Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oct Cruise - Athens

Finally, finally I had the chance to visit Athens on this trip.  Ever since I took an ancient Greece history class in college, I've longed to see all of the things I learned from my very enthusiastic professor.  Last year we took a Mediterranean cruise for October travel week and our itinerary included Athens. However, there were protests planned for the week since Greece has been upset about EU austerity measures per their bailout plan.  Therefore, the cruise line altered our itinerary.  Instead of Athens, we visited Malta.  And I'm glad we did because there were a couple deaths in Athens during the rioting that week.

The husband had to bail on us and return to the US, so the 6th grader and I left for a shore excursion while he took a taxi to the Athens airport.  The highlight of the tour for me was our visit to the Acropolis.  It was incredibly crowded and immediately brought to mind a vision of ants crawling all over their mound.  


But once we finally made it to the top, we had some great vistas, looking both down from our perch and across the city.






Modern Athens was more or less what I expected - crowded, noisy, kinda dirty and in need of a facelift.  Nor was I surprised to see evidence of their ongoing unrest regarding the continued EU austerity measures as we rode the bus on our way to the Acropolis.  Public buildings seemed to be the target of their political graffiti, though there was a lot of garden variety tagging on buildings all over the city.



Just as I always imagined, the ruins atop the Acropolis were magnificent.



Above you see the Parthenon (pardon the dust, but shoring up they must since it was constructed in the 5th century BC) and below is the Erechtheum with the famous Porch of the Caryatids (six draped female figures serving as columns).  What you see are replicas since five of the originals are in the Acroplis Museum while the sixth is here in England where I had a chance to view it at the British Museum.






In the picture below, you can appreciate how the columns have been cleaned but the underside of the porch has not.



I was intrigued by the above portion of the Parthenon.  The poor horse looks as if it has been trapped and is getting crushed.  


Ephesus had cats, Delos had lizards and the Acropolis had dogs.  



After a morning spent on the Acropolis, we were dropped off at the Plaka for a couple hours of free time.  We had lunch at an outdoor cafe and trotted across the street for gelato.  I took a pic of our 2 receipts because they were written in Greek.


We snooped through tourist shops before ending up at the base of the Acropolis to take a stroll through the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus.  



Right across the crazy busy Athens street where traffic lights seemed to be merely suggestions, the pick up spot for our tour bus, were the remains of the Arch of Hadrian.  Built in the second century AD by the Romans, you can just see the Parthenon peeking from the Acropolis near the top of the arch.



From the other side of the arch, with the street to your back, you could see the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  Also known as the Olympieion, construction began in the sixth century BC but it wasn't completed until the second century AD.  



The toppled column between the two standing ones resembles a tube of cookie dough that has been sliced into pieces for baking.

Biggest surprise on our Athens tour - stumbling upon a tortoise at the base of the Acropolis.

video

Back on board ship, my traveling buddy and I won the 1980s music trivia challenge in the Schooner Bar, earning a key chain and flashing ring for our efforts.  Recognize any of these oldies but goodies from our answer card?


Last, but not least, we ended our evening with another towel critter after dinner.



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