We only have two and a half days in Athens, clearly not enough time to do the city justice. There is so much to see, such history; ideas, concepts, ideals, philosophies that have survived the years.
Our first stop is the Acropolis. It is kind of like the Mt. Rainier of Athens…no matter where you are you can look up and spy the Acropolis. It’s like a giant birthday cake set out for all to see, the Parthenon acting as candles. We chose to hike up in the evening, when the temperature cooled a bit. Our hotel was located nearby in the old Plaka area so we wound our way through a few narrow streets, bought our tickets and headed up. Now all around the base of the Acropolis and along the shoulders are amazing sights to see. There is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, The Legendary Olive Tree of the Pandroseion, the Theater of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike…and many more. These are all ancient but built at different times. And at the top, the shining glory, the most sacred sight of the ancient world, The Parthenon. We truly were in awe being here in the shadow of such history.
The Temple of Dionysus
Built in the fourth century BC, could hold as many as 17,000 people. Still in amazing shape.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Completed in 161 AD, holds about 5000. Currently used as a concert/theatre venue. Luciano Pavarotti has performed here, so has Sting and Elton John.
Pandroseion and the Olive Tree, The Old Temple of Athena Polias
The jewel of the Acropolis. You are not allowed to walk inside (there is actually a crane inside as restoration is occurring), but you can walk all around. The temple was built from 447 BC to 338 BC, and is still magnificent from every angle.
Next day we took off on foot to see more sights. Truly, everywhere you go in this ancient city is a building or site that is older than old. Modern buildings are sometimes built over and around little churches or archaeological sites.
The Panathenaic Stadium
Built originally as a racetrack in 330 BC, redone in marble in 144 AD, at one time held 80,000 people, currently 50,000 is the seating capacity. At the last Olympics held in Athens, this was the site of archery and the finishing point of the men’s and women’s marathon. This is where the torch handoff is presented to the Host Olympic city. The stadium is made entirely of marble and the design far-sighted. There is a walkway around the track, but it was designed lower than the track so people walking by won’t block the view of the people sitting in the front row. The water run off below the walkway is still intact and hasn’t needed a bit of restoration. We took turns standing on the First Place podium and did a short sprint on the track (emphasize the word “short).
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Only 15 of the 104 Corinthian Columns remain standing, but you can still get a feeling of the majesty of the building. There is one column in pieces, toppled in 1852 in a wind storm, where you can see how the columns were pieced together. Truly spectacular.
There are just some museums you don’t want to miss…the Louvre, MOMA, the Rijks Museum, The Smithsonian (and many others) and the Acropolis Museum. Great design, great collection of antiquity. The top level is a replica of the Parthenon with the remaining pieces set in place. So sad many of the pieces are on display in other countries, and won’t be returned. Our opinion, they belong here at home.
We loved Athens. We walked where Sophocles, Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus, Hippocrates and so many others walked before us. We tracked through the old Plaka area, ate delicious Greek food (shouldn’t a Greek Salad just be called Salad in Greece?), bought an Athen’s Hard Rock Cafe pin, some jewelry, and soaked up the Grecian sun.
We rent a car tomorrow and drive to the Peloponesse Peninsula and the romantic city of Nafplio.