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Greece – Day 4

Kalimera! Good day and welcome to Greece! Today the vacation kicks off in earnest. After a night of well-deserved and restful sleep, we are ready to discover the myths and mysteries of Athens. Let’s get started…

Here is a view of Athens from the Acropolis. Athens is the largest city in Greece with a population nearing 4.5 million. I can’t even fathom what a dense population like that feels like, so I took a picture instead. Greece was liberated from the Ottoman Turks in 1834 and Athens had a population of only 7,000 people at the time. That means the growth to 4.5 million happened in a mere 174 years. As a result, Athens is a concentration of mostly modern buildings sprinkled in between thousand year old ruins.
Here is a view of the lovely Hotel Titania where we were staying. I hope every place we stay is as posh as this one is.
As we left the hotel in the morning, we met Georgia who would be our tour guide for the entire day. Her accent was thick and she spoke in a mostly monotone voice but she was very friendly and imparted a lot of information.
Our first stop was at Kallimármaro Stadium. This stadium was built in1895 to commemorate the beginning of the modern era of Olympic Games. It is built in the same spot and to the same specifications as the original Panathenaic Stadium which was built there in 330 BC. This was also the site where the marathon for the 2004 Olympic games finished.
Here are some pictures of the Parthenon and the surrounding environment. The Parthenon was built as a temple to the Goddess Athena starting in 447 BC. It has a long and storied history where it has served as a church, a mosque, and even an arsenal during the Turkish occupation. Much of it was destroyed in 1687 when the Venetians bombarded it and the arsenal exploded. As I understand it, the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis are in a constant state of restoration – thus the cranes in the picture. The second picture shows how rocky and inhospitable the surface of the Acropolis is. The third is a picture of a dog resting on the rocks in front of the Parthenon. Apparently, there is no animal control in Greece. There are stray dogs everywhere.

Here is a picture of me in front of the Erechtheion which was built on the sacred site where Athena and Poseidon held a contest to see who would win the favor of the people of Athens and thus have the Parthenon dedicated to them. Poseidon supposedly struck the ground with his trident and made a well. Athena struck the ground with her spear and out grew an olive tree (which is obscured by my head). The Erechtheion is situated right next to the Parthenon.
Here are a series of pictures of famous sites that I captured from the Acropolis summit. The first is a monument to Philopappus which overlooks the Acropolis. The second is Pnyx Hill, also referred to by Georgia as the first Supreme Court of Athens. Greeks held their courts on high ground in the open air so that the Gods could listen to and sanctify the court’s decisions. The third picture is of the Hephaisteion, a very well preserved temple that is viewable from the Acropolis. The fourth picture is of the ancient Theatre of Dionysos. Needless to say, the Acropolis is surrounded by hallowed and ancient structures. The sheer volume of them is overwhelming and makes it difficult to appreciate all the history here.
Here is me standing in the Propylaia which is the entryway to the Acropolis. Its construction began in 437 BC but was never completed. Since then it has suffered the misfortune being struck by lightning and damaged by gunpowder explosions. Below the Propylaia is the Beulé Gate (with my Mom standing in it). It was built by the Romans in 267 AD as a secondary entrance to the Acropolis.
Another monument visible from the Acropolis is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It is the largest temple in Greece – even bigger than the Parthenon. Construction began in 3rd century BC, but it wasn’t completed until 650 years later when the Roman Emperor Hadrian finished and dedicated the temple during the Panhellenic festival of AD 132. The original temple had 104 Corinthian columns, only 15 of which still stand today. Near the entryway to the temple is Hadrian’s arch (first picture).
One cannot travel in Greece without sampling a gyro (gee-row)! They are the fast food of Greece and can be had in little storefronts all over Athens. We stopped by for lunch and watched them cut the beef off a spindle and wrap it up in pita with vegetables and fries. My friend Kathy is holding up her Gyro and beer to celebrate the lovely Greek cuisine. I’ve had gyros before in America and honestly, they tasted better. Maybe we chose this place poorly, so I’ll have to try again somewhere else before I pass permanent judgment on the Greek gyro.
Whew! I’m tired already and the day is only half over! Next we hopped on a bus and drove down to Cape Sounion on the southern tip of the Greek mainland. There we found the magnificent temple of Poseidon perched on a cliff overlooking the sea.

Here are some pictures I took while on the clifftop of the Temple of Poseidon. Like the Acropolis, the surface is craggy and rocky which makes for treacherous footing. The second picture depicts how sheer the cliff-side is (that’s my foot at the bottom of the picture). The third picture is of a lone tree I spotted next to the temple.
Afterwards, we hopped back on the bus for the one hour ride back to the hotel. For dinner we walked around the corner to a local Taverna. In Greece there are two types of sit-down eating options: restaurants and tavernas. Restaurants are fancier and cost more. Tavernas are more local, informal, and cheaper. The food is still just as good. We had a great time sampling the cuisine and drinking our pitchers of watered-down wine. Afterwords, we stumbled back to the hotel for a long-overdue rest. See you tomorrow!

One Response to “Greece – Day 4”

  1. on 08 Nov 2008 at 11:23 am Kristi Wellman

    Greek mythology and the history is amazing! Thanks for sharing!

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