June 21 – Athens

Athens

Athens

I only had one day in Athens, because my flight didn’t leave until 8:00 p.m. that evening. So I had decided to see the Acropolis and ancient Agora. I decided to try and be on my way the next morning around 10:00 a.m. At breakfast which was nothing compared to the food I was eating on the Alexandros, I met two American couples traveling together from Portland, Oregon, small world. I also heard about a street market that goes until noon, so I decided to go to the street market then hit the Acropolis. As I was walking out the door two women from India were also going to the market so we made our way there together. The first part of the market was actual store open to the street selling all new stuff, the second part of the market was antiques, and they had vendors selling all sorts of stuff. One vendor had a ton of Olympic pins. I bought a couple of gifts, I was trying to find a bottle opener for my Uncle L.V.’s bottle opener collection, but no luck. After making my way through the market I made my way up to the Acropolis, it was

Street vendors

Street vendors

high on a hill so I figured that I should see it first and then if I was tired I could pick and chose what to see in Ancient Agora. So I made my way up the hill and the site was crawling with tourists, like ants all over a sandwich, they weren’t Japanese, but it was difficult to get a photo without tourists in it. I met a very nice American couple who were traveling with their son and I took a photo for them and then I made my way around the site.

It was hard to get the feeling of ancient Greece, for one because of all the tourists, secondly, because the entrance to the Acropolis and the Parthenon were both covered with scaffolding, which I’m pretty sure the ancient Greeks didn’t use. In addition, there were “guards” all over the place and whenever a tourist was going into a forbidden spot or touching something they weren’t supposed to a whistle would shrill, like a lifeguard warning some obnoxious child at the pool. I’m also pretty sure the ancient Greeks didn’t have whistles.

After I passed the Parthenon, I made my way around to Athena’s temple and ran back into the American family and they took my photo. I then headed back out the entrance to make my way back down to Ancient Agora. The Agora is on the northwest slope of the Acropolis and was the heart of ancient Athens from the lat 6th c. BC onwards. It was a place for political gatherings and debate, for election, religious occasions and trading activities, theatrical performances and athletic competitions.Antique shop

My first stop was the museum which is housed in the Stoa of Attalos. A stoa is an ancient Greek covered walk or colonnade, usually having columns on one side and a wall on the other. The museum’s main display is devoted to exhibits illustrating the basic functions of Athenian democracy. What was most fascinating to me was the voting shards and the jury selection system. Only landowners could vote and they did it with ceramaic tiles with their names on them, this system was in place around the 300 BC which is fascinating to me. They also had a jury system, the citizens, males over 30 had their names engraved on sheet of metal and they had a selection machine. In addition they got paid to serve on the jury. Amazing. In 300 BC the Greeks were more advanced than a lot of countries are today in 2009. Seriously.

Acropolis

Acropolis

There were also a lot of statues, burial items, jewelery and commerce stuff. I made my way through the museum, it was just about the right size and just one long corridor. And then I made my way through the burial grounds and bits and pieces of ruins to visit the temple of Hephaistos, built in 5th c. B.C. Sources say it is the best preserved Greek temple and devoted to Hephaestus the patron-god of metal working and Athena Ergane was the patron-goddess of pottery and crafts in general. There are no other buildings beneath it, so it is presumed to be the only structure erected on that site.

After waiting in the lower courtyard amongst the ruins to try and get a photo of the temple without tourists in it approximately 20 minutes, I headed out to find some food, sort of a last supper, before my return to Iraq.

I found a restaurant and ordered a flaky cheese appetizer, it was like baclava but with cheese. I was sitting next to three

Parthenon

Parthenon

American girls who interjected the words “you know” and “like” into their sentences about every three words.

After my snack I did a little more shopping and finally found my Greek frog to add to my collection and some olives to send to Grandma and then I headed back to the hotel to pick up my luggage and take the bus to the airport.

I was a little late catching the bus and was worried about catching my plane, but it turns out the flight was cancelled and instead of arriving in Kuwait around 9:00 p.m. I took a flight through Turkey and got in at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, luckily my friend Marcy who I was staying with was a good sport; unfortunately we had so much to talk about we stayed up talking until about 4:30 a.m. in the morning. I just had to catch another flight, but she had to go to work.

I ended up sitting next to a woman from Georgia, Russia, who didn’t speak any English. She handed me a note that said

Temple of Athena

Temple of Athena

she didn’t speak any English and could I help her get to her next flight. I pointed this out to the airline stewards, but they didn’t care, so when we landed in Turkey I took her to the transfer desk and made sure she was taken care of and then had to book it in order not to miss my flight.

It was great trip and I highly recommend Anko Yachting as a way to see the Greek Islands.

Temple of Hephaistos

Temple of Hephaistos

Jury selection device

Jury selection device

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