Sunday, 13 December 2015

Athens streetscape

After a half day at the Museum, we were tired and hungry.  It was a good thing that we stumbled upon the Cafe Veneti in an area outside of the main tourist area.   The place is huge, as you can see below, with all kinds of sweets and breads.  Our lunch was delicious and also very reasonable.

Lunch time in Athens

We then took a long walk through the Omonoia Square area on our way back to the Plaka.  This was precisely the place our driver the day before told us to avoid at night, apparently a red light district.  But we were curious to see what it was like in the day time at least and found lots of interesting shops and people, including the huge meat market on Athinas.  Unfortunately we missed the other part of the Central Market because we detoured into the meat market.  Oh well, can't see everything...

This cute couple offered to pose for my camera...:-)

The huge meat market.  We were surprised at how clean it was - it doesn't smell like a market!

Almost like a Chinese market - chicken with heads and feet (these would be the free-run chickens in a Chinese market)

These butchers seemed to like their jobs...

And this one was plain cocky!

A deli

Dried goods store

Stumbled upon this old church 

Cute mini truck carrying cardboard

And we're back in the tourist district!

Shopping street in the Plaka

We walked by Hadrian's Gate and didn't even stop - you can tell we were at the end of a two week trip where we must have seen hundreds of stone monuments.
Wedding on the historic path

A music store with Greek Bouzoukis

Father and son musicians
This wraps up our tour of the Greek Isles and Athens.  It was an amazing trip that I would do again, especially a lengthier stay in Athens - after I get through my long bucket list...

National Archaeological Museum and the Ancient Agora

We covered a lot of grounds on our last full day in Athens.  The National Archaeological Museum was the only out of the way sight and we took a cab to visit.  It was huge - we spent a few hours in it and didn't even get to the second floor.  There were so much to see - but we needed a break by lunch time so we reluctantly left for the streets for our planned walk back to the Plaka to see the rest of the ancient sites, including the Ancient Agora.   We had an interesting walk back and you will see some of the photos in the next post.

On our walk through the Plaka, we stumbled  upon what we thought was the ancient agora and Hadrian's Library, but it appeared to be closed.  Ruins could be found around every other corner in Athens, so it was not surprising that we made that mistake.  Finding it difficult to accept that what we saw was the ancient agora, I googled for images when we returned to the hotel and realized that we had missed a key chunk of antiquity, yet again!  We scrambled and found our way to the real agora before it closed.  It was quite a hike and by the time we got there we had an hour to see everything, which clearly was not enough.  We stayed till the guards came to kick us out.  And of course, as we wandered back to our hotel, we saw what must be the real Hadrian's Library, closed for the day.  A photo through the gates would have to suffice for this visit.

We likely would not have missed these sights if we had joined an organized tour.  But then we would have missed all those other things that we came across just wandering around the city by ourselves. I also don't know of too many organized tours that would allow you to spend more than two hours in a museum...

National Archaeological Museum

Cycladic figurines - reminiscent of the collection in the museum in Heraklion

What was thought to be the mask of Agamemnon by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.  Modern archaeology had found that the death mask was from 1500 BC, predating Agamemnon.
Excavated gold jewelry 

Amphora with unusual decorations of two large octopuses and a marinescape of rocks and seaweed
Kore and kouros both wearing the distinctive Archaic period smile

Iconic statue of Poseidon

Young horseman 

Statute of Athena - this is the best preserved and most faithful copy of the Athena Parthenon statue

Some finger-pointing here

Class from Berkeley with their teacher -  pretty funny responses when the teacher asked what they think was happening in the sculpture below...

Interesting statue of Aphrodite trying to fend off Pan with her sandal and Eros coming to her rescue.  The sculpture, from  about 100 BC was dedicated by Dionysios to his ancestral gods.

We thought this was the ancient agora, but in fact it was the Roman agora...

It's a good thing we found the actual agora which had some interesting buildings.  This is a reconstruction of the Stoia of Attalos which now houses the Museum of the Agora.

Pillars from the original stoia

The beautiful Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved structures of its kind

The Temple from another perspective

Decorative detail in the Temple

Hadrian's Library stood some distance from the Ancient Agora

Another view of the Acropolis from the Agora

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Acropolis in Athens

It was a lifetime dream realized - to visit the Acropolis in Athens.   For one reason or another, while I had always wanted to go to Athens, I never managed to fit that in, even though I had been actively travelling in the past 15 years.  It was also the end point of a trip which had started in Istanbul and took us through the Greek Isles, where we had seen several acropolis already.  But there was nothing like THE Acropolis.  It was pretty stunning every time I looked at it.  And our first glimpse was from the rooftop restaurant of our hotel near the Acropolis Museum.  The sun was setting and it was starting to lit up.  It was magical! 

We made the strategic error of taking it too easy on our first full day in Athens.  By the time we got tickets at the gate to the Acropolis, every one else in Athens and from the cruise ships, were there waiting to get in. The lineups were long in the hot sun and we figured that it would be too crowded inside even if we didn't mind the wait .  We decided to postpone the visit until later in the afternoon, as Rick Steves had suggested in his book.  We visited the new Acropolis Museum first, getting some meaningful background before the actual visit.  The Museum itself was quite stunning, both architecturally and content wise.

A leisurely lunch in the Plaka gave us renewed energy to climb up to the Acropolis, this time from the gate above the Plaka, a relatively uncommon approach which gave us another perspective on the site.  We were relieved to find the crowds dispersed and we were actually able to get people-less photos.  In addition, we had the benefit of catching the "glow" on the buildings during the golden hour as the sun slowly descended.  What luck!  

The Parthenon lit up

The Acropolis Museum - an impressive collection of many original sculptures from the Acropolis.  I was particularly struck by the colour on these two costumes.  I learned that the archaic colours were white, black, red and ochre, corresponding with the elements of air, water, fire and earth.  The Athenians buried many of the statues after the Persians destroyed the Acropolis in 480 BC.  As a result, the statues were well-preserved, as were the vivid colours.  

View of the second floor sculptures from the third.
The reflection of the Parthenon on the windows of the Museum

Greek policemen doubling up on motorbikes doing their rounds along the mainly pedestrian walkway around the Acropolis historic sites.  The walkway really made things easy for tourists to get a panorama of ancient Athens.
We went in the side entrance and this is the ancient road that greeted us

Crumbling walls above us
The view from the Propylaia - Athens beyond the Odeum, which could accommodate 6,000 spectators, destroyed during Herulian invasions in the 3rd century but restored in the 1950s.  It is now an event space.

The Propylaia, the magnificent entrance to the Acropolis with the elegant Temple of Athena Nike

The portico of the Propylaia and the view of the Parthenon through it...
The beautiful Erechtheion - elaborate and complex - I love it!   This was a view from the Propylaia.  Just in front of it, you could see the remains of the base (with relief mouldings) of the colossal statue of Athena, thought to stand at least 9 metres high.  It would have been quite a sight, thought to be visible even to sailors at sea.   The statue was carried to the Hippodrome in Constantinople in the 5th century AD where it was destroyed during the siege of the Franks in 1204.

The awe-inspiring Parthenon, still under reconstruction since 1975...

The Parthenon with the "glow" during the golden hour

Athens panorama from the Acropolis - Mt. Lycabettus on the right

The Erechtheion again with the "glow" 

Detail from the Erechtheion

The Theatre of Dionysos, the oldest theatre in the world.  To think that it was here that the plays of the great poets Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed!

Front row seats with backs

An Acropolis cat...

Worth the 30 year wait...