Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ruins and Puppets.

At the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.

After our snack/lunch at the eateries near the New Acropolis Museum, Bro and I decided to take the short walk to our next sightseeing point - the ruins of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.


We're in the heart of the tourist zone which meant a lot, a lot, a lot of souvenir shops and to no surprise, none of the graffiti that's splattered all over the local neighborhoods that we've been spending most of our time in.  Somewhere nearby is the Plaka neighborhood which I told Bro was where everyone, whom I knew who had been to Greece, told me we must go spend time in.  Having seen images of the Plaka neighborhood on the web, I suspected it looked much like the area we were walking through. To me, it was touristy, but it was pleasant. Not a bad place to sit and have a drink and a bite.  The Plaka is just adjacent to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus so maybe we'll go if we have time and the desire.

Tree lined, cobblestone streets. Pretty area for a city stroll.

It's not hard spotting ruins in Greece - we've become experts in just a few short days :-)

Hadrian's Arch.  Probably the original entrance to the site.

We had to purchase tickets to get in.  Bro did his duty.


Size wise, the site felt like a football field.  Not much left of the temple but some columns. 


A happy camper.....most of the time :-)

I still wonder how they stacked up the blocks to build the columns....it wasn't like the Greeks had cranes!



The skies had gotten cloudy while we walked but as quickly as the clouds covered the sun, they left and it was once again bright sunshine.  We've been very lucky, weatherwise.  Not a single drop of rain since we've been in Greece.

Always happy to oblige to take a fellow tourist's photo.

Can you imagine what this would have looked like in its glory days?

Detail of the beautiful Corinthian columns

Truly, you can see the Parthenon from just about every location that offers an unobstructed view of the Acropolis!

Not a whole lot to see at the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.  We were probably there for all of a half hour.  From here, we decided that we would walk back to our apartment but that we would take the *long* way back - giving us an opportunity to explore more of the city on our way back.

We headed back to the New Acropolis Museum and continued walking along Dionysiou Areopagitou, a lovely tree line walkway running through what looked live a very upscale neighborhood on one side and the Acropolis on the other.


We didn't see any cars but there were plenty of horse drawn carriages.

It was a very pleasant walk.  I take it all back.....everything I said about how Athens is an ugly city cluttered with concrete and stone.  It does have it's green spaces and the fact that many of the city's streets are pedestrian city makes it a very walk friendly.  I appreciate that very much.

Dionysiou Areopagitou eventually becomes Apostolou Pavlou.  Still a pedestrian only street but this part runs through the area surrounding the Hill of Nymphs.  You truly feel like you're walking through a park. We passed the occasional street musician.  We even came upon a small row of artisans. Lots of jewelry for sale.


We also passed the open air cinema in Thission, the metro station located a stone's throw a way.  We should have come last night.  Oh well.  On my next trip to Athens :-)


Looking at the map, Bro noticed that I had marked off the Haridos Shadow Puppet Theatre as a place to see.  Greece has a tradition of puppetry and I was hoping to catch a performance. Unfortunately, when I was doing the pre-trip planning, I cou;dn't find a single venue with any performances.  All I could find was mention of a couple of schools - Haridos was one of them.

Since we so happened to be in the 'hood, we decided to check it out.  We were back in another local neighborhood.  This one was definitely more residential than the area we're staying in in Monastiraki.  It's nice here but I prefer where we are - it's more lively.  I also noticed a lot of shuttered establishments here as well. Perhaps that's a sign of the country's financial struggles.  This is how it would hit home.

No matter the time of day, the cafes and restaurants are always doing business.

The theatre is located at Iraklion 66.   We managed to find Iraklion and so it was just a matter of finding the address.  I swear we started at Iraklion 1 as it seemed like a really way down the street before we came to number 66.  Our feet were getting tired from all the walking we had done and as keen as I was to get to the theatre, I had moments of just wanting to turn around.

Even after we arrived at number 66, I wasn't sure we had actually arrived.  There was no sign indicating that there is a theatre here.  The entrance opened up onto a courtyard and at the far end, there was an open door.  As I walked towards it, I noticed two women.  Nearing the door, I saw them working on hanging up paintings - it looked like a gallery space and it was.  When I asked the women about the puppet theatre, they pointed me in the direction of a closed door. To one side of the door was sign.  I could tell from the characters, which have a look unique to Greek puppetry, on the sign.  I pulled on the door handle and it opened.

A woman emerged from an office and I asked if this was the theatre.  She replied yes and then with one hand, pointed to a museum.  It was obvious that there was no performance taking place but she allowed us to walk through the museum, which was just one large room.  Greek puppetry is shadow puppetry.

The main character in tales narrated in the Turkish and Greek shadow-puppet theatre is Karagiozis or Karaghiozis.  When I asked the woman if this was the puppet theatre, I asked if this is where you come to see Karagiozis figuring that word would resonate with here.  It seems that Greek puppet theatre shares roots with Turkish culture.  It's generally believed that Karagiozis arrived into Greece in the 19th century, during Ottoman rule.  He was given his "Greekness" at end of 19th century by Dimitrios Sardounis alias Mimaros, who is considered the founder of modern Greek shadow puppet theater.

As I walked through the room, I took a few photos.  Lucky I got a few shots off before the woman came and told me "No photo".



I loved this rack of puppets. You can see the rods used to control them.

Even the boats are manipulated as puppets.

As we were walking, an older gentleman emerged from another office. He and the woman exchanged a few words and then she pointed to some seats and indicated for us to sit.  So we did.  In the meantime, the man went behind the screen and turned on the lights.  We were going to get a bit of a show!  What a treat!  I meant to videotape the show and in fact I caught a 2 second snippet of it but lame me, I must have turned off the video camera setting instead.  So, all I have is two photos.

The performance probably lasted no more than 30 seconds but you can see, from the changes in the photos, that he was operating three puppets.  There's something about watching puppets that makes me revert back to being a child.  I was oohing and aahing and giggling during the show.  It was awfully kind of the gentleman to put on this little show for us.  After it was over, we clapped and thanked him kindly.  From the smile on his face, I think he enjoyed the break.



On our way out, he handed me two pieces of paper.  All the words were in Greek so I had no idea what they were all about.  I'm guessing they're announcements for either previous or upcoming performances.


It seemed like an eternity before we made it from the theatre back to Apostolou Pavlou.  We really were tired as we stopped twice to rest our feet.  At the first break, we found a bench.  I lasted less than 5 minutes there as the mosquitoes had come out to feast on me.  Next bench was nicer so we enjoyed a longer sit.

It was quite a long walk from the Temple of Zeus to Iraklion but I have to admit, it was very lovely.  I can imagine how popular this place must be, with local Athenians, on weekends.

Lots of vendors and eateries to keep shoppers and foodies happy! 

 As tired as we were, we mustered up enough energy to make one last trip back to the Central Market. The sight of vendors cleaning up the floors around their stalls and putting crates of food away indicating they were getting ready to close for the day.  We scurried over to the seafood section and while Bro bought some baby octopus, I got the baby squid.  It was barely 5pm and I was surprised the market was closing so early.  Then I realized it was Saturday and most likely, the market closes early on weekends.  I can't believe we've been in Greece a week already.  Time has really flown by!

On the way back to the apartment, a small plant nursery caught Bro's eye.  Of course, we had to check it out.  Lots of bulbs for sale. There was a woman tending to inventory.  Bro asked if she carried cyclamen corms.  He still had those wild cyclamens, that we saw on the hillside of St. Nicholas Monastery in Meteora, in mind.  She looked at him not having a clue what he was talking about.  No, not a chance she would have any.  So we left.  As continued our walk, Bro mentioned that he wished we had come back to this neck of the woods earlier rather than wandering through the touristy parts of town; he said it was much  more interesting area.  I couldn't have agreed with him more!  I think he's quickly appreciating the pleasures of traveling off the beaten tourist path.
We ended our day with a variation of the same dinner we've had every night we've been here.  Simple Greek salad, garlic bread, grilled baby squid and grilled baby octopus.  If I might say so myself, our interpretation of Greek food has been surprisingly delicious :-)

Today was our last day in Athens. On the day we arrived, I asked Dimitris to do me the favor of calling for a taxi to come pick us up and take us to the airport.  We're flying to Santorini tomorrow and the flight leaves bright and early at 5:45am.  Dimitris has arranged for the taxi to come at 3:30am!  So, I'm going to try and do my best to get an early night's rest.  I have some repacking to do before I hit the sack.  Bro is planning on cleaning out the fridge.  I have a feeling a few things that we ought to be leaving behind will be coming with us :-(

I had doubts about Athens - whether or not I would enjoy spending time here.  It did take a while but this city has really grown on me and I'm sad to be leaving.  I will miss seeing the Parthenon every day! 

One last goodnight from Athens!  Looking forward to Santorini!