Athens

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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28
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Trip End Sep 15, 2008


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Thursday, July 3, 2008

inhabited for 7000 years
birthplace of European civilization
ancient Athens reached its high point in 5th c BC
Tower of the Winds built by Syrian astronomer around 100BC
Temple of Athena Nike built 427-424 BC
Work began on Acropolis in 447BC commissioned by Perikles and took 9 years
massive Olympieion, the temple of Olympian Zeus, took just under 650 years to build (515BC-132AD)
Olympic Stadium(143AD) rebuilt in 1870 for the first modern Olympiad in 1896

Highspeed 2 to Pireaus
Parikia is super busy port with ferries coming and going all the time inundating small town
Windy and water rough; lots of whitecaps; wonder how Mike's catamarans will handle it
approach to Athens impressive; very sprawling except hilltops; build up as far as they can
culture shock going from Greek islands to Athens; big dirty; signs not in English
lots of directions to get to bus I needed (all wrong); bought ticket at bus station and still given wrong directions; just needed to walk down harborfront to where Athens busses pick-up; instead sent into central Pireaus where I was lugging my bag; ended up going almost back to where boat had originally landed; long bus ride and with signs in Greek nervous about missing my stop; asked lady and she told me exactly and correctly which stop I needed
didn't know where hotel was and didn't see a route that looked correct so I went in a large hotel and got directions to my hotel which was very close; seafront although I'm on side with little view
Nice promenade street along water; ritzy area; took bus short distance to Internet since none nearby; walked around upscale neighborhood of Glyfada; could have been in LA, Miami or DC w/mid-rise residential buildings, traffic and parking problems (Despite light rail), upscale coffee shops and cafes with some American companies. Went to nice large grocery store and walked back; nice area but not close to any tourist sights.
7/2 tossed and turned all night and did not sleep well; hour bus ride into town; walked to Lycavittas Hill and took funicular to top for amazing views all across Athens basin; spreads as far as you can see in every direction; decided I wanted to see Marathon; wanted to get cab to right bus station but none were free so I walked down steep hill; lots of trash and graffiti; typical big city; bus to marathon was comfy bus sure seemed longer than 26 miles; nice upscale area developing along the way; very hard to figure out any directions since my maps are usually in English while street signs and names locals know are in Greek; central Athens has both on street signs but not other areas; wildfire near Marathon along way; one in Glyfada yesterday (separate Marathon entry)
Bus back to town and then Metro to Kifissia to look for Jeff's childhood home; wasn't near Metro so took taxi that waited for me while I took pictures; obviously an upscale suberb with beautiful tree-lined streets; winding roads and towering pines reminded me of Atlanta; taxi driver spoke little English but passenger did so she was a big help; on way back to Metro stop driver picked up 2 other passengers; rather than pick one up, drop one off they tend to have more than one as long as going in the same general direction; taxi driver couldn't figure out my map since it was in English and he only knew the local Greek spellings; easier in Turkey where we at least shared the same alphabet; lots of nice outdoor cafes; no smoking or food and drink on the metro; no violations so far; ferries had non-smoking section that really wasn't separated at all from non-smoking; tons of young people; wonder how they can afford things; lots of new construction with trendy apartments; with hills and weather Athens could be LA were it not for pine trees, languages and mass transit instead of freeways; olympic swimming center looked like it would be great place to swim; out in burbs; no pull buoy though; very long day; found "Frosted Wheats" at grocery store which are mini-wheats and had them for dinner; yummy!; finished Mystic River; excellent book; has been so long since I've seen the movie that I didn't remember how it was supposed to turn out and remembered as I read; powerful
7/3 laundry wasn't ready last night and was still damp this morning; hotel charged 10E which seemed fair and it was nice of them to help me out; slept better; bus to town for new hostel; no AC but only 1 night; went by to see Chuck and Chaz but they were out so I left note; hard to coordinate without cell phones; walked along busy Ermou St and around the old Roman Agora; Clock Tower of Winds; uphill to viewpoint of Agora and Roman Agora at base of Acropolis; since so much is ruins it's hard to envision what everything looked like when it was intact; Acropolis is huge rock and reminded me of Gibraltar; walked to Internet cafe which was closed, another from guidebook was also closed; next one had moved and couldn't read sign in Greek with new address/info; $80/night at dump with no AC, no ensuite bath; bath shared by dozens; better off staying in burbs and dealing with commute; I had TV, AC, and fridge there plus my own bath; sweltering in this dungeon
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