Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Greece: Athens, Past and Present

The Acropolis as seen from high above Mitropoleos Street. The Parthenon is on the left,
partially obscured by the Erechtheion. At night, the ruins are beautifully lighted.

Since learning about ancient Greece in college, I always harbored a desire to see where Socrates and Plato walked, to see the Acropolis and to try to better understand the importance of Athens. It's where science, philosophy, theater and democracy were born. It's the essential city and the essential culture in the story of humanity's social development. Nothing else comes close.

That desire to visit Athens was tempered, though, by what I thought I knew about modern Athens. That it had terrible air pollution, that it was dirty, that the food wasn't good, that all the wine tasted like retsina. So when we started planning our 2019 trip to Europe, Greece wasn't even on the agenda. It started out focused on Croatia, especially the Dalmatian coast. And when Greece came into the discussion, it was the islands. Which ones, what sequence, etc. Athens is a great jumping off point for all of the islands ... and if you're in Athens, you simply must give yourself time to see the Parthenon.

What we found in Athens was a very clean (as in no litter on the streets) city with clean air, bright sunshine and good restaurants, even a very good Chinese place, and wonderful Greek wines that aren't retsina-like at all.  Beautiful trees shade some of the streets and sidewalk cafes beckon pedestrians to sit down and enjoy the scene. Toss in the Acropolis,  the Ancient Agora, and a few other ruins, and ... well, you get the idea.

We stayed in Athens twice on this trip, three nights at InnAthens near both the Acropolis and the Greek Parliament, and one night at Zillars Boutique Hotel, which provided us with a view of the Parthenon from our bed.

Here are some photos:

Greece was in the run up to elections when we arrived. We think
these were supporters of the president who was ousted.

The gateway to the Temple of Olympian Zeus rises at the foot of Lysikratous Street. The
few remaining columns of the temple are partially visible to the right on the other side of the
 gate. Go the other way  on this short  street and you're at the foot of the Acropolis.

The rooftop bar at Marriott's Hotel
Grande Bretagne. Those people at
the other side of the space are enjoying
one of the best views of the Acropolis.

The entrance to the Acropolis Museum, where the best
sculptures from the Acropolis (or those not in the British
Museum) are preserved, most replaced by careful
replicas in their original locations.

The Caryatids from the Erechtheion are among the many wonders
at the Acropolis Museum.

Meanwhile, up on the Acropolis, reproductions continue the work
of supporting one of the Erechtheion's porches.

In the museum, a small-scale reproduction of what the east pediment
of the Parthenon once looked like. Originally these sculptures were painted.
That's Athena in the middle, and I think that's Poseidon with
the trident. 

The crown jewel of this amazing city: the Parthenon, designed by Pericles
and built between 447 and 438 B.C.E.  It was dedicated to Athena, the
goddess who won Athens in a contest with Poseidon. She won by
giving the world the olive tree.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a an amphitheater
carved into the southwest side of the Acropolis. It
is still used for performances.

Tourists complete their climb of the Acropolis by entering the top
through the Beule Gate and the Temple of Athena Nike.

The Erechtheion has another less famous porch. This
one shows off the structure's graceful Ionic architecture.
The Parthenon is Doric. That's Athens spread out
in the distace.

This view of the Erechtheion shows the Caryatids at the left, the main facade in the center,
and a corner of the north porch at right. 

Tourists on their way down from the Acropolis.

The ruins of the Ancient Agora do not give visitors much
of a sense of what this urban center must have been like
2,500 years ago.

The Hephaistion, on a hill at the edge of the Ancient Agora, is considered the most
completely preserved ancient Greek temple in the world. All of its columns
and pediments are intact. 

It's easy to walk out of the Ancient Agora, to descend
from the Acropolis, and find oneself back in the
modern world. 

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