Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Playing Tour Guide in Athens, Greece

We wondered if we would get into Athens due to recent worker unrest, but we landed on a beautiful sunny day. We had a Cruise Critic tour planned, but as we were getting ready, my stomach was telling me it wasn’t a good day to go too far. Norovirus had been present on the ship, but I wasn’t sure if that was my problem, or my decision to drink the “sacred” water the day before. Either way, I decided it wouldn’t be wise to head out on a tour, so Jim left with Kathy and Jeff and the rest of the group.

So once again, here is a Jim blog (there will be nothing but the facts...and no cat pictures!)

The flag of Greece...

We arrived in the port of Piraeus, which is about 20 minutes from Athens. Our tour provided a driver, but he wasn’t a tour guide, so we were on our own at the various sites. When we asked the driver about the economic situation in Greece, he said that the problem rested entirely with government overspending. He said private enterprise was doing very well and tourism was booming, but no one had the nerve to ask him whether or not he paid income tax.

This is the gateway to the temple dedicated to the Greek God Zeus, who was King of the Gods and the father of most of the Gods.

The major Greek Gods were called Olympians. 

This is the remains of what was the largest temple in all of Greece. It had 104 Corinthian columns and measured 110 m long and 44 m wide. It contained a statue of Emperor Hadrian and a 40 ft seated statue of Zeus. Both Zeus and Hadrian were worshipped as equals in the temple.

The area with the temple in the centre was huge to accommodate the large crowds that came to worship.

Turning around 180 degrees you could see the Acropolis on top of the hill. 

Hadrian’s Gate was the entry point into the old city. 

Just inside the gate was an area known as Hadrianopolis. Hadrian constructed what we would now call a “subdivision.” He was obviously ahead of his time. The area contained classical (model) houses. 

The residents had the use of central Roman baths. 

The remains of the baths...

Next we moved to a more modern venue, which was the Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first modern day Olympic games in 1896. 

A park and fountain with the Greek Parliament buildings in the background. 

The city square and Parliament buildings with no demonstrators to be seen.

Standing next to a guard who was perfectly rigid. Attempts by a group of students to make him smile were fruitless. 

This relief sculpture on the Parliament building wall is the Tomb of Unknown Soldier.  

Next we started our climb to the Acropolis. On the way was the Odeon (theatre) of Herodes Atticus, a 5000 seat amphitheatre built in 161 AD by a wealthy landowner in memory of his wife. It was destroyed when the Romans were chased out, rebuilt in the 1950s, and is frequently used today for theatre and concerts.

At the end of our climb, we reached the Propylaia, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis built in 437-431 BC. Considering that we were there in the off season, the large number of visitors shows why the Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the western world. The word Acropolis means “high city” in Greek. The site covers seven acres and contains the Parthenon (447-432 BC), the Erichtheion (421-406 BC), and the Temple of Athena Nike (421-407 BC). The buildings are undergoing continuous restoration to repair damage from the elements.

The Parthenon, probably the most famous temple in the world, is 228 feet long and 101 feet wide. It has 46 columns, 34 feet high and 6 feet in diameter. It served as a temple to Athena and the city’s Treasury.
The Parthenon contained 100,000 tonnes of marble which was quarried several miles away. 

The triangular pediment depicts the central event in Athenian history, the birth of Athena their patron goddess. 

The Erichtheion Temple, opposite the Parthenon, is smaller yet more elegant. 

The Porch of the Caryatids with six beautiful maidens functioning as columns to support the roof... 

These six columns provide the entry to the second level of the temple which was the worship level. The entry to the lower level was around the corner. 

The St. George monastery on the hill in the distance. 

Looking down on Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus. 

The marvellously constructed ancient walkway to the Acropolis. 

The recently built Acropolis museum contains a mind-boggling collection of art and sculpture from the Golden Age of Greece. 

The museum is situated over ruins of the ancient city. This portion of the exhibit is not open to the public yet. 

I managed to get one picture of the sculpture showing Hercules and Triton before the guard intervened…”no pictures.” I wish I had purchased a book on the museum because it's impossible to describe the quality and quantity of the exhibits.

This smiling accordion player did very well. She accumulated 6 or 7 coins then removed all but one. When we dropped a coin, she already had 5 more in a few minutes. 

Tomorrow we're in Rhodes, Greece...

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