Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Athens, Greece

The Acropolis.

Temple of Hephaistos in the agora.

Athens is not a city that I am in love with. It was too hot. It was too crowded. I was visiting in the shoulder season and was told it is twice as bad during the normal summer months. I might have had a panic attack if I was traveling through there then. On the other hand, the sights were cool. They threw me back to my middle school days when I was studying Greek and Roman mythology. The Acropolis and a few other sights sit on their own, but a few of the others are a stone's throw from residential houses and commercial shops. It is crazy to see such a busy city surrounding these ancient sights.

Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora.

Agii Apostoli (Church of the Apostles) in the agora.

Columns at the restored Stoa of Attalos.

Statues at the museum in the restored Stoa. A woman was yelled at for using the stone block as a table because she didn't realize it was an artifact. Neither did I.

Everyone thought this foot pedal operated sink was activated with an infrared sensor.

A close up of the columns at the Temple of Hephaistos. I don't think these have been restored. I am curious how they became offset. An earthquake?

Temple of Zeus.

Socrates' cell. It is thought that Socrates might have been held prisoner here, but it is likely just a legend. These caves were actually filled with national treasures and sealed up during World War II.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus which is still in use today.

I just looked up the population of Athens. It is listed as 3 million. I can't believe this. I would have guessed ten million. I just looked up the population density. It is 20,000 per square mile. That number makes more sense because New York City is 27,000. Wow, I can't believe it is 'so small.' The number of people in that small area, amplified by the tourists, is deceiving.

The Parthenon (look for the cranes to get a size perspective).

Smart kid's use greek letters in their graffiti!

I was amused that even the Parthenon was visited by stray dogs and cats.

Erechtheion with its six stone Karyatides maidens. The originals have all been removed.

View of sprawling Athens from the Acropolis

The entrance to the Acropolis.

I spent two short days in Athens. On the first, I went around to all the major sights: Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Agora, Roman Agora, etc. They were cool, but I definitely lost my enthusiasm as the heat wore me out. By the end, I had a huge headache that I think was from heat exhaustion. I had trouble imagining the ancient Athens. I had an easier time with it at Delfi because it was quiet. It was smaller. Athens had too many modern city sounds and sights to let me escape into ancient times. For instance, having two cranes sitting in and around the Acropolis threw me off a bit.

I don't think you can find stores like this in the USA because we are afraid of graffiti.

The tourist trap street. They were selling Greek souvenoirs and everything else you could imagine, including army gear. Just imagine all the silly stuff you bought on vacation as a teenager. They have it.

Dig out your old Chucks and college gear, that Franklin & Marshall hoodie was selling for 100 euros ($138).

I enjoyed my second day a lot more than the first. If you can get ten blocks away in any direction from the Acropolis, you will get a better idea of what the city is like. I left the tourist part of the city and went north toward what I think is their downtown. While the tourist sights are great, the living part of Athens is better. On the day I was there, they had closed down a major street so that people could walk and bike around. The cafes moved their tables onto the street. I sat down at one of those and had a mini pint of Ben & Jerry's. I was in heaven

Panepistimiou Closed street in Athens with my favorite snack.

There were tons of stray cats.

Outside of Athens, I had been hurting for vegetarian food and restaurants. What I had been eating before was from grocery stores and getting redundant. My favorite snack was yummy sesame seed snacks. They sustained me on many days! In Athens, I got a smoothie. It was not up to par because it was made with apple juice instead of dairy or ice to thicken it up, but it was better than nothing. I started eating a ton of variations of Greek salads minus the olives in Athens too. I know it is sacrilege to skip the olives, but as many times as I have tried, I just can't stand them. Also, don't expect to get a thick American milkshake in Europe. As far as I can tell, milkshake means flavored milk to them (think mixing Hershey's syrup into regular milk).

Government building or museum.

My hostel was crappy. I think the owners know it is crappy, but it is cheap and near the touristy stuff. There aren't very many other choices. I had to go down stairs to get to my shower. Once there, you had to leave your stuff outside the stall or get it wet in the shower with you. Outside the stall, it was in someone's way to get to the toilet. My room was right beside the hostel bar which I've already vented about. Since I didn't like the hostel much and Athens was a little too crowded for me, I decided to move on about twelve hours early and take a night ferry to Santorini.

The meat market in Athens. Pireas.

Odds and ends. An English movie theater near my hostel was showing Casablanca. The store owners sit in the middle of the sidewalk and look at their store instead of sitting in it looking out. I guess this lets them talk to the other owners and entice customers. It clogs the sidewalk which I guess is also good for business. I tried to find the fruit and veggie market. I went the wrong way and found the meat market instead. Wow, what an experience. The guys with blood all over their aprons wait in the aisles like regular store owners when there are no customers. Since it is so crowded, I can only imagine that everyone goes home with a free souvenir on their shirts. One last tidbit, Athens stays up late. That means they also sleep in. It seems that none of the shops were open before 9am.

Crowded coastal Athens

When I went to the ferry terminal, a young guy gave me directions. He also asked if I planned to bike the 10km to the ferry terminal. I said yes and he said I was nuts because Greek drivers are the worst. He told me to be careful and never pass. Always stay on the right. I don't think I saw another biker in Athens. At the ferry terminal, I waited at an Internet cafe for ten minutes to ask how much it cost but no one was there. One sign said, 'The Internet costs whatever you want it to.' Since no one appeared after a wait, I hopped to check for a specific email. It wasn't there and I logged out. A guy suddenly came over and asked for money. I said the sign said it cost whatever I wanted and I did not feel one minute constituted any cost. He did not agree. It felt like when you almost get into a place and then they stop to ask you for money. Ugh. I hate dodgy business practices. On to Santorini.

Changing of the Guard at Greek Parliament. Is there a pride in representing your country like this? Why do we make them dress up and march weirdly to change the guard? Tradition? Tourism?


  1. You mean *those* sesame treats?

  2. For those not in the know, my brother Tait and I were fed these every Friday before the Sabath started in Baltimore. I remember liking them and eating them, but didn't remember the Sabath part. My brother was wondering about them. I found them in Philly's Reading Terminal Market and then ALL OVER Greece.

    Also, until this trip, I have always used Delphi. In Greece, every road sign and map has Delfi. That is why the blog was written that way. Since it is written in English, maybe I should use Delphi..but the Greek's translation....who knows.

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