A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog on our trip to Greece. Family and friends who read it thought it did not justify the 3.5 weeks that we spent there and recommended that I split it up and dedicate one post per place that we visited. I have retained the original blog for those of you who want a fast read. With Europe slowly limping back to normal since the COVID 19 lockdown and Greece quite enthusiastic about reopening tourism, there cannot be a better time for me to reminisce about that trip and write about it. Hope you enjoy these posts!
This is the sixth post of my seven part series on Greece.
The first post covers Thessaloniki, the second Meteora, the third Delphi and the fourth Olympia and the fifth Crete. Lastly, you can read all my Thoughts, tips and things that matter in my seventh post.
Our final stop was Athens – for the Parthenon.
Athens is an old city. It has been continuously lived in for thousands of years since the Neolithic times. So where does one start? We were fortunate enough to have time at our disposal, so we tried to take in Athens as broadly and slowly as was possible. Remember, we travel with kids. So we try to balance things out so that there is not too much that they cannot take in.
Our first visit was to the Acropolis. The citadel, as is typical of one, sits on a hill and can be seen from many a places in Athens. All stone and arid, it can get very hot once the sun is up, so I recommend that you visit as early in the day as possible. Sitting majestically atop the rock outcrop is the Parthenon. A temple dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. Like the chicken and egg debate, historians are still not 100% sure if the city of Athens came about because of Athena the goddess or if Athena was revered because of Athens the city. Whatever may the case be, the Parthenon held a bronze statue of Athena sculpted by Pheidias, the same gentleman who sculpted a statue of Zeus in Olympia. The statue itself might have been an offering or a votive. The statue does not exist today. In fact, it was taken to Constantinople, where it was destroyed by a crowd during the siege of the city in 1204.
We entered though the Propylaea, which is a huge grand entrance gate. Each step is a huge climb! There is a square pillar of sorts at the entrance which is known as the Monument of Agrippa. On top of the pillar used to be a statue of a horse drawn carriage. It was dedicated by Athenians to Agrippa, a Roman general who was the son-in-law of the Roman emperor Octavian Augustus.
Some other important monuments are the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, Temple of Athena Nike and the Temple of Rome and Augustus.
Athens is scattered with ruins. Even the Acropolis Museum was built on an archaeological site and the glass floor enables you to see the leftovers from more recent history beneath your feet.
We chose to visit a few more places like the ones below:
The Hadrian’s Arch is a triumphal arch that was built by Athenians for their benefactor, the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was erected on the street that connected old Athens with the new Athens that was built by Hadrian. There are two inscriptions on the arch. The one facing the Acropolis reads ‘This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus’ and the one on the other side says ‘This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus’ 🙂
Hadrian’s Library followed the architectural style of a Roman Forum. The library had books (rolls of papyrus), a reading room and lecture halls. The building was damaged, repaired and subsequently was home to three churches. One can now see remnants of the three churches.
The construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus started in 6th century BC but it was Emperor Hadrian who completed it in 2nd century AD. With 104 tall columns, it was one of the largest temples dedicated to Zeus, the king of all Olympian Gods. Its glory was short-lived, thanks to invasions and neglect. Sixteen columns stand today.
Anafiotika is a quaint small neighbourhood that still retains its old world charm. It was first occupied by the people who came to Athens from the Cycladic island of Anafi to work on the renovation of King Otto’s palace. The houses are small and painted white, the streets narrow and lined with bright flowering plants.
We went to the top of Mount Lycabettus for spectacular views of Athens, the Acropolis and further away the Aegean Sea. At approximately 300m above sea level, it is the highest point in Athens. You can take the funicular train to get to the top, which we did, and we took the walking path (a load of steps!) on the way down.
We stopped by at Syntagma Square and watched the change of guards by the Evzones near the Monument of the Unknown Soldier near the Greek Parliament House.
We visited the Olympic Stadium that hosted the 2004 Modern Olympics. It wore a deserted look, we simply walked around. There was some activity at the aquatic centre but we could not tell if it was a practice session or preparation for an event was underway.
On the last day we simple strolled around El. Venizelou Street (Panepistimiou Street) and admired some noteworthy buildings such as the National Library, University of Athens and the Academy of Athens. The Academy of Athens with its rich sculpture and detail is a treat for the eyes.
Visiting these visually rich buildings was a great way to end the trip. It was time to pack our bags and board the flight back home. We had a great time and would like to go back again, some day!