Back in Time

Trip Start Apr 04, 2011
Trip End Jun 14, 2011

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday morning was a blur of ancient ruins as we arrived in Athens running on no sleep from the night before. While some people on the ferry were clearly prepared with sleeping bags and setting up camp early, we felt lucky to have airplane style seats to sit in all night. When we arrived here in Athens at 6am and then took the metro to the center of the city and notices that most of the town was, not surprisingly, still asleep. We found a newspaper stand that was open and bought a map to start exploring. Its interesting to see how the modern city has grown up around the ancient ruins, directly next to our subway stop was Hadrian's library (or what is left of it) that was built almost 2000 years ago. We met our tour guide, a stray dog we named Zeus, who walked with us on our way to the Acropolis. We've all been followed by dogs before but the strange thing was that we were following him. He seemed to know exactly where we were going and every time I stopped to look at the map, Zeus would pause and look back at us like he was saying "come on, I know the way" and inevitably he would be right... We ate a small breakfast in the shadow of the Acropolis while we waited for the rest of the town to wake up, and then continued on with our tour. We saw Hadrian's arch, which at one point divided the city of Athens, and next to it the Temple of Olympic Zeus. We made a great team, with Della reading the history of each place from her Athens iPhone app, and me keeping track of us on the map. To get a break from the sun, we decided to walk through the National Gardens which is a huge park with trees from all over the world. It was built originally for King Otto (who we knew from our travels through Bavaria) in the 1800's but was opened to the public in 1923. Around the corner from the gardens is the National Parliament building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We happened to be there at the time that the two guards were rotating in a ceremony and we were reminded of being at Arlington National Cemetery, although there we couldn't remember the tourists being allowed to pose with the guards as they stood next to the guardhouses. Later in the afternoon we decided to get the best view of Athens that we could, from Lycabettus Hill. This is the highest point in the city and is topped by the Chapel of St. George. Thinking that the exercise would be good for us, we passed up the funicular and headed for the hiking path. About halfway through we might have been rethinking our decision but in the end we made it to the top and were rewarded with a tremendous view of the city. The Acropolis and the Parthenon stand out in the skyline, and the port is visible behind them. We took some pictures of the scenery and headed back to get cleaned up and have some dinner.
The main attraction on Sunday was the Acropolis and Parthenon, which up to this point we had seen many times from a distance but hadn't yet made the climb up the hill. It was a really special experience to be so close to one of the most famous places in the entire world. The Parthenon is the largest structure on the Acropolis but is not the only one, Greeks have been building there for over 2000 years! It is also home to the Erechtheum, built between 421-406 BC.  On our way down from the Acropolis, we stopped at the new Acropolis Museum which just opened two years ago. It had several floors of Ancient Greek artifacts, statues, and art, and the museum itself is beautiful inside. We took our time looking through the exhibits, including a very well done video on the history and construction of the Parthenon, and then we spent a while in the gift shop. This wasn't because we were buying souvenirs, but when we were ready to leave the museum the sky opened up and we found ourselves and plenty of others waiting out a giant rainstorm. Since it was 80+ yesterday and sunny when we left this morning we were utterly unprepared for the rain, so we waited until it was lighter, then made a mad dash for a cab. Eventually it did stop, and now it is sunny again of course! We'll be looking for a gyro pita for dinner tonight and packing up for the big day tomorrow! See you soon California!
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