Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Adventure - The Parthenon and Democracy at Its Best?

We had decided early on to stay in Athens for a very minimal amount of time, mainly because others have told us to do so.  While there's definitely a lot to do around Athens and the mainland, my friend and I were focusing more on the rest and relaxation that would be taking place on the beach.

However, the one place I knew I needed to see was the Parthenon.

Word of advice:  If a travel book suggests that you go see a popular tourist site very early in the morning or later in the afternoon, I would listen to that advice.  Otherwise, you will get stuck behind a massive amount of people who came from a cruise.  Also, bring sunscreen.
Damn tourists...
It's really not as bad as it could have been.  But it was a very hot day, and I unfortunately did not put any sunscreen on.

Actually, let me backtrack.  Before we hit the area where the Parthenon stood, we explored the lower section of the Acropolis (which actually means the highest point of the city) where the Theater of Dionysus proudly sits.  It was amazing to see some of the detail in etched in the marble and to notice the one very prominent seat in the center aisle.
Theater of Dionysus
I wonder how much these box seats cost?
Can't you just imagine the shows that took place?
Another stop on our way up to the top was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which seemed to continue to be in use perhaps for the cultural shows that are so popular in the summer time.
Perhaps next time we will pencil in time to see a show here.
After this spot, we hit the traffic of cruise ship tourists.  While waiting in line, I was able to see that there was still a lot of reconstruction happening at the Parthenon and the various structures that surrounded it.  The Temple of Athena Nike, the Goddess of Victory, was only viewable in an informational board.
Click on the image to read about the reconstruction.
As we crossed under the the Propylaia, we could see the Parthenon between the columns.  It was interesting to note the staff who almost blended into the crowd of tourists if it weren't for their constant yelling to "Keep walking! Don't stop on the stairs!"
Under the Propylaia
I'm also glad that part of the new gear I bought for this trip was walking shoes with a good grip as the marble on the ground was quite polished and slippery.
Bring good walking shoes!
But then, there stood the Parthenon in all its historical glory.  The Parthenon is literally translated to mean "house of virgins," thus young girls and unmarried women would only be allowed under its roof.  But it's a glorious structure.  It's hard to imagine how they constructed this Wonder of the World before cranes.
Parthenon and its admirers
We also saw a Parthenon Cat that was blind!  I was tempted to ask it important questions to see if it was an Oracle of some sort.
Parthenon Cat!
2 Ladies conquering the world
Another structure that's part of the Acropolis is the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena, Poseidon, and Erectheus (a mythological ruler).
Eastern wall of the Erechtheion
The Caryatids, which is a name for columns that are shaped like people.
The detailing on some of these buildings were amazing.  I just marveled at the idea that someone had to carve and mold the detailing with their own hands and a couple of tools.
Click to view all the images.
We were pretty exhausted after marveling at the structures, to say the least.  Though, I must say the most exhausting part was exiting the Parthenon area - the line somehow seemed longer going down than going up!

Among all the different places at the bottom of the Acropolis that were welcoming us to eat at their restaurant, we ended up settling at one place that had interesting looking chairs.  I was admiring the artwork of the restaurants awning when I realized that we had settled on a place called "Taverna Seirines."  How cool is that?
Taverna Seirines
Adventures in Chaffing Protection
So, here's another tip about traveling, though it's just a good tip in general.  If you plan on wearing a shirt or dress, and you have some thigh chaffing that occurs, talc powder is really good for that.  The best that I was able to do in a travel-size was Gold Bond, but I know of a product that's much better at preventing the chaffing.

As we proceeding to continue walking through the city, we found ourselves in Plaka, another neighborhood of Athens that is filled with shops and restaurants.  My friend and I both realize that we desperately need to reapply some talc powder to our thighs!  It's starting to hurt a bit.

We eventually find a street that wasn't too busy with tourists, and one of us hides behind a car or a wall while the other is the lookout.  Luckily, we both packed our travel-size talc powders, and just reapplied as much as we could under the pressure of accidentally flashing people!  Suffice it to say, that was perhaps one of the most hilarious moments of our time in Athens.

Hellenic Democracy?
Considering that Greece was the birthplace of democracy, it was interesting to be there at a very turbulent time.  We were warned about staying away from Parliament so as to avoid any random demonstrations that might pop up, as well as making sure we are prepared for any strikes.
Wandering around accidentally lead us right to Parliament.
Right before heading to the Acropolis, we tried to buy ferry tickets to Santorini for the 8th.  We were told that there were no ferries running on the 8th as it was a dry day due to striking.  After thinking about our options, we quickly bought plane tickets for 7:30am the next morning, being that they were the only available option.

Later that day, as we rode the Metro back to our hotel, we overheard an announcement saying that the Metro was to be closed all day on the 8th due to the strike.  We felt so lucky to hear that announcement!  We worked with the staff at our hotel to get a taxi to pick us up the next morning.  He then told us that a demonstration was occurring at 11am on the 8th, from Omonia Square (where we were staying) to Parliament, so it was good that we were leaving as early as we were.

As I was checking the news on my Droid (which I didn't have time to mod as a world phone in time for the trip, thus I had limited interweb access) the next day, I realized that we narrowly escaped a massive striking day!

Let me review.  From 5am til midnight, when the Metro usually runs, there would be no Metro trains, no buses, no public transportation except for taxis.  There were no ferries running out of Pireaus, the major port in Athens, or any other port near the city until midnight.  The airport was joining the strike at 10am, thus no flights were arriving or departing from the international airport after 10am.

I must say that I was a bit impressed with how much the city was going to be shut down.  I don't know if I would ever see anything like that in the US without it going horribly awry.

We got so lucky!  But just for that one day.

Coming up next:  Kalimera, Santorini.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to holler "That's what she said!" about 50 times during this post. tee hee :)

    Also, deodorant works for the chaffage, if you're short on talc powder or your special product.


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