Saturday, June 8, 2013

Athens, Greece

Our last stop on the cruise was to Athens, Greece. Athens is one of the world's oldest cities and has been one of the most important and influential cities of the Western world. The peak of this occurred during a period known as the "Golden Age" for 70 years in the fifth century B.C. Many efforts were made in architecture, literature, math, science, philosophy, and medicine, with many famous men leading the way such as Socrates, Aristotle, and Hippocrates.

We hired a private guide/driver for the day to take us to all of the important sites in Athens. Our first stop was the Acropolis. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words "akron" meaning edge or extremity, and "polis" meaning city. This impressive area is situated on top of a large hill overlooking the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great historical and architectural significance, with the most famous being the Parthenon.

We entered the Acropolis through the Propylae, the monumental entrance to the sacred area. It consists of a central hall with two wings on either side. We saw the Temple of Athena Nike, The Odeum of Herodus Atticus, the Theater of Dionysus, the Erechtheion, and of course the impressive Parthenon.

Temple of Athena Nike

The back of the Propylae
The Odeum

The Theater of Dionysus

The Parthenon
The Parthenon, courtesy of Ashley & Kamalan Selvarajah who had clearer skies than we did!

The Erechtheion
East side of the Erechtheion

Female statues used as columns at the Erechtheion

After our visit at the Acropolis our driver drove us up to Lycabettus Hill. It is the highest point in Athens and has a great 360 panoramic view of the city.

Next we drove to Maximos Mansion, which is the residence of the Prime Minister of Greece.

Jon and I standing outside with the guard who isn't allowed to move. 

We also went to Panathenaic Stadium, which is the site of the first modern Olympic Games held in 1896. It was reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium.

We took a quick stop at the Olympian of Zeus, which started construction in the 6th century BC. It was a massive temple (the largest in Greece) that was dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Olympian Gods.

Olympian of Zeus from the Acropolis

Next we went to the Roman Agora, the marketplace of that time. It was built in the 2nd half of the 1st century BC, with the intention of transferring the commercial center of the city to it from the Ancient Agora.

Our driver Sakis then dropped us off for lunch at what he called the best place to have souvalkis. Souvlakis are very similar to gyros in that small pieces of meat and/or vegetables are grilled on a skewer and are put into a pita bread (or not) with a sauce like tzatziki or something similar. The souvalkis we had were fantastic! They were just what we wanted for our last Greek lunch.

After lunch Jon and I walked around the Plaka area of Athens. Plaka is the oldest historical part of Athens. It's built on top of the residential areas of ancient Athens and is clustered around some of the Acropolis. Plaka is full of labyrinthine streets and tons of shopping. We spent a good amount of time here picking up souvenirs and gifts, including a very nice cherry wood backgammon board (we heard that Greeks love backgammon).

One of the wider streets in Plaka.
Our last stop of the day was to the New Acropolis Museum. Having just opened in 2009, the New Acropolis Museum is very modern and is a beautiful place to spend an hour or two learning about the Acropolis and seeing items from the "sacred rock", although many of the original items are in Britain - a big controversy for the Greek people! There is a glass floor where you can see results from excavations. Pictures weren't allowed in the majority of the museum, but this is what we were able to capture:

The Acropolis from inside the museum

Excavations underneath the museum
By the time we knew it our day had come to a close and Sakis was driving us back to the ship. There is so much history here and to be able to see this city before we leave was truly fantastic.

1 comment:

  1. This is the second time that I'm trying to write a comment!! I was almost done writing one of my long comments, and somehow I erased it by mistake! (I'm still trying to figure out how to work this computer!!) Anyway, I'm going to start by saying that it doesn't matter how many times I read one of your blogs and see the pictures of the ancient ruins because I am still and continue to be amazed that these structures are actually still standing! Unbelievable!! There is a very cute picture of you and Jon standing with the guard! I love this pic of you two! I did notice in the pic the way you and Jon were standing with the guard. Jon is standing very straight, like at attention, ready to salute the Prime Minister! On the other hand, you were looking very relaxed as if you were just hanging out! Too bad the weather didn't cooperate with you guys. I particularly noticed the very wet ground at the Panathenaic Stadium. But at least you were still able to get around outdoors and see lots of good stuff! Then there's your lunch! Yummy!! The Souvlakis look absolutely delicious! My mouth was watering when I looked at the picture! The New Acropolis Museum sounds so interesting and definitely fascinating! I would have loved to have seen the Glass Floor! Very Cool!! Great blog written about a great city!!