Thursday, December 6, 2012

Greece: Athens

We spent our last day in Greece in Athens.  We wanted to get up early to get to the Acropolis bright and early before the crowds, but we got into Athens so late the night before, we didn't get out of bed until far later than we intended.

Luckily, our hotel was within walking distance to the ancient sites, so it didn't take long to get to our destination.

Arch of Hadrian-on the outskirts of the Acropolis

On our way to the Acropolis, we found the Theater of Dionysus.  It was crazy to see those theater seats and imagine people sitting in them a couple thousand years ago taking in a show.

No idea what this is called, but it's old

Sitting just outside the steps up to the acropolis is the theater of Herod Atticus, which was built by the Romans in 161 AD is is still used for classical concerts, ballet, and other performances today.

At the entrance of the Acropolis is a giant gateway called the Propylaea.  It has seen better days, since the ceilings are missing, but it is still quite the entrance.

The Propyaea

The crowning jewel and site I was most anticipating lay in front of us:  The Parthenon.  I have seen the replica in Nashville, but it really does not compare to the majesty of the original.

Unfortunately, the Parthenon was under some construction while we were there, but it was still a wonderful site to behold.

Brian in front of the Parthenon

The side without scaffolding

The Parthenon is known for its incredible architecture, particularly the optical illusion that the building is made of straight lines, when in fact the entire building is curved.  Most notably, the pillars are tapered at the top, making them appear lighter and more graceful, especially when compared to a building with straight likes like the Propylaea below.

Squatty pillars of the Propylaea

One of the things that amazed me was how Ancient and modern aspects of Athens were intertwined.

We didn't go see any of these up close.

Mount Lycabettos in the distance

Near the Parthenon sits the Erechteion, one of the most sacred sites of the Acropolis as it is said to be the place where Poseidon and Athena had a contest to determine who would rule the city (Athena won, if that's not obvious from the fact the city is called Athens).

The Caryatids (porch of the maidens) replicas, the originals are now in the New Acropolis Museum

We explored the grounds below the Acropolis, but we had a hard time finding what we were looking for.  We did get some good views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon from below though.

Needing some air conditioning, we decided to escape to the new Acropolis Museum.  The museum holds all of the artifacts found at the Acropolis, including sculptures to everyday items.  The museum sits on top of a partially excavated archeological site, which can be seen from all floors of the museum.

The top floors of the museum are set up to replicate what the perimeter of the Parthenon would look like, had its carvings and sculptures not been removed or destroyed.  Most of the works are plaster molds, since there are so few original pieces remaining in Greece.

Parthenon Frieze at the Acropolis museum

I wanted to find the Ancient Agora, where Socrates and Plato did their philosophizing and Socrates took his hemlock sentence.  However, by the time we got there, it was closed (at three in the afternoon), so I took some pictures through the bars.

The ancient subway

We ventured onto the Athens subway in order to get to National Archaeological Museum.  I was interested in seeing the frescoes housed there from Ancient Akrotiri, the archaeological site we visited on the island of Santorini.  Unfortunately, we arrived just minutes before it was to close, so we only saw the lobby.  Timing fail.

Between the heat (Athens is h.o.t.) and lack of sleep, we were not feeling that great, so we headed back to our hotel to relax.  We napped before heading out for our last dinner in Greece.   We marked the occasion by ordering saganaki, the fried Greek cheese that I still have dreams about, fish soup, and chicken and pasta.

And, after an early start the next day to get to the airport before the austerity strikes began, our Greece trip ended.  I'm ready to go back.  Now.

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