Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, June 16, 2017

GREECE: Athens

Leaving Heraklion

We could not get a direct flight from Crete to Toronto, nor could we get a flight from Athens to Toronto. We tried but the best we could get was to fly to Athens, stay one night, then the next day get a flight to Munich and only then directly to Toronto. Well, we were well rested and we do have the time to just hang out. Our first leg from Crete to Athens was an 11.30 AM flight that got us into Athens at about 12.30 PM. All arrangements were made on line and we knew what to do after the flight. We caught the Hotel Shuttle (Holiday Inn) and we were in our hotel room by about 1 PM. 
View From Our Hotel Room Window

Now what? This Hotel, this Holiday Inn, is near nothing. A nice place but we were looking out the window and Carol looked at me and said: “Let’s get into Athens proper and let’s visit the Acropolis!”
Mmmm, we only had this afternoon free, I asked myself is this at all possible? We asked the receptionist and were told: “Of course, it’s easy…just take the busx95 outside the hotel and you will end up right in the center of Athens, right at the Main Square, very near (about a 10-minute walk) to the Acropolis, you can’t miss it”. 
Many Old Ruins In Downtown Athens

The Signs Pointed to Narrow Little Lane-ways
Ha, little did this guy know how we can screw things up! The bus ride, indeed, was easy enough. The x in front of the bus indicates an Express bus, so it only stops in a few places and within an hour we were at the square, smack in the middle of Athens. Now we just have to walk up to the Acropolis. So we looked up and saw? Large buildings that obscured the view! So we asked people and they told us to go this way and it’s only about 10 minutes away. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. We asked again and they all pointed us in this direction. Finally, we could see, high on a mountain the Acropolis. Now all we have to do is walk up to it. Right! It was easily said, but not so easy to do with our old legs. 
Signs Point the Way

All the people we asked meant well, they showed us a wonderful area of old Greece. Small houses, perched on a hillside, with a stunning view of the valley and with 30-year-old legs, it would have been a real treat. Well, Carol put on her determination and this woman is nothing if not determined when her mind is made up. We,with a few breaks on the way to catch our breaths, walked all the way up this hillside,
following homemade signs that pointed always upward towards the Acropolis.
Still On Our Way Up to the Acropolis
The area we walked in was delightful, artsy even. People really lived here. It was very quaint and an experience. No, there were no restaurants to stop in, no benches to sit on; it was a neighborhood we had to climb through. With huffing and puffing we made it to the old ruins, only to find out the whole complex of the Acropolis is fenced in; the fence high enough that we could not climb over it. Now what? Ask again of course, and we were redirected back downhill, along the fence where we found the main road up to the Acropolis. 
We Have to Go Up There?

Let me tell you, we earned our  
admission by walking this way, but no, the booth at the entrance charged us, like anybody else, 25 Euros each to get in to the complex.  And, of course, we were not yet at the actual temple of Athena. For another 20 minutes it was going up and up. Steep ramps, stairs, steep ramps again, even steeper, more stairs, etc. Top all of this by extremely slippery footing (the marble has been worn down by all the tourists to make the stones very slippery) and we spent a good 2 hours getting to the top. 
Our First View of the Entrance to the Acropolis

So, don’t listen to them when they tell you it’s only a 10-minute walk up. The temperatures were around 25C so it was not cool, either. Phew!  That was a fine idea Carol, to ‘just’ quickly visit the Acropolis. But… we made it! Here is the story of the Acropolis.

Whew! We Finally Made It to the Propylaea,
the Monumental Gateway to the Acropolis
This place, this Athens Acropolis, was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Construction started in 447 BC, after some years of planning. General Periclesof Athens was in charge of the building. The town of Athens, named after the goddess Athena, could now proclaim to the ‘world’ the virtues of her patron Athena and show off, with pride, that Athens ‘is’ the best place to
be. Like in most ancient city states, this proclamation, this building of a Parthenon, of a temple, of anything important and holy was always built on the highest spot. The Athens Acropolis sits on a high mountain and is visible from very far away. It dominated the view from anyplace in Athens. There was no place in town from which one could not see the temple. Like God him/herself, it reigned over all activities of the town. It was, and still is, a wondrous sight to behold. There, high on the hill is the holy place of Athens. Way up there is Athena’s Temple. Way up there is the Palladium (wooden effigy fallen from heaven – something NOT man made). Way up there is the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, all the holy items of the ancients. Naturally there is also a theater, living quarters for the priests, altars for offerings, a whole complex of ancient religion and belief systems that we now look at and are in awe about. 
Our View Of the Parthenon (Athena's Temple) Was
Marred By All the Scaffolding But It Was
Still Very Impressive

But in the 5th Century before Christ, this was a huge center of the Greek civilization. I cannot emphasize enough how important this area was to any city, especially a city like Athens.  Athens was not just any city; it was a city state, a center of learning, of politics, of ideas, of military might, of trade, of knowledge, etc. etc. Anyone who came and visited Athens then could see from afar that this place was special. This place, this Athens, was so special that it might even have been be the center of civilization itself. This Acropolis showed it, flaunted it, and proclaimed it. 

Erechtheion Built to House the Wooden Statue of Athena

We spent about an hour at the very top of the hill, among the ruins of what is left of the pride of Athens and then slowly made our way down the hill. Slowly down, because the footing became even more precarious and perilous. It was a relief to finally walk on even ground. Make sure you wear good shoes with rubber soles when visiting is my advice to people not familiar with Athens. These old marble buildings were made to be visited on bare feet, which today is not practical either.

Close-Up of the Caryatids (Sculpted Female Figures Used
as Architectural Supports)
We ate a well-deserved dinner way down among the touristy visitors, in a spot we felt was a bit away from the crowds. The food was excellent, like most Greek food always seems to be. Or was it the workout we had, climbing for hours creating an appetite. Athens is full of foreigners, of souvenir stores, vendors, hustlers and ‘iffy’ looking folks. I heeded Ms. Donovan advice who always told me: “Watch your wallet”.

After dinner, after we sauntered back to the Square, we had no problems taking the bus x95 back to the hotel. This part went very smoothly. Sure it was another 20 minutes of walking after dinner to catch the bus, but all in all we made it and Carol can now say: “Yes, I have seen the Acropolis”.   It was, all in all, a very good day.
Theatre of Dionysus

Tomorrow, we will take the flight to Munich, which gives Carol a chance to take pictures of the Alps. From the top, of course! Hopefully we will have nice weather and all our connections will be on time. We have less than an hour between fights and that seems sometimes not enough time to walk from one gate to the next. We had enough walking in Athens. Wow, are my legs sore!

Dinner Was Most Welcome and Delicious

Fairly Clear View of the Alps

More Alps

They Really Were Spectacular

Flying Over Germany

Ahhh - Home Sweet Home

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