Acropolis and Parthenon off the bucket list!

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