Thursday, February 28, 2008

Athens – the Cradle of Western Civilisation

Athens, the cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy, the home of Plato and Aristotle, of the arts, of theatre, war, empires, and peace. I went out drinking lager and shots with a bunch of kids from the backpacker hostel. What can I say, it was happy hour, 1 euro a beer and the bar-man was liberal with free rounds of “ouzo” shots. When it closed approaching midnight, a group of us headed to a bar ten minutes away called Brettos, on Kydathineon Street, lined with colourful bottles and old well-used barrels across the wall. Unfortunately, I’d agreed to meet Paz, an Argentine girl, at 9am the following morning to do the touristy sites together. I was to regret this choice of time.

The Acropolis

The Acropolis from the Temple of Zeus

In warm sunshine Paz and I walk up the famous hill which is 150m above sea level. 12 euro ticket gets you entry to this and most other historical sites in Athens.

We enter the complex through the Propylaea gateway. On the flat topped rock, we pass the beautiful Karyatides statues of ladies on the Erechtheum, then approach the Parthenon.

It’s a fantastic sight indeed, standing tall above the city which does seems a little hazy – looks like the temperature inversion phenomenon is kicking in. The sea is not far but we can’t see it from here.

The Parthenon
So what is the Parthenon?

It is a temple dedicated to the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena. It has over the years also been converted into a church and mosque, used as a treasury, been involved in wars and damaged greatly, and it was from the Parthenon that the few surviving sculptures, the “Elgin Marbles” were removed to the UK, with Ottoman permission. The Greeks are currently restoring, hence scaffolding everywhere.

Down below we pass the Theatre of Dionysus,

and some other ruins, the origin of some of which is clearly still under speculation!:

then head across to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, through Hadrian’s Arch.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

This is the oldest ancient temple, and is dedicated to Zeus, the head honcho of Greek gods. Construction was started in 520BC but wasn’t finished until AD132 by Emperor Hadrian.

The Corinthian columns are beautiful, and it’s incredible to think there were 104 of them originally!

Column no more

Killimarmaro Stadium

Next up, Killimarmaro Stadium, where the first “modern” Olympic Games took place in 1896. It looks kinda like the Sambadromo in Rio, but all in white marble.

Supposedly it has a capacity of 60,000, but you wouldn’t think so looking at it.

By now I’m really flagging, so I head home for sleep. So good, so very good.

Madam dodges photos!

Later afternoon,

Outside the apartment

I wander to Syntagma Square and Ermou Street, the shopping street area.

On the way I pass dogs barking at each other, and one, trying to reach two who are up on a high wall, is busy doing Jackie Chan wall-scaling, and quite well too – he’s managing to get up about 6 feet, almost getting to the top. He tries a few times, increasing his run-up, then walks nonchalantly away as the dogs up top keep barking. I’ve never been anywhere with so many dogs about, but they all look in really good health – a local tells me there are charities with give them vaccinations, feed them etc.

I walk back via the Plaka region below the Acropolis,

which is full of tavernas and pretty little streets,

then make a visit to the supermarket. In the evening I head with Steve, my “flatmate”, over to the hostel later for one beer. Of course, this goes wrong and we end up going out to the other side of town, to a typically Greek bar, full with mostly men. Another night ends late!

Curious graffiti

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