Athens city tour

Trip Start Dec 27, 2012
Trip End Mar 26, 2013

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Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Saturday, March 16, 2013

This morning we were back on tour guide time schedule so we had an early breakfast and were picked up in reception for our morning tour. Once we had our whole group together we set off from the bus stop. To start with we had a couple of very brief photo stops and on the way to these our guide chatted about the Greek and Athenian history that we have heard a bit of already.
Our first stop was the stadium that was built (all in marble) for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The stadium is a hour shoe shape and is still a very impressive stadium today. We got a few pictures here and then went to photos top number two at Parliament House. We had obviously seen this yesterday but the fences were down today which meant you could have a photo up close with the guard. After this we drove around the city centre area with our guide pointing out various shopping areas and we went past the beautiful neo classical buildings of the University, National Library and the Centre of Science and Art. 
From here we headed to the main parts of our tour the New (built about 2 years ago) Museum of the Acropolis and the Acropolis itself. Just so that everyone knows wag I'm talking about most Ancient Greek cities had an acropolis and this literally translates to high city so it was the area on top of a hill that was usually a place of worship. The houses and own would then be at the foot of the hill. In Athens the main and most famous part of the acropolis is the Parthenon temple. We visited the museum first and the building itself was really amazing and apparently designed by some famous architect. I'm not usually to fussed with the design of new buildings but this was really very cool. Firstly the sight where the museum is built has many Ancient Greek and Christian buildings under it. Instead of having the museum elsewhere they have uh out the wells and foundations of these buildings and then at the museum entrance there is a balcony type thing where you can look down at the excavations below. Also inside the building sections of the floor are transparent so you are basically walking over the old cities. 
Once we were inside the building the first thing we looked at was the various models of the acropolis over the years. Unfortunately Greece has been invaded and ruled by many different countries/empires over the years, from the Persians to the Romans to the Ottoman Turks and this has resulted in lots of damage to the sight. Many marble statues were taken away, it was bombed at one point in history plus it has also suffered earthquake damage. Because of this many of the original temple pillars are not standing today and the whole area has been undergoing restoration works for the last 15 or so years. 
Then we started looking at the museum displays. The first section/floor of the museum focused on things found in or around the acropolis. We saw many beautiful vases that were used by the man and woman the night before their marriage and then given as offerings to the gods to ensure the marriage was a happy one. One thing I found really cool was all these marble slabs with body parts on them. Apparently if people were sick or injured they would go to a medical centre to be cured and at these sights there would also be a temple and people would put their ailment on marble and leave it at the temple to try and prevent the problem from occurring again.  After this we saw many statues that were found at the sight. They were white marble and really beautifully carved but what the most interesting thing for me was that scientists had tested the chemicals in the statues to determine what colour they would have been painted in originally (as the paint never lasts so all the statues are our white). They had then made models of the statues and painted them in their original colours. 
The next section of the museum we visited was dedicated to a little temple on the acropolis called Erechtheion. This temple is more famine and pretty than the Parthenon and one wall of it was decorated with 6 massive female statues. Today the statues outsides are replicas and what remains of the originals is in the museum. It was really interesting to see that some were basically in perfect condition and some they only found pieces. Also 1 of the 6 is actually in a museum in London because when Greece was governed by the Turks lots of statues were taken elsewhere and somehow they ended up in the UK. The other cool thing here was that one if the statues was being cleaned. It was covered in a big canopy thing and there was a screen we could watch to see what was happening underneath. They use this laser thing to clean the marble and then these little brushes to remove the dirt. 
The top floor of the museum was dedicated to the Parthenon itself and the first thing we saw was models of what used to decorate the pediments of the building. These were the triangle sections that went above the columns and below the roof on either end. The statues were about 3m tall and the model was awesome so I can only imagine how cool the original structure would have been! On one end the picture was of all the 12 Gods of the Greek mythology and was meant to depict the birth of Athena from Zeus's head. The other end is showing the competition between Athena and Apollo in which the winner would give there name to the city (obviously Athena won). Both of the gods gave a gift to the city, Apollo gave salt water and Athena gave an olive tree and this is how Athens got the name it has today. We then entered the main section of the top floor and it was here that the architect had done is most amazing work. Looking out the massive windows along one side of the room there was a perfect view of the Parthenon running in exactly the same direction and angle as the room we were standing in. The museum was designed to be the same length and with as the Parthenon and there were columns here to match the original as well. This meant all the decorations and statues from the original building could be arranged exactly as they were in this room. There were the remains of the pediment statues at either end then running around the top section of the walls were theses huge marble squares. These ran around the whole building just above the columns, there were 92 squares originally and they depict more scenes contains the gods and life in Athens. On the original building inside the outer columns there was a walled in room called a cellar his too had marble pictures along the top bit like the patterns we put below our ceilings today. Obviously many bits are missing as they are in London or lost altogether but the way it was all arranged in the building made it obvious how beautiful the ruin would have been 2400 years ago.
We then had a bit of free time in the museum before we caught up with the group again and we walked up the hill to the ancient site. At the entrance to the acropolis the beautiful massive gate is situated and its pretty well preserved. We stopped here and chatted about how they made the magnificent columns so many years ago and then we wandered over to the Parthenon. We spent a little bit more time with the guide and then we had the option of free time and a bus ride to the hotel or just finish the tour and stay here in town. We chose the latter because as I mentioned before the acropolis ticket gets us into the other sites as well. While we were up on top of the hill we took lots of photos of the amazing view of the city of Greece including the ocean and the port that our cruise ship will depart from. We then took our tourist shots with the Parthenon before wandering back down. On the way to the other sights we stopped at the hill where the apostle Paul preached to the people of Athens after the death of Christ. Unfortunately there were lots of philosophers around t this time who tended to over think everything and they were known for searching for answers and so they were not to convinced about the story of the man rising from the dead. Because of this Paul moved on and this is why there are no letters to the Athenians in the Bible!
The first site we visited from here was the Ancient Greek Agora. This was basically the main town that was at the base of the hill. In ancient times there were baths here, the market place, a library etc. Most of the site was totally ruined or only the foundations remained so it was sort of hard to visualise what it would have looked like. The one thing that I'd look really awesome was theTemple of Hephaestus. Over the years this building was used as a church and so it has been really well looked after and looks fantastic today. It's so well preserved it still has its roof which we haven't seen on any of the other ancient buildings we have visited so far. From here we headed to the Roman Agora which was the roman town built very close to and a few years after the Greek version. As it is a little newer this area was probably lightly more impressive than the Greek town plus it contained the beautiful Tower of the Winds that has these angel type carvings on it and the 8 corners represent the points of a compass. 
After this we were about done with sight seeing and it was approaching 3pm so we were pretty hungry! We headed into the Monastiraki area (a section we didn't see yesterday) of Athens which is known for its flea market and excellent Greek food. We shopped around for awhile and then had I had a delicious souvlaki at this little restaurant overlooking the main square so while we ate we could watch the street performers and the tourists shopping. The staff then gave us Greek yoghurt and honey on the house before we left the restaurant to do a bit more shopping. It was a really nice day and so even though we were kind of done with shopping and sights we decided to extend our walk home and spend some time in the  before retiring home for the day! We looped back through the centre of town so that we could walk past the university and other old buildings we had seen from the bus earlier that day.
When we eventually got home we were pretty pooped from an epic day of walking and so we used the Internet and then had another quiet night.
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