Touching down in Europe was a first for this girl. Ashton visited Spain on a high school Trip.
Our early morning, dual flights from Sri Lanka were fairly uneventful except for the fact that "my awesome fedora hat mysteriously vanished from my head!!!!!"
How does that happen?. I was wearing it when we left the plane, then we had a short connection, so
we ran through the airport and when boarding the next plane I realized I no longer was wearing my fedora! Musta flown off my head cuz I'm so speedy! ;) Ashton pointed out how filthy and wrinkled the hat was and that it had served me three solid months in the sun, so I guess it was only a matter of time. Guess we'll be hat shopping for me!!
Arrived in Athens at 5pm, half asleep, half on adrenaline! Took the metro (which was super easy to figure out). Got off the metro and walked five minutes to our hotel. Easy as pie. Found some food and in bed by 7. Ha ha..but on Sri Lankan time, we were in bed by 9:30, and we had been up at 2am with 8 hours of flying. So I think it's fair to say we were exhausted.
Our first day in Europe was a beauty! Blue sky, warm, comfortable weather (20'c)... Perfect for sightseeing! I had found a walking tour online so we met the group bright and early and soon found ourselves admiring the history and architecture of the Greek ruins. Our tour guide:George told interesting tales of the past and facts of history.
(George teaching us how to read Greek)
Right away we met a young New Zealand couple and an older Australian couple, so we traded stories as we walked. The walking tour was three hours long and it was excellent, very informative, and a Perfect start to the trip. George took us around to the entrance of each sight and provided information and stories.
The parliament building
The parliament building is where many important international meetings are held. In front of this building is where the frequent Protests occur. While we visited, there was a conference being held, so the security was amped up and police and riot protection was everywhere. We were lucky to not see a protest. George told us it's quite a sight when a riot occurs.
On the plus side we were able to watch the changing of the guards.
Temple of Zeus
The building of the Temple of Olympian Zeus actually began in the 6th Century but work was stopped either because of a lack of money or because Pisistratus's son, Hippias, was overthrown in 510 BC. The temple was not finished seven hundred years later.
Originally there were 104 Corinthian columns of which only 15 remain standing. Columns were destroyed during avenges, earthquakes, and storms. The opposing army would destroy the columns by lighting them on fire and roping them down. Even though they were made with marble, the wood attaching each piece could be set on fire, hence making the column fall. Chelsey Huffed and puffed and blew one down!!
One story that George shared with us was why a marathon is 26 miles long...
In 490 BC the first battle for democracy was fought 26 miles outside of Athens. Persians vs Greek. The Greeks were out numbered so they went and meet the Persians at a high spot of land so the Persians couldn't surround them to have an easy victory. Even though the invading Persian army far outnumbered the Greek army, the Greeks held their ground and forced the Persians to turn back. The Greek army was very happy with the victory but also worried. The Greek army thought that the Persians might sail to unprotected Athens and attack there, while the army was walking back. So the Greeks sent a messenger to run back back to tell the people of Athens that they had won the battle, but to keep the city in lock down mode in case the Persians showed up before the army got back. The messenger ran as fast as he could for 26 miles without stopping. He first told the good news of the victory but ironically, he died of exhaustion before he could warn the people about the Persians coming. The Persians did come, but the Greek army had made it back in time to stop them again.
(This may not be the correct statue of the runner, but it gives you a good idea of what the statue looks like..) note the missing part! He he... I guess the city kept trying to replace it, but after soo many disappearing acts, the missing part is no longer replaced..
Now a days the annual Greek marathon follows the exact same course the messenger took. The same coarse was also ran during the 2004 Olympics in Athens
The first modern Olympics in 1986 were held at this stadium. It is also the place where the Olympic touch is passed from Greece to the hosting country each Olympic year.
George showed us the entrance to the acropolis, the botanical gardens, market street and several other iconic spots. All which we'll later explore on our own.
The next day we were Up early, enjoyed breakfast put on by the hotel and out the door before 9:30. Breakfast was tasty breads and cold cuts; peaches and Greek yogurt; and coffee/tea.
Day two we played "tourists", taking in the top attractions, reading up on the history and snapping pictures.
"the most ancient site in the western world". Acro meaning "height" and polis meaning "city". Therefore it was the city above all. First inhibited in 4000BC, the temples housed the goddess Athena. People lived in the Acropolis until the late 6th century. Ravages inflicted upon the ruins, earthquakes, explosion and now tourists have taken their toll on the surviving monument. Major restoration programs are in place, hence all of the cranes and construction on the buildings.
(I had always thought the acropolis meant the one famous building, but soon learned that it's actually a whole ancient city way up on a hill overlooking the rest of Athens.)
On our way up to acropolis we stopped to view the
Odeon of Herodes Theatre.
Built over 15 years this monument is completely made of Pentelic marble. Parthenon means "virgin's apartment' and is dedicated to Athena, the goddess embodying the power and prestige of the city. Back in the day the eyes were made of jewels and the face of ivory. Beautiful ladies!
The afternoon was spent taking in the rest of the ruins, and strolling along the residential, as well as market streets.
That wraps up history 101 with Chelsey.! .. (And Wikipedia... And lonely planet!,) haha .. Plagiarism at its best....
Most people stay in Athens for a day or two, but we loved it so much and being the spontaneous travellers that we are, we weren't ready to leave so we stayed for day three!
Believe it or not, we had errands to run. Took us a better part of the day to relocate to a hotel near the port, buy a ferry ticket, stock up on toiletries, take out money and research our next stop..then Ashton found out there was going to be a soccer final AT the old Olympic site...
I was a little skeptical since he showed me video of the semi final which included an hour delay of the game since fans were fighting, lighting up torches, throwing anchovy fish all over the opposition bench and overall, causing havoc.. Bbuutt being the good wife that I am, I decided to go along to the game to see all the hype.
We took the metro to the Olympic site. Which sadly, is now run down. I guess the Athen Olympics were 10 years ago!!.. Then it started to pour! Thank goodness we had our new umbrella, but still, it was a cold, grey skied 8 pm game, so we decided maybe this was a sign. An hour sitting in the cold rain isn't my idea of fun. We walked around taking in the roar and vibration from the fans, and noticing the line of police ready for a riot. Like literally 4,000 police were on stand by around Athens, incase of a. Riot. The opposing fans were given separate entrances and the stadium was split down the middle so that a whole section separated the team fans.the teams were escorted at separate times with top notch police service. We assumed no Alcohol was served at the game, since they had taken every other precaution to make sure no incidents happened. In all, there was plenty of hype outside the field.
I believe I said "can you believe all these people are going to sit in the cold rain for an hour to watch a soccer game?!".. Ashton then reminded me that Rider fans sit in the freezing cold snow for four hours to watch a football game! " haha .. Been there done that. Good point!
Needless to say, we caught the metro home and watched the last of the game on the tv, sitting in a warm room, eating tasty treats from The bakery!
Anyhoodles, that's our experience in Athens in a nutshell! Hope you enjoyed it. I tried to keep the history parts interesting.. And accurate... Thanks google!