Today was sightseeing Athens day! People said it only takes a day to visit the most important sites in the city as they are all concentrated in a small walkable area around the Acropolis. We were supposed to wake up early to visit the Parthenon to beat all the cruise line tours but the snooze won the battle once again so we started with the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch.
At the entrance of the temple complex, you can see the Hadrian Arch. It has been proposed that the arch was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and to honor him for his many benefactions to the city, on the occasion of the dedication of the nearby temple complex in 131 or 132 AD.
The Temple Of Olympian Zeus. It’s construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD some 638 years after the project had begun. During the Roman periods, it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world.
The temple’s glory was short-lived, as it fell into disuse after being pillaged in a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD. It was probably never repaired and was reduced to ruins thereafter.
We immediately noticed a big correlation between Indian stupid rules and Greek stupid rules in the touristy places. They have many people with whistles looking for tourists doing what they thing is wrong. For example, you are not allowed to imitate the statues in the museums for a photo (for real Greece? Italy is not making a tantrum when we imitate the David statue). Of course we got whistled at when doing our Where the Hell are the Noodles dance (release date: 2017 so stay tuned).
The next stop was the Panathenaic stadium. After being refurbished, it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was the venue for 4 of the 9 contested sports.
It is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble!! They give you a very interesting audio guide that takes you through the stadium history, architecture, and interesting facts. Here we are sitting in seats previously used by roman emperors.
They have a room on the back with all the Olympic torches used in the previous Olympics since 1896.
We had to run a little bit around the track to feel like real Olympians (and for the photo) and after being defeated by olympic runner Sarah we stood on the famous podium.
We headed back towards the main area to the Zappeion, it is a building in the National Gardens of Athens. It is generally used for meetings and ceremonies, both official and private.
The Zappeion was the first building to be erected specifically for the revival of the Olympic Games in the modern world.
A number of historical events have taken place at the Zappeion, including the signing of the documents formalizing Greece’s accession to the European Community in May, 1979, which took place in the building’s marble-clad, peristyle main atrium.
We walked back to the main area and found a little cute restaurant with traditional (non-touristy) greek food. More like what greek grandmas would cook. The food was excellent and the wine really good which was a problem as we ended lunch drunker than we wanted and not ready for our next stop: the Acropolis museum.
The acropolis museum is a fairly new building. It was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies over some Roman ruins.
Of course, I got whistled again for taking a photo of a sculpture that I shouldn’t. The problem is that there is a sign that said something like “photos are allowed on the Byzantine period sculptures only” or something like that. Forgive my uncultured brain, but do they really expect 99% of the tourist to be able to identify which sculptures are from which period of time? To me, they all just look Greek and naked.
We continued our journey to the top of the Acropolis, not without passing through the east slope where you can find the incredible Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It was built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-sloped theater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive, cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000. It lasted intact until it was destroyed and turned into a ruin by the Heruli in 267 AD.
If you keep hiking up, you will reach the Propylaea, which is the name of any monumental gateway in Greek architecture. It is an amazing entrance to an unimpressive Parthenon (sorry Dan Wolf).
After the magnificent entrance, you reach the Partheno,. dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power. It was completed in 438 BC although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the zenith of the Doric order.
While a sacred building dedicated to the city’s patron goddess, the Parthenon was actually used primarily as a treasury. For a time, it served as the treasury of the Delian League, which later became the Athenian Empire. In the final decade of the sixth century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
After the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. On 26 September 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures.
The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure. The restorations look abysmal. They didn’t even make an effort to match the color or the texture.
At the other end of the Acropolis we found the Erechtheion. Erected in 421-406 BC, this temple was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.
The building owes its unusual shape to the irregularity of the terrain – there is a three-metre difference in height between the eastern and western parts – and the multiple cults it was designed to accommodate
The eastern part of the building was dedicated to Athena Polias, while the western part served the cult of Poseidon-Erechtheus and held the altars of Hephaistus and Voutos, brother of Erechtheus. This is where, according to the myth, Athena’s sacred snake lived. The sanctuary also contained the grave of Kekrops and the traces of the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for the possession of the city of Athens.
One of those original six figures (Caryatids), removed by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, is now in the British Museum in London. The Acropolis Museum holds the other five figures, which are replaced on site by replicas.
We walked to the ancient agora. This was a market, a meeting place and the social, political and commercial hub of the ancient city. Whilst initial developed in the sixth century BC, the Ancient Agora of Athens was destroyed, rebuilt and renovated several times, including attacks by the Persians in 480BC, the Romans and by the Scandinavian tribe known as the Herulians in 267BC.
One of the buildings is the Stoa of Attalos. this stoa (covered walkway or portico) in the was built by and named after King Attalos II of Pergamon, who ruled between 159 BC and 138 BC.
The next building we visited was the Temple of Hephaestus ( the patron god of metal working, craftsmanship, and fire). From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of Saint George Akamates. The building’s condition has been maintained due to its history of varied use.
This is the view of the Acropolis from the ancient Agora.
We walked back towards the main area to meet with Genevieve for dinner.
This restaurant is pretty famous for its amazing view. The food was traditional greek and very delicious.
Can you have a better view of he Parthenon? I dont think so! The next day we will be flying into the first city on our Balkans tour… Belgrade!