Greece Lightning !

Trip Start Sep 22, 2009
Trip End Oct 14, 2009

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Ruby Princess, Princess Cruise Line

Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kalimera!  We're back in Greece!  Home of Zeus, the King of Gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the God of the sky and thunder!  Among his symbols are the thunderbolt!  And where there's Thunderboldts, there's LIGHTNING!

More specifically, we've arrived at the ancient city of Athens!  Athens was home of the initial Olympic Games in 1896 and hosted the games again in 2004 Summer Olympics.  In fact, I think they were nearly completing an Olympic venue for the 2004 Olympics.  Ha!ha!  Perhaps, now that I'm actually in Greece, I'll understand my Greek Classics class I took in university.  

Our ship arrived in Piraeus, the port city for Athens early this morning.  Piraeus is about a 35 minute drive to the Acropolis. The motor coach tour we booked today was "Acropolis & Plaka Sampler" which departed from the port area at 9:15am.  It's destination....the Acropolis and then the famous Plaka neighborhood!  

As we climbed up the monumental gateway to the Acropolis, we first encountered the Propylaea,   which was built under the general direction of the Athenian leader Pericles although Phidias was given the responsibility for planning the rebuilding the Acropolis as a whole at the conclusion of the Persian Wars. The building was designed by the architect Mnesicles. Construction began in 437 BCE and was terminated in 432, when the building was still unfinished.

Entrance into the Acropolis was controlled by the Propylaea. Though it was not built as a fortified structure, it was important that people not ritually clean be denied access to the sanctuary. In addition, runaway slaves and other miscreants could not be permitted into the sanctuary where they could claim the protection of the gods. The state treasury was also kept on the Acropolis, making its security important.

The Parthenon temple of the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their protector. Its construction began in 447BC and completed in 432BC on the Athenian Acropolis, although decorations of the Parthenon continued until 431BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered to be the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered one of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy, and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure.  That explains all the scaffolding.

The Erechtheum is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis.  The Erecthion sits on the most sacred site of the Acropolis where Poseidon and Athena had their contest over who would be the Patron of the city.  Poseidon thrust his trident into the rock and a spring burst forth, while Athena touched the ground with a spear and an olive tree grew.  Athena was declared the victor and the great city of Athens was named for her while Poseidon was given a small village in Syros.  The building itself contains the porch of the maidens or Carytoids which are now copies, four of which have been placed in the Acropolis museum, hopefully to be reunited with a fifth taken from the Acropolis by Lord Elgrin and put in the British Museum more than a century ago.

After a few minutes of touring on our own, we all made it back to the bus where the tour continued into the city to view the old Olympic stadium or Kallimarmaro Stadium as it's also known as.  We were able to exit our bus to take a few photo's of the last marathon runner entering the stadium from the 1896 Olympics!  ha!ha!  Just kidding!  

The tour later took us into the Syntagma and Plaka neighborhoods where our guide took us on a walking tour down Ermou Street, eventually making it to the Plaka neighborhood.  The Plaka area was immensely popular this Sunday afternoon and we couldn't help but get caught up in the slower pace and relaxation that the local Athenian's were enjoying.  It was great!  Everybody seemed to be doing a whole lot of nothing, except sitting and enjoying a cup of Greek beverage (seemed like a foamy latte).  The moment seemed serial as we relaxed, enjoying our beverage, with a view of the Acropolis looming right above us!  

With a little shopping and some minor purchases, nothing to make MasterCard nervous, we made our way back to the meeting point to catch our transport back to the Ruby!   The thirty minute or so drive back to the ship took a similar route as we came, driving past some familiar landmarks that we saw earlier in the day such as the Karaiskaki Stadium.  With it being a Sunday, we seemed to cruise along without much delay.  Had it been a weekday, it would've been a different story.  

The late afternoon return allowed us to change and relax around the ship, walking to the stern to enjoy some beautiful views of Athens as the Ruby disembarked the Port of Piraeus around 5:15pm.  It ended up being a very warm and picture perfect day in Athens, around 30 Celcius!  With our ship now headed south to the Elafonisou Channel, we headed back to our stateroom to change only to head back up to the fitness room.  Next on the agenda was Rick's spin class at 6pm and a treadmill with Elsie's name on it!  As we always enjoyed our dinners and desserts (quite often a dessert in the International Cafe immediately after leaving the dining room), we had to stay ahead of the eating game!  If not, passengers run the risk of disembarking the ship as cargo, not people!  
Because we ate a little later tonight, we decided to catch the immensely popular International Crew show in the Princess Theatre.  The show allowed some of the crew to show-off some of their many talents.  It ended with the very popular and funny skit called "If I was not upon the sea"!  It was a great laugh!

We ended the evening on our balcony, enjoying a nice glass of Turkish wine, purchased the day before.  Tomorrow is another day at sea which means another Formal Evening and a chance for me to wear my tux for the final time this cruise.  

Good Night!  Cheers, Rick & Elsie! 


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