When we returned from our travels and talked with friends a few people seemed shocked that we enjoyed Athens so much. “Really? Athens? Hmmm…” was the usual response. Apparently Athens has not been so good to tourists in the past, but we had no complaints!
We got off to a good start with a very helpful taxi driver, who took us from the port of Piraeus to the city. I had mapped out our day and planned to start at Syntagma Square and make our way up to the Acropolis. He immediately pointed out that the Acropolis was the highest point in the city, so it would be much better to drive there and work our way down. Geography was just one consideration – the Acropolis was only going to get hotter and more crowded as the day went on. Great advice!
Even though we got there right as the Acropolis was opening, Jeremy waited about a half-hour in line for tickets. The queue was significantly longer when he was finished getting the tickets, confirming our taxi driver’s good advice. He also wasn’t kidding about the Acropolis being the highest point. It afforded some great views, and Jeremy kept a death grip on the boys to avoid any disasters.
The Parthenon is undergoing some restoration which first began in 1983. The signage said it was completed in 2009 but there was still plenty of scaffolding and other equipment around. Considering its age though, it looks pretty good!
I don’t know what they are going to do with all these capitals but if there are any extras I’d be happy to take a few off of their hands. They would make a nice addition to a garden landscape.
This flag has some pretty significant history to it. This was the site of some well-known acts of Nazi resistance. The first happened in April 1941. The Greek soldier who was guarding the flag was ordered to remove the Greek flag so he did – and then wrapped himself in it and jumped to his death. (ouch!) A few months later a pair of brave teenagers raised the Greek flag again – a plaque here honors them.
I was determined to get a family picture here. Thanks to the random stranger who took this photo for us!
The Parthenon gets all the glory, but this building, the Erechtheion, was once more prestigious. The part on the right, called the Porch of the Caryatids, was significant because it was the first time that the Greeks incorporated sculpture with architecture. These ladies are copies though – the originals are all in museums.
Turkey has cats; the Acropolis has dogs. Don’t let the collars fool you – they likely do not have owners although they are cared for by a local animal charity.
At the foot of the Acropolis is the new Acropolis Museum. The top floor is askew to mirror the Parthenon above. We headed here after we were finished with the outside stuff. Spending time in the air conditioning was a great respite.
Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the museum. There is an excellent collection of Greek antiquities but the star of the show is the Parthenon Gallery. It shows how the Parthenon would have looked in the glory days, with some not-so-subtle reminders that most of the pieces are in the possession of the British. (We were lucky enough to see those pieces, called the Elgin Marbles, when we visited the British Museum in London. Incidentally, photographs were not allowed there either.)
We had a bird’s-eye view of the Temple of Olympian Zeus from above, and then we saw it up close and personal.
Yup, those are really tall columns. And that kid is trying really hard to be a photo-bomber.
We wandered through the National Garden and found some fabulous furniture. (Thomas is looking less than happy because he is searching for some little Greek soldiers like the Roman ones he found at the Colosseum but they are not to be found.)
We arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just in time to see the changing of the guards. The soldiers are part of an elite unit of the Greek army. Whenever I see uniforms like this I’m thankful for the simplicity of the uniform that my husband gets to wear.
After the ceremony they invited the spectators to pose for a photograph. The boys didn’t want to, but I jumped at the chance.
We wandered through Syntagma square and through the pedestrian shopping zone, but things were pretty quiet since it was Sunday. We tried to go to Agora but it was already closed so we found another taxi and headed back to the port. After a full day we were ready to put our feet up – after washing them, of course. One thing in Athens that probably hasn’t changed in hundreds of years – those streets are dusty!