Friday, October 3, 2014

The Parthenon.


What can I possibly say about the Parthenon that hasn't already been said and with much more eloquence than I can muster up? It is THE iconic symbol not only of Athens but of Greece. I have wanted to come see this place for as long as I can remember and today was the day that the dream finally came true.


My scrumptious breakfast of Greek yogurt with fresh figs drizzled with honey.
By the time I jumped out of bed, Bro was already awake but the lazy guy was just lingering in bed. Up! Time to get going!!  We both got ready for the day.  I have to admit, I was probably more in a rush to get going than he was.

Unfortunately for me, I woke up with the itchies.....lots of mosquito bites all over my arms and legs.  It was hot in the room last night so I threw open the windows.  Little did I know that Athens is hotbed for mosquitoes!  Ordinarily, I would have been woken up by the annoying buzzing sound of a mosquito hovering over me but I must have been so tired last night that I was sound asleep.  Anyway, not a happy camper this morning.

(Update 8pm.  There's a lot of thwacking going on as Bro is busy swatting mosquitoes all over the apartment!  Dimitris had left out some bug killer devices, the kind you plug into an outlet and they supposedly emit an odor of sorts.  I plugged one in but I don't think it's working.  Bro is determined to kill every single mosquito that he lands his eyes on. Anyway, I promised Bro that I will keep the windows shut tonight and turn on the fan if I get too hot.  Lesson learned.)

Breakfast was as simple as dinner last night. Yogurt with lots of fresh fruit to choose from.  Toast with butter and honey.  Hard boiled eggs.  Tea - I brought bags from home.

Before we left, we did another accounting of how much money we had left, Bro had to do his usual morning read of the map.  Although I figure we could have easily walked from the apartment to the Acropolis, we weren't sure where the entrance to the site was actually located.  So to be safe as well as save us a bit of energy, we decided to take the metro.  We would get off at the Akropoli station and we banked on the fact that it would be near the entrance. Before we walked out the door, I did a doublecheck to make sure Bro had our metro tickets.

By now, we know our way from our apartment to Monastiraki Square.  It was early morning.  The narrow streets, in our neighborhood were jam packed with cars - it was rush hour.  Worker bees were scurrying to make their way to work on time. The stores had not yet opened but plenty o'bakeries and cafes were doing a hopping business.

Waiting for the metro.  The stations are very modern and clean.  Trains arrive according to the posted times.

At the Monastiraki train station, we pulled out our tickets and once again, were befuddled on what to do with them. I just stuck my ticket through the validating machine though looking around, I think I was the only person doing that.  Everyone else seemed to just walk in as there are no entry gates preventing you from entering without a ticket.  I don't understand how the metro works in Athens.  On the surface, it would seem that you buy your ticket, which is good for a specific time period, validate it to get the initial timestamp on it and then from that point forward, it's an honor system as to when you stop using it.  We did see several signs warning that if you're caught with a non-validated ticket, the fine is 60 times the price of the ticket which at $1.20 euro a ride didn't seem to be all that much of a punishment.  I didn't notice any metro *police* around so I don't know who or how they enforce the fine.   Hmmmm.....

Anyway, we followed the signs for the line that would take us to Akropoli - we would have to transfer at Syntagma.

We made it to Akropoli, easy peasy.  Out of the station, we looked for a sign directing us to the Acropolis but today, we had our blinders on.  Took a kind passerby to point us in the obvious direction.  Split seconds later, we saw the sign.  So obvious as you could see the famous landmark in the distance.


We made it to the entrance and Bro got us our entry tickets; we bought one for the main site and then another for separate entry into the Agora.  A nicely paved path led to the site.



Obviously, the path had to go uphill.  It was a gentle incline.  Along the way, we saw more ruins, including those of the Theater of Dionysos, a small amphitheater which offered its audience nice views of what are now the streets of Athens.  Back in the day, it was probably a nice valley view.


Seats at the theater.

It was a lovely walk but quite a long one.  Tourists were few though a couple of school groups passed us by.  Man, children can sure make a lot of noise!



Ruins of the Temple of Asclepcios.  Wouldn't have known this had there not been a sign!

Peering down into a Byzantine cistern...so the sign said.

The simple stone plaques were the only signs there were.  Without them, everything just looked like large piles of rocks.

There are indeed ruins everywhere.  So many I think even the archeologists can figure out where they all go!

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus.  Centuries old but you can still come here to see a live performance.  So very cool!

I was ever hopeful that the Parthenon would not be crowded but as it turned out, that was just in my dreams.  I don't know which entrance everyone else came in from because there weren't that many people on our route.  But, when we arrived at the Propylaea, the entrance to the Parthenon, it was MOB scene.  Literally, dozens of people swarming to enter.  Most of them were cruise shippers.  Grrrr!  I told Bro we should let them all by so we took a seat on a stone wall.  Of course, thinking that once a group left, that would be the end of the stream was another dream.  The flow of tourists never stopped.  I finally gave in on waiting and we joined the stream towards the entrance. 



Caught a side view of the Temple of Athena Nike as we walked up to the top of the Acropolis.

Passing through the entrance of the Propylaea.

First view of the Parthenon.

Once we made it to the top of the Acropolis, I had to stop to admire the view.  Before me stood the remains of the magnificent Parthenon.  It's huge!  You have to wonder how the Greeks built it without the use of any construction equipment to stand up the columns and then add the stone pediment and roof.  Just amazing!

The Acropolis is a huge site but it was still unbelievably crowded with people.  I remember my Mom telling me that when she came to see the Parthenon back in the 60's it was visiting a construction site as repair and renovation work was gone.  It looks like it's not finished because there was scaffolding and construction equipment everywhere. 

Looking back towards the Propylaea.


We're finally here!  It was so crowded we actually had to wait to take a photo!

There are 17 columns on the long side.  I think that the darker sections were reconstructions.  The place really is in ruins.

I think the scaffolding is a permanent feature :-(

All the monuments, including the Parthenon itself, were cordoned off so we had to appreciate everything from a distance. While the Parthenon takes center stage, I don't think it's the prettiest of the structures here.  That award goes to the Erechtheion. 



Of course, what gives the  it's beauty are the caryatids that hold up the roof.  I had to zoom in for a few close up shots of these magnificent statues that were believed to have been carved between 421 and 407 BC.




I think the head of the caryatid in back is a reconstruction.  Here features are too sharp to be centuries old.


Photographing the ruins of the Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus.

Of course, the reason we came is to see this structure.


Gazing at it, it was hard to imagine what it would have looked back in its glory days when it was fully decorated.  It really is a shame that Lord Elgin basically raped the monument and took the best of what was left back to England.  Rightfully, everything should have been left in place and properly protected so everything could be appreciated in context.  Well, it is what it is.  Maybe someday, the Elgin marbles will be returned to their home.

Just imagine the pediment filled with statues and the pediments with marvelous reliefs on the meotopes.  Meotopes are the squares just beneath the pediment.


From the edge of the Acropolis, we had wonderful views of the site,  Athens.....and more ruins.

The Theater of Dionysos.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Mount Lycabettus, in the distance, on the left.

You can see just how densely populated the city is.  A lot of buildings; barely any green space!

Ruins of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.  A must see on our itinerary.

View over the Agora.  The monument in the middle of the photo is the Temple of Hephaestus.


There is no sign indicating one way in and one way out but that's pretty much how it worked.  Nice thing was that it took us around the Parthenon so we could see it from all sides.


We did have to exit through the Propylaea.  As swarms of visitors were exiting, swarms were coming in!


We spent about an hour at the top of the Acropolis and it will be an experience I think both of us will remember for years to come.  We are so lucky to have come here and seen the Parthenon.

Our exit route took us a different way down the hill.  On the way, we noticed a boulder in the distance.  There were people walking about on top of it.  We decided we had to go check it out.  Once we reached the foothills of the Acropolis, we saw the boulder.  I don't know what the rock is called but we climbed the steps to go up to the top of it.


Bro scurried up the rock like a wild goat, taking whatever short cuts he could.  I stuck to the steps which were steep and narrow.  I just took my time and tread carefully.

From the top of the boulder, we could look back up at the Parthenon.  What an amazing sight!


It was a nice place to sit and rest a bit.  The view.....what a view!  As we gazed over to Mount Lycabettus, I told Bro we should try to go there if we have a chance.  The view of Athens is suppose to be the best from that vantage point as it is the highest point around.

The sharp peak of Mount Lycabettus, on the right.

As we were admiring the view, a tourist approached me to ask me to take a photo with his phone.  He had a Samsung, as I do, so I knew exactly how to use the camera.  I took couple of shots and while he thought they were okay, I didn't like them.  I then got the idea to take a panoramic shot with him standing in the middle.  That came out nice.  So, before we left, I used my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone to take a similar panoramic photo with Bro in the center.  Even though I like the photo as it captures the memory of the moment, the wide photo doesn't really fully capture how marvelous the view was.

Panorama Athens
Panoramic shot with Bro! Use the scroll bars to pan to see the entire photo.

From here, we're headed to the Agora.  Onward we go!