Athens, Greece

Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
1
8
31
Trip End May 15, 2011


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Where I stayed
Tahitian Princess

Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Saturday, April 18, 2009

We have now crossed the Mediterranean Sea and like history we have gone from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece, the civilization that would dominate the world after Egypt. We had decided to not take the ship's "Athens on Your Own" tour but to really see Athens on our own. So the night before we docked, Harriet went to the Passenger Service Area and purchased some Euros. As a member of the European Union, Greece's official currency is the Euro. Now we are ready to leave the ship and walk out into the Port of Piraeus. The luck of the White Lady was still holding true as the day was perfect. It was a warm sunny day with the temperature in the mid 70's. Long pants and a polo shirt was the perfect attire for our Athenian Adventure. We met a Greek man on the walk out of the Cruise Ship Terminal into the city. He showed us the direction to catch the bus and even walked with us to ensure that we would take the correct route to the street on which we would catch a public city bus. The main Christian Church in Greece is the Greek Orthodox Church, which observes Easter the week after we celebrate the Easter Holiday. That meant we would be in Athens over the Greek Orthodox Holiday of Easter. A lot of stores and city services were not open today on this Saturday. There were fewer buses and places to buy bus tickets today than would normally be the case. We were not able to buy a ticket before boarding the bus and the bus driver was unable to sell us a ticket; instead he said to just get on the bus and forget the fare. That was quite a bargain for us. It also added to our adventure of seeing Athens on our own. The bus ride was less than a half hour for the eight mile journey into Athens. The ride into town took us along onto Syngron Avenue. Just pass the Temple of Olympian Zeus, we rounded the Arch of Hadrian and drove down pass the Parliament House where the Tomb of the Greek Unknown Soldier is located. On the other side square was the end of the bus journey for the 040 City Bus. We left the bus and marked this spot as the location to catch the 040 Bus back to the Port of Piraeus. We had selected the Tomb of the Unknown Solider as one of the sites that we would like to see while on our Athenian Adventure. We quickly walked the 2 blocks to the National Parliament Building which is the site of the Greek Unknown Solider. The unknown Soldier was selected and placed in the memorial over 135 years ago. He symbolizes all of the unknown Greek soldiers form all the Greek wars. Like at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington Cemetery by Washington D.C.; it is considered a special honor to be on the detail that provides the guard service for the Tomb. Also the pomp and ceremony at the tomb is very elaborate and special. Being in Easter Week, the guards wore very special uniforms. It looks like a uniform from the time of the burial of the Unknown Solider. While we were there the two guards performed a series of steps and maneuvers that consisted of a very special walk. The walk involved taking a step that lifted the leg above the waist and holding it in place for about ten seconds and then taking another similar step. The walk lasted for about ten minutes. I have never seen this type of maneuver before; it was a special Greek Army maneuver.

From this Tomb of the Unknown Solider, we walked down Mitropleos toward Monastiraki Square. It is a small street in which cars and pedestrians share the narrow roadway thru a series of small shops and street musicians. On this mild summer day, we enjoyed walking and window shopping as we strolled thru the area of the city called Plaka, a 19th Century Shopping District. About halfway down the street we entered an intersection in which the entire center of the intersection was a roundabout with a small ancient church in its center. We stopped for a few pictures and then we saw it. Looking up a side street that entered the intersection was a view of the Acropolis. It was sitting there on top of a steep, tall hill in the center of the city was the Acropolis. It dominated the entire cityscape that surrounded the Acropolis on its hill top there in the center of the city. This was our destination. This was the main attraction that we came to Athens to see. We continued down the street with renewed purpose as we could now catch glimpses of our destination as we walked.
 
We were now at the Monastriaki Square, which was a large open square with a large church on one side and the Plaka Flea Market on the other side of the square. Although not overly crowded, it was full of people milling about enjoying the mild summer day and all of the shops and stands on the square. We strolled thru the square looking at each of the shops and stands but not lingering for too long as we could see the Acropolis growing taller and larger as we walked thru the square toward the base of the hill that held the temples of the gods of the ancient Athenians. Out of the square between the Roman Agora and Ancient Agora, we walked toward the Acropolis. We had discovered a path up the hill that would lead to the top and the Parthenon, the largest and most recognizable temple on the Acropolis. The walk up was thru a wooded area with grass, flowers, and ancient ruins lining the small trail that wound up and around the hill heading toward the entrance to the Acropolis. As we walked up the trail, we could see the temples on the top of the hill and with a backward glance we could see large sections of the city of Athens. We could feel the awe that must have inspired the early Athenians as they walked up to the temples of their gods. Even though we knew that they were temples to false gods, they were still temples of antiquity and works of architectural art. We were again walking back into history; to a time when the Egyptian Civilization was faltering and a new civilization from southern Europe was becoming the dominate civilization of the ancient world. Here on the Acropolis, it is easy to imagine the golden age of Greece when Pericles had the Parthenon built; when the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were perform in the Theater of Dionysus below; and when democracy brought all citizens together to decide their common fate on the Pnyx to the west. To explore Athens is to walk in the footsteps of those who planted the seeds of Western philosophy, science, culture and art. It is an experience one can never forget.
 
When we reached the top of the Acropolis, the ruins that so symbolize the Athenian Civilization was now before us. On this roof of Athens were the Parthenon, Erectheion, and the Temple of Nike, which now houses the Acropolis Archaeological Museum. We walked around and thru these structures of the past that had been built after the Greek victory over the Persians in the Persian War of the Fourth Century B.C. After the destruction of Athens by the Persians and the ultimate victory over the Persians that saw the historical and decisive Battle of Marathon; which was followed by the legendary 26 mile run by an Athenian Warrior to bring the news of the victory to the City of Athens. The current form of the Acropolis was created originally as a fortification to protect the city. This was the stuff of legends and many legends came out of the culture of Athens from the mythical heroes such as Hercules to the real heroes like Alexander the Great. All the giants of the Athenian Civilization had walked on this hilltop above Athens. And today Harriet and I would walk in those steps of heroic giants. Sprawling all around the Acropolis was the city of Athens with the many ancient sites lying among the current city as the modern city of Athens had grown up in and around the ancient city. We were treated to a nice surprise in that it was a holiday and the entrance to these sites was free for the day. We walked all around this site and absorbed the views and history afforded us at every turn. There is a lot of construction going on in the Acropolis. It is a long and slow process to maintain history without changing it. We wish them success in the restoration of this past glory of man.
 
The famous quote that time waits for no man was again true on this day; as our time was limited and we still wanted to see a little more of the city of Athens. Rather than walk down the main exit from the Acropolis, we decided to again take the back path that appear to be more in the footsteps created by centuries of  Athenians who have climbed the Acropolis. The narrow path thru the woods and fields on the hill seemed more of a path they would have taken instead of the roadway taken by modern vehicles. We walked down and thru the ancient agora area with its ruins and temple at the foot of the hill. Here were statues that have fallen thru the ages and building that now lie in ruins but once was part of the ancient city. It now lay among the green grass and flowers of the field. We walked thru the Agora section of the city to a small street that formed a border between the ruins and the city. Along this narrow crowded street were numerous restaurants with outdoor seating. Street musicians were wandering the streets playing instruments for the entertainment of and hopefully a small reimbursement from the public. Here among the noise of the city, we stopped briefly for a quick taste of the local beer. Though not a hot day, a cold beer was a welcome rest from the adventures of the day. We walked back thru the Plaka, back past the ancient little church in the middle of the round abound, past the many stores, and back to the bus stop that would have the 040 bus waiting for us. As we arrived at the location of out departure from the bus that morning, the bus was there again loading passengers.
 
We quickly got back on and sat there on the bus watching as it worked its way thru the city of Athens down to the city of Piraeus, where the White Lady waited for us to return. Harriet had timed the trip into Athens so we knew the approximate time it would take us to return to the port. After we past several of the stadiums that were built for the 2004 Olympics; we checked the time and our designation was near so we began watching for those stores we had remembered as landmarks for our return. As we saw the market that was the location for our morning start of the bus ride, we pushed the stop button and left the bus. We had boarded the bus in the morning with two other couples and to our surprise they had all returned on the same bus with us. It was but a moment after leaving the bus that we looked down a side street and before us beyond the foot of the street and out in the harbor was the White Lady. In a few more steps we would be home again.
 
After boarding the ship and dropping the now excess items in our cabin, we like all good cruisers, went up to the 9th deck to the Buffet area for a snack. We went to the open rear deck of the Buffet Area and ate our snack as we looked out over the Harbor of Piraeus and the ships and boats that were docked or moving thru this busy harbor. It was a good ending to a great day of adventuring. So we sat there and rested among the traffic and sounds of the harbor. This summer day would soon end, but for now we watched and talked about our Athenian Adventure.
 
Athens was an older city that was a mixture of very old and slightly old. It was different from our other ports in that we are now seeing a definite European flavor of architecture and people. It is an old city that has grown up over the centuries uniformly without the rush to modernization that some of the cities of Asia and the Middle East are current involved. It appears to be a city that is loved and enjoyed by its residents.  
 
Later the Capitan moved the ship from her berth and out into the harbor to begin the next part of our journey. We will travel west in the Mediterranean Sea toward the country of Italy. Our first stop there will be Sorrento.
 
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Where is Harriet? Hunt 
Today she is listening to a talk about the Acropolis.  If you find her, you can join her and learn about the ancient city of Athens.

Linda on April 19, 2009  

Well today I see two possibilities. I will go with my first choice. I think she is sitting on the steps to the right of center about half way up the steps. Behind the man in white polo shirt and over the shoulder to the right of the lady in red jacket. 
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