Balkans Day 15: Athens (part 1)
31/08/2013 12 Comments
The day arrived sunny and bright as usual and after a quick breakfast at the hotel we prepared to walk into the city centre of Athens with the aid of a map we’d picked up the night before. Leaving our hotel and its rather seedy neighbourhood behind we soon found ourselves on a main road heading towards the Acropolis and everyone’s must-do when in Athens.
The streets were busy with people heading off to work and opening up their shops and cafes. As we got to a small square in the shadow of the ancient rock of the Acropolis we sat at one of these cafes for a quick tea before going up to our third World Heritage Site in as many days. We sat for maybe half an hour and watched the life of Athens pass us by while we had a brief chat with a Danish guy and admired the graffiti which adorns just about anything which is static in this city. I suppose in an urban area of almost four million people which hasn’t had its problems to seek recently this isn’t a surprise.
Walking past Hadrian’s Library, to which our €12 tickets would also give us access, we came up to the entrance and paid in to what we later learned has officially been designated as the preeminent monument on the European Heritage List (2007). As we began to climb up we caught some of the views over the city and also spotted a team of archaeologists grubbing around in the dirt as archaeologists tend to do.
Coming up to the top of the Acropolis we were not surprised to see the place already very busy as crowds of sightseers hit the bottleneck that is the Propylæa (monumental gateway) which leads to the main temple complex.
Coming through this gateway we were greeted by the stunning sight of the temple complex of the Acropolis of Athens in all its crumbling glory. Despite the ravages of time, war and modern pollution this place truly is an awe-inspiring sight. To our left stood the Erectheion dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, the foundations of the Old Temple of Athena, straight ahead was the Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus and to the right the crowning glory of the Parthenon itself, the main temple dedicated to Athena, the patron deity of the city which still bears her name. Also to the right down below the Acropolis itself lies the magnificent Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysius Eleuthereus.
Even for those of you who have never visited this extraordinary place its sights are so familiar that the photos can speak for themselves…
After a couple of hours of wandering around taking hundreds of photos and being shoved from all directions by Chinese tourists and deafened by exuberant Spanish tourists we’d seen enough and headed down to get an iced drink and head for the national gardens around the other side of the Acropolis.
Walking along the streets we realised we were in an altogether nicer area than the one we’d come from. There was obviously a reason why our hotel was so cheap! This area had some quaint streets and some larger ones lined with bars and cafes and a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere than ‘our’ district.
We walked on until we came out onto a main road with the Arch of Hadrian visible on the other side. Crossing this took us in turn to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, the end-point of our morning explorations. We spent some time wandering around here taking photos before stopping off for a well-earned drink prior to exploring some of the more modern treats of Athens…