Ancient Greece

Trip Start Feb 10, 2006
Trip End Mar 07, 2006

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

We started this morning with the buffet breakfast at the hotel. We were talking about plans for the week and I mentioned that Friendly Planet wasn't going to be able to provide us with a transfer to the airport to pick up our rental car. We booked a package that included air, hotel and transfers but we extended our trip by a week. We were going to use the airport transfer to ride back to the airport and then pick up a rental car so that we could  head to the Peleponese. When I first talked to Friendly Planet they said that we could ride with the rest of the group back to the airport on March 1st. Yesterday when we arrived in Athens the representitive from Friendly Planet said that everyone had done some sort of extension so there wasn't a bus going to the airport on March 1st. I really didn't think of it as a big deal, afterall we were only a block from the Metro and it would be easy to get to the airport. Plus we would be able to do it on our own time frame.

One of our group was not so understanding. She started bitching about how she was going to write a letter of complaint to Friendly Planet and that it wasn't acceptable. I tried to talk her down but to no avail. It was very hard for me to hear since I had worked so hard to plan this trip for everyone. I have used Friendly Planet for 4 different trips and I have always been pleased. I have developed a relationship with the team and was horrified that someone that I had talked into using the company was going to be a jerk.

This morning we started using the Athens Metro. It is so clean and easy to use. We took the Metro to Monastriaki Square. It is early morning and the square is alive with activity. The carts are full of oranges, we have had the pleasure of having some of the oranges here in Greece and they are sweet as sugar cubes, but this morning we are full from breakfast and pass up the oranges. 

We are headed to The Acropolis, we have familiarized ourselves with the Athens map and it shouldn't be too difficult to get to the top. As we head that direction we stumble upon the Roman Agora. It is a small acre of ruins. I have chosen today to see most of the Ancient ruins of Athens because they are free. We wander around the ruins taking in the history of the Roman Agora.

One of the few remains left behind by Turkish invasion stands next to the Roman Agora, the beautiful Victory Mosque.

The view of the Acropolis from here is beautiful, but the view of the Acropolis from anywhere in Athens is beautiful. I don't think that there is anywhere in Athens that you can't see the Acropolis. That is a tell tale sign that we have a long walk ahead of us. 

I am not sure why just the buildings and streets are so interesting in each country. Maybe it is the choice of building materials or colors but buildings in each country tell their own story about the people that live here. In Athens the buildings are painted rich earth tones, sepia's, yellow ochers, and burnt sienna's. They speak of the earth and seem to meld well with the ruins of white marble and red granite. That is the beauty of traveling, you get to see a city with the eyes of a stranger. It is all beautiful and interesting and everything seems unusual.

Our climb takes us up the side of the hill leading to the Acropolis. We finally get to Areiopagos around a hundred yards from the entrance to the The Acropolis. It is nothing more than fragments of stone that was used for the foundation. It makes for a great view of the Ancient Agora below and the Acropolis above. 

I don't know how they became so smart but the Dogs here have adapted to their environment. We watched a dog take the walkway, made for the people to the top of the Areiopagos instead of trekking up the side of the ruins. As we sat down our water bottle to take a photo the dog came over and stole the bottle. When some of the water was poured out onto the stone he lapped it up thirstily. He figured out quickly that Heather had some cookies in her bag and he started to work her. With those sweet brown eyes who could resist. The cheese and crackers that we were carrying as snacks made a very happy dog. I guess this must be his spot because he didn't follow us on to the Acropolis.

The Acropolis sits on the highest point in Athens. When you enter you are surrounded by white marble. It is hard for me to imagine the ruins any other way than white but they, like the ancient Egyptian ruins, were painted in the most colorful of paints. The first building that you see when you ascend the stairs and through the entrance is the Pantheon. Wow! There it is, the Icon of the Greek Empire standing there in front of you. How many photos, paintings and videos have I seen of this one building.


The building in this complex are so familiar to me that it almost feels as if I have been here before. We walked around the Parthenon taking it all in. We take in the view, all of Athens lays out before us. Yes the Acropolis is a religious experience. You can understand how they choose this location.

The Acropolis Museum holds some of the most fabled objects of ancient Greece. The statues and pediments of the acropolis are safely preserved in this little building. The most beautiful of the sculptures is the original Caryatids, salvaged from the Erechtheion. 

Next to the Pantheon, The Erechtheion is the most famous building on the Acropolis. Its Caryatid porch has been photographed and painted so many times that it is immediately recognizable as something of significance. The crowds aren't really too bad. I can only imagine what it is like during the busy season. It is nice to be able to enjoy the sites without tripping all over people.

The Theater of Herod Atticus is carved into the wall of the Acropolis and as we climb down the paths that weave down the side we stop to take in the view of the Theater. It is truly beautiful and its architecture, though not as well known is very much intact. 

We continue walking down the cobblestone paths and stairs. As we follow the path along side the Acropolis, We meet a mother and her two children dressed in Carnival costumes. The little boy is dressed as a policeman and pretends to shoot me. I pretend to be hit. I pantomime the request to take their picture and she smiles and nods. So I try to get a good picture but the young man has not time for such silliness, so I take a quick snapshot and thank them.

We encounter a woman selling Greek donuts on a stick. Finally the shape of donuts totally make sense. When sold as a street food the donuts stay neatly stacked when threaded over a stick the size of a broom stick. For just a few cents. They were still warm and the woman dipped them in sugar. The sticky sweet delight was the perfect pick me up to keep us going for the rest of the day. 

The Theater of Dionysus sits along the southern edge of the Acropolis. It was carved right into the wall of the Acropolis. It is easy to imagine the Greek Tragedies played out here. We took a moment to sit on the marble seats to take a short break from our walking tour of Ancient Greece. 

The next stop for us is the Ancient Agora. We could see the Stoa of Attolos and the Temple of Hephaestos and Athena Ergane from the top of the Acropolis. The Stoa of Attolos has been rebuilt and it now holds historical artifacts from Ancient Greece.  The sculptures are beautiful. We walked around the whole complex spending a lot of time exploring the Temple of Hephaestos up on the hill. 

We explored part of the Platka and ended up at the Mitropolis. This central square is full of people selling their wares and shops selling souvenirs. We stopped for a snack of Gelato, Cory's favorite snack food. Then we started doing a little souvenir shopping. 

The church in the square is beautiful and hidden in the nook next to it is an ancient church. It is beautiful in a much more simple way. We stopped and picked up a little Fanta and Rum. It was a suggestion of someone in the store and seemed like a good idea. We went to the room for a little while and had a few drinks and then wandered across the street to Alexander the Greats. We had noticed the restaurant as we left the hotel this morning and decided that it would be a fantastic place to get supper. 

Jeremiah, a little buzzed, decided to treat the entire restaurant to bottles of Ouzo. This didn't make a big impact on the patrons but Alex, of Alexander the Greats, came over and began to give us personalized service. He took us under his wing and ordered a selection of things for us. Everything was delicious. Alex ended up sitting down with us and enjoying conversation with our table. It turned into a truly lovely evening.

After dinner we wandered up to the top of the hotel to try to get onto the roof for a birds eye view of the Acropolis but the rooftop pool was closed for renovations we were not able to go out on the roof and could only take in the view from the office center near the top of the hotel. We managed to wander back to our rooms without some drunken picture taking in the halls on the way there.

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