Travel Journal

Athens

(Saturday 13 November 2010) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 89-91 -- 11/1-3/10 Athens
We were dragging a bit when we got into town but it was a simple enough matter to get on the Metro and head in to town. On the train a passenger pointed that I should put my backpack on the floor and I did supposing it was common etiquette. Then on the crowded train I felt the same passenger’s hand brush against my butt. Ahh, I’m already encountering the pickpockets I’ve read about. Normally at this point you shout at the pickpocket but since I had no money on me I wanted to see how he operated. He had a sweater draped across his arm to keep the action of the other hand out of sight. I turned and leaned my back against the wall which gave no clear opening to my back pocket. Since the next stop was our exit, I moved over towards the exit gate with my back exposed and he followed eager for another opportunity. I again turned my back against the wall and I saw him signal to two men about twenty years old nearby. Well enough of this. We got out when the doors opened and I made sure they did not follow us out. Welcome to Athens!
We found our hotel without any problems once we got the street signs sorted out as the Garmin wasn’t getting any signals but we had directions the hotel had sent us. After checking in we got some food per the hotel clerk’s suggestion at a local restaurant. I had rabbit while Julie had lamb. I think I got the better end of the deal as her rice had liver mixed in and the lamb was more like sheep than lamb.
Using the hotel’s map, we went to Athens’ famed Archeology Museum filled with many wonderful pieces gathered from the many ruins of this country. We also encounter the do not pose rule. You can take as many pictures as you like but not of other people in the museum. I’m not sure the reasoning behind it.
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Perhaps they feel you are belittling the pieces you pose next to. I originally thought it was a courtesy to other people so you are not blocking the view of the piece and allow others to take photos but I’ve seen attendants tell people in rooms that had no other guest to not do it. Interesting. Anyways, as I mentioned, there’s a lot of good items there of which I’ve posted one.
We went back to the hotel to rest and catch up on our sleep for the next day. I toyed with going to the Brazilian embassy but it was off the main metro line and the bus system looked a bit confusing. Instead we devoted the day to the Acropolis. We got the metro to the museum which is housed in a new building at the base of the mountain where upon the Acropolis sits.
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There are no photos allowed inside which is a shame as most of the panels and triangle reliefs from the Parthenon are there properly spaced on the top floor. The other floors contain models of the complex and statues collected from the site. The reflective sides of the museum are such that you can capture an image of the Acropolis in them it the angle is just so.
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We entered from the South side and made our way up to the top past several temples and a theatre. The Nike temple is still disassembled for restoration so we were not able to see it. The top of the mountain is actually not that big. The Erechtheion with the pillars in the shape of women was perhaps my favorite.
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The Parthenon is massive, that can’t be disputed, but the repair work with heavy machinery, the original panels removed without copy replacement leaves the structure a bit bare. The sight of Athens stretching out on all sides though is stunning. It is a huge metropolis of 4 million people – about a quarter of the Greek population resides here.
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Not wanting to waste our combination tickets, we walked down the North side and visited any sites we could find. These included the Roman Agra and the Ancient Agra. The later was a large market area which included the Hephaesteion building.
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. Along the streets are colorful murals I later learned are called grafitti.
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We walked back through the marketplace and I ducked into a jersey store. Success!! I got the German soccer jersey in black that I have been looking for so long. It was a knock off, but at that point I didn’t care. We continued on to the Parliament Building to see the hourly changing of the guard. If you have ever seen the Monty Python sketch “Silly Walks,”
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you will snicker a bit at the pomp and circumstances surrounding the ceremony although it is taken very seriously by the locals.
The next day we were off to Delphi so we caught the local bus to the bus station to begin our three hour trip. At the bus station, we saw buses to Meteora which surprised me as I thought only the train went there. Meteora is known for their monasteries perched on high rocks and was also on my bucket list so we bought tickets there for the next day. Anyways, it was a long trip to Delphi made longer with the game of dare we played in an in between town’s narrow street with a truck. Neither vehicle would give the other right of way and soon other cars had backed up behind our bus and the truck making reversing impossible.
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The log jam was finally broken after a half hour when an assistant on our bus got cars to clear out behind us so we could back up and let the truck pass.
Delphi is a small town past the site where we disembarked from the bus. We walked down to the site and, after visiting the small but interesting museum, entered the ruins. I’ve always wanted to visit Apollo’s Temple where the Oracle resided. Here’s a picture of what an artist interpreted the temple and Oracle to look like.
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It was a rich place as tributes and offerings were lavished upon the oracle for her prophecies and many cities built treasuries there to express thanks. My own personal theory is the Oracle did indeed inhale exotic fumes arising from the ground and in a trance babble incoherently. The priests that attended her then “translated” her rants to answer the person posing the question. The priests were information brokers, gather information from many sources, and then framing answers that gave a general answer that was open to multiple interpretations.
The complex was fairly good size with a theatre and also an arena added on by the conquering Romans.
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The country side is very beautiful and, if I had more time, I’d do some hiking around and visit the three roads where Oedipus kill his father, but we were not spending the night and had to catch a bus back to Athens. We did have a meal there which was one of the best I’ve had on this trip which was a gyro with a Greek salad.
We didn’t get back till late and we had a 6:30 AM bus to Meteora the following morning.



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