National Archieological Museum
We have long looked forward to the Athens portion of this trip as we would have the opportunity meet up with Dave’s sister Susan and her husband Jeff. We knew this would be a special travel treat. Susan and Jeff have worked hard over the years, plus they raised and home schooled six children. They intended to go to Greece on their anniversary many years ago. Life events kept postponing the trip—but it is happening now! We are thrilled to be able to join them for a few days. We have not been to Greece since 2003—it was one of our early trips out of the country.
We arrived in Athens a few days before them and eagerly awaited their arrival. After getting settled in our hotel located in the old and historic Plaka District, we headed to the hotel rooftop bar. We arrived late in the day and wanted to take in the stunning Acropolis views at night. It is a breathtaking site that one would not tire of easily. In gazing at the Acropolis, one’s mind takes in the beauty and imagines any number of historic events that have occurred there. It is mind boggling to imagine how
they built it; finding the appropriate rock, getting the stones to the top, stacking the rocks, shaping the rocks….. amazing. These people were great craftsmen and architects.
When thinking of Athens, the ancient antiquities come to mind. Many historical landmarks abound, and Greece was instrumental in the development of Western Civilization. This is where the idea that all citizens should have a voice in governing their society. Today’s politicians may not embrace that as intended but that is a discussion for another time. If you are in search of UNESCO World Heritage sites, you will find them in this city and this country.
On our second day we hopped on a tour bus and motored south just over an hour for a scenic drive along Cape Sounion. This lovely coastal area provided lovely beach scenes along the coast and a stop for a nice lunch on the water. From there we moved onto the Temple of Poseidon which is known as one of the major monuments of The Golden Age. Surrounded on three sides by the Aegean Sea, located on the southern tip of the peninsula and high atop a hill this temple served as a palace where
they hoped to appease Poseidon and find favor. If you’ve studied the rich stories of mythology, you may remember Poseidon was the God of the Sea, earthquakes, and horses. Sailors and mariners believed that storms resulted from Poseidon’s wrath… and they wanted to keep him happy. We read that the marble used to build this was from the Agrileza valley—stop and think about that – they moved the marble 50 miles. How did they do that in 440 BC? It is a puzzle. The temple remains in pretty good shape and the views of the coast from the top were awesome. The sunset was perfect. The temple looked stunning in varying shades of light.
Yes, of course we took a cooking class! You know us…. to know a culture is to understand their food so we signed up for a rooftop cooking class with a view of the Acropolis. The nine of us in the class were from various parts of the United States. It is safe to say that a whole lot of people must be ready to leave the US for a few adventures. In the class, we tackled several of the Greek classics which included tzatziki,
Aegean salad, moussaka, spinach pie, and galatopita which is similar to flan. Our teacher had a sense of humor and made certain we were all involved throughout the cooking. The wine flowed and once the meal was ready, we sat together to enjoy our bounty.
Before Jeff and Susan’s arrival we wandered the streets of the Plaka checking out the shops. Sandals, rugs and jewelry top the list of things for sale. As we wandered, we stopped for a coffee, and then later we stopped for a beer and some dolmas…. and wandered some more. A friend recommended we check out the Central Market and so we did. As we’ve traveled around the world every town in every country has a market with fruits, vegetables, and meats. Each country is proudly displaying the items they hope to entice you into purchasing. The Athens market was smaller than we expected but had an interesting collection of fish, meat,vegetables and spices. You’ll see some hooves in our photo array. They love to hang full pigs and goats as well as their parts. We saw one lady giving detailed instructions on how she wanted the liver cut up. We’ve learned they have
few dairy cows and use goats milk nearly exclusively. They do not have much butter available and use olive oil on almost everything.
Another recommendation from a friend found us visiting the National Archaeological Museum and we are so glad we did. It is well organized chronologically starting with the 16th
century BC. Yes, you read that correctly. Even back during this time, artisans were creating elaborate jewelry, swords and vessels of all shapes and sizes. The artifacts are well preserved and showcased extremely well. The collection is voluminous and amazing. We hope you enjoy a few of the photos.
The reunion with Susan and Jeff occurred and after they rested overnight, we struck out to see more sites, beginning with the Acropolis of Athens. It sits about 500 feet above the city and is visible from many places in Athens. The Parthenon, the Temple of Athena and other structures are all part of the Periclean building program, which encompasses most of the areas. It’s quite impressive as the architecture and construction took place in the 4th
century, B.C. The site attracts throngs of visitors each day and among them were a couple that were from Toledo, Ohio
(Dave’s hometown) and graduates of The Ohio State University. How did we discover this? Well the four of us are rabid Ohio State fans and we did what Ohio State fans do….spell O-H-I-O (see the picture below). We got noticed pretty quickly. Having gotten Brutus out for a few photo ops helped as well.
The next day we struck out walking as we wanted to ascend another large hill on a funicular for more awesome views of Greece. Along the way, we got to witness the changing of the guard and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament Building. This nicely choregraphed ceremony takes place on the hour….every hour….24 hours a day.
Getting to the funicular involved walking uphill for more than a few blocks and then ascending many flights of stairs to get to the station. The goal is to get to the top of Mt. Lycabettus. Now most funiculars climb up the side of hills to arrive at the top. Given the fact that these hills are made of solid rock, the funicular travels through a bored tunnel to the top, where the 360 degree views were magnificent to say the least.
There is even a small Greek Orthodox church on top and a service was in progress on our arrival. It was strange looking down on the Acropolis as it seemed like the tallest thing in the city when we were up there.
Our way back to the Plaka included an up-close view of a May 1st
parade already in progress. Well, it’s more of a protest than a parade. May 1st
in Greece is Labor Day and the demonstrators were protesting against unemployment, austerity measures, the international bailout packages for Greece and just about anything else that suited their fancy. We jokingly referred to the parade as an “all inclusive” demonstration. Got a beef? Come on down! The demonstration resulted in museum closures, rail service being scaled back and ferries remaining docked in the bay. The demonstrators were boisterous, but harmless. One protester was defacing public property by spray painting a door near the town square. She marched up to us and demanded that we delete the photo because her face was in it.... or so she assumed. It was... we pretended to delete the photo and went on. I guess she should have worried about getting caught before
she did the crime. We doubt our photo will make it to anyone who will come after her. Oh well.
Needless to say, we enjoyed great company, wonderful sights and delicious cuisine…..but it was time to move on to our next country…..Malta.
Where we stayed:
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