Friday, April 3, 2009

Day #5: Athens, Greece

We left the ship by 8:00am this morning. After much discussion last night, we agreed to take a taxi into the center of town. We knew this wasn't going to be the cheapest alternative (the metro is most affordable), but we were reasonably certain that it would be the most direct, thereby saving time and reducing walking distances. After a little haggling (set the price before getting into a cab in Athens), we agreed on a rate of 20 euros to the Acropolis. Of course, the taxi driver still kept trying to talk us into a “tour” with him. But, I insisted we liked walking, which is actually true. In the end, this worked out well.

We were dropped off at the foot of the Acropolis by 8:30 and purchased admission (12 euros / pp) at the ticket booth ahead of most tour groups. We then began the uphill climb. This was actually remarkably easy, though I suspect it could be brutal in the heat of summer. As is often my luck in Europe, many of the structures were covered by scaffolding and obscured by cranes. Nonetheless, we both agreed that the Parthenon (cliché image below) and other structures on the “sacred hill” were impressive and awe-inspiring to see in person.

After climbing down, we headed to the Agora, which is situated nearby (Acropolis tickets cover admission charges – so save them!). Our visit here was very comprehensive. Many of the “buildings” are now only remnants of what had once been. Yet, it was exhilarating to realize that we were treading upon the same ground as luminaries such as Socrates. We also visited the Agora Museum (photos below), housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos.

After leaving the Agora, we strolled through the surrounding neighbors of Monastiraki and Plaka. Here we toured a number of additional archaeological sites, including Hadrian's Library, the Roman Forum, and the Tower of the Winds. We also briefly stopped by the Mitropoli, the Cathedral in Athens. We saw the Parliament Building (as well as some sort of protest) in Syntagma Square. Finally, we walked past Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus before (unsuccessfully) visiting the New Acropolis Museum (which, though scheduled to open in 2008, appeared to still be under construction?!?).

By this time, we were pretty worn out (having walked nonstop for nearly 6 hours). So, we grabbed a taxi for our return to the ship. After a little negotiation, we agreed to a price to Piraeus (20 euros). Throughout the return ride, we listened to the very friendly, loquacious and possibly deranged taxi driver extol us with “correct” Greek history in broken English, complete with guidebook pictures (which he insisted on turning around to show us while driving through heavy traffic). I'm not sure that we followed it all... but key “facts” included that the Parthenon was bombed out by the Italians in 1686, who were fighting the Persians encamped on the hill. Moreover, while the Greeks are still somewhat pissed about the Parthenon getting knocked about, had it not been for the Italians (and the sacrifice of the Greeks) all of Europe would now be filled with Muslim countries (I'm guessing he thought this would be a bad thing, though he didn't really say). In any case, according to our driver, this is no longer taught in schools and Greek children are ignorant of their “true history” (which seems to consist of many offenses committed against the Greek people by Persians, Turks, Italians, and an assortment of others). As further evidence, he claimed that some don't even know the proper origin of the Olympic flame (neither Mount Olympus nor the Olympic Stadium but the city of Olympia). Neither Libby nor I knew what to make of any of this... so, we just nodded politely, mumbled a lot of “uh huhs,” and grinned like idiots for the seven mile journey back to the ship.

By the way, the weather was beautiful today: sunny and temperate.

1 comment:

  1. Do you suggest getting some local currency? What about local purchases (t-shirts, jewelry), local currency or credit cards?

    bikn4fn - from the 4/20 group