It’s all Greek to me!

In Athens, we signed up for an excursion through our Roll Call on Cruise Critic (Athens Day Tours). For a very reasonable price, we were picked up at the port of Piraeus, Greece, which is near Athens. This visit was during the height of the Greek economic crisis; we were curious to see if there were obvious signs of the economic distress going on in this country. We were in a minivan with 6 others from our cruise ship. The van drove us through Athens; there was tons of graffiti on the buildings, and many people loitering on the streets.

Our first stop was the Acropolis. “Acro” means tall; “Polis” means city, therefore, literally a tall city! The van dropped us at the base of a hill; we had pre-purchased admission, so hiked up the hill to the entrance (no wait). This would be a difficult walk if a person were disabled.   It wasn’t terribly steep, but the cobblestones made it a little more challenging.

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As we walked, our guide gave us a brief commentary of what we were seeing. I apologize if my facts are incorrect; between the guide’s accent and my poor hearing, it wasn’t always possible to get everything straight! This was an ongoing issue in many of the ports . . .

This is the stadium at the Acropolis. Apparently, it is the first stadium built anywhere.

The theater of Dionysos

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The view from the top! I learned pretty quickly on this trip that I need both a better camera, and better photography skills.

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The rebuilding of the Parthenon has been going on since 1992.

 

The Parthenon’s columns are an optical illusion. In order to look straight, they slant inwards.

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Security everywhere. . .

There are three types of columns found in Greek architecture: Doric, which are the plain ones. They represent males (protection), and are found on the exterior of buildings. Ionic represent the female, and look like ovaries connected by fallopian tubes. These are used on the interior of the Doric. The third is Corinthian, which are the fancy ones.

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This Greek flag represents rebellion against the Nazis during WWII (used to celebrate NO to the Nazis in 1940; no surrender!)

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Kitties everywhere! My husband has found a friend!

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Another view from the top.

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Bases of columns. The columns themselves have been destroyed, most likely due to earthquakes, but also from explosions.

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The exterior of the Erechtheion.

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Finding a free restroom is a boon when in Europe. This one isn’t too fancy – no seat, no toilet paper, but the price was right!

This is the drop-off point for viewing the Acropolis. Cars are not allowed past here. You must walk up a hill to reach the site. Oddly enough, however, after loading up the van to go on to the next site, we drove up the hill that we were told cars were not allowed on. Hmmm. . .

Our next stop was the Temple of Zeus. After seeing the Acropolis, this was a bit underwhelming. It was probably pretty spectacular when it was whole, but now, is merely ruins. There were originally 100 columns; there are 16 left.

 

On to the 1896 Modern Olympic Stadium, which seats 60,000. There was no shade at all. We chose not to pay to enter, but did want to use the restrooms, which cost 1/2 a Euro. We had a Euro, so had the correct change to enter, or so we thought. There was a woman guarding the entrance. She was trying to talk to us, but it was all Greek to me! We finally figured out that she wanted us to each pay 1/2 a Euro; it was unacceptable to give her a Euro coin for two people to enter. So, we had to get change from a kiosk, and go back to give her 1/2 a Euro each!

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The highlight of the day for me was seeing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (aka the changing of the guard). The tomb is guarded 24/7 by two traditionally garbed soldiers (1810 uniforms). The wooden shoes weigh 6 pounds. They wear red caps, which represent the blood of soldiers. The big pompoms on their shoes were used to hide knives. You were allowed to have a photograph taken with the soldiers, but if you gave any sign of disrespect, the soldier would strike his rifle on the ground as a warning. There were guards “guarding” the guards as well, and if you didn’t take the hint from the rifle strike, one of these guards would step in! Saluting is a sign of disrespect; we saw someone salute while having a picture taken, and the guard struck his rifle against the ground. My husband accidentally brushed against the soldier, and also received the rifle tap.

 

The actual changing of the guard took place at 11 am. It began with an inspection of uniforms, and continued with a series of moves, which included frequent leg lifting, which must have been a challenge with those 6 pound shoes! It was fascinating to watch. We will be returning to Athens in November, and I will videotape the ceremony and post it on my blog.

 

We drove past the Academies on the way to the Agora. These libraries are not what we think of as libraries, since they do not lend materials. The books are for reference only.

We were dropped off near the Agora, and had a couple of hours to eat lunch and sightsee on our own. Agora means “open market”. People would go to the Agora to air their political issues. If you feared this process, you had agoraphobia! My favorite term that I learned was “idiotus”. It was a term used for those that came to the Agora for issues concerning self, rather than the greater good.

We ate at a café that had been recommended by the tour guide. I had a combo that had pork gyro meat, tzatziki, fries, and a greek salad with feta. Clayton had a couple of chicken gyros. We both had Coca-Cola Light.

 

After lunch, we toured the Agora.

 

We exited the ancient Agora, and went through the modern Agora (marketplace). This was a very touristy area, and quite crowded. We had read about pickpockets, and were pretty sure this would be an area they frequented, so I kept an iron grip on my purse. There were all sorts of odd things for sale here. I ended up buying a few evil eye charms, which will be used as Christmas ornaments. There were some nasty salt and pepper shakers, and quite a few penis shaped bottle openers (colorfully painted in the Greek style). I bought a scarf for 5 Euros. We wandered through the marketplace, passing a couple of seriously creepy stores, that seemed to sell terrorist garb (paramilitary and camo). There must be a market for it. . .

 

We found a nice park bench in the shade, and people watched until it was time for the tour van to take us back to the port. We had a lovely day in Athens; it was as beautiful as we had hoped for!

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