Day 67: May 18, 2018
We were up at 3:00 am to head to the Corfu airport. We ate our remaining food and drove to the car rental place. There were very few cars on the road that early in the morning. Just after we arrived the guy showed up and opened the car rental shop. He drove us to the airport right away. We were a bit early to drop our bags so we just sat and waited. We dropped our bags then had to wait some more for the domestic security to open. Once we got there we had to wait even more on the other side. There were only two gates. I bought some muffins and we boarded the plane.
The flight was only an hour, but I was able to sleep a bit. This was the first flight that we were offered refreshments and cookies. The flight was with Aegean.
We arrived at the airport and picked up our bags. We went to the information desk to ask about printing our letters for our Russian visas. There was a place with computers and a printer that we were able to use for free within the airport. We printed and signed then double checked all of our documents. We returned to the information desk to ask if there was a courier service at the airport. There was a national post office so we sent our documents with them. The lady said it may take 4-5 days to get there by Express. Monday is a holiday in Canada so they won’t look at it until Tuesday anyways. We sent our package on it’s way and I actually felt a bit better once it was gone. I’m not in control of it anymore.
We went and stood at the arrivals to wait for Caitlin. It took about 30 minutes for her to arrive. I gave her a big hug. It was nice to see a friendly face. She was tired from not sleeping on the plane. We got some pastries and water then walked across the street to the Metro. The ride was quite long from the airport. It took 40 minutes and then we had to switch to another train followed by a 15 minute walk to the Airbnb. The walk was all up hill. We were very sweaty by the time we arrived.
We got the keys from the lockbox and settled in. The place wasn’t quite as nice as the pictures, but it will do. We relaxed a bit and Caitlin laid down. Danny and I snuck out and purchased some groceries for the next couple of days. We came back and then all went to the bakery. We bought some buns and cookies.
We walked to the square suggested by the host for supper. Apparently Athens has an enforced quiet time from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm which we did not know about. We were out just after 5:30 pm, but no one else was out. Greeks don’t each supper until much later.
For supper we had a whole bunch of appetizers: tzatziki, zucchini leaf rolls, meatballs, chickpea mash, Greek salad and baked feta. It was all super yummy. While we were waiting for the bill we noticed a fruit on the ground so I went to pick it up. One of the guys that works there made a motion like, “You can eat it”. He then climbed the tree to collect more. They were small yellow plums that were very juicy. The unripe ones were green and sour like Granny Smith apples. After supper we walked back. Caitlin and I watched Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why and then we went to bed.
Day 67: May 19, 2018
We woke up around 7:30 am and had breakfast. We walked about 30 minutes to Hotel Amalia where our walking tour started. Our first stop was the Greek parliament which used to be the palace. In 1832, the Great Powers put in the first modern king of Greece, King Otto. He was from Bavaria and only 16 years old. He ruled until the Greeks revolted in 1843 and a constitution was granted.
We watched the changing of the guards which happens every hour. Men in Greece have nine months of mandatory military service which they can postpone for university. Only the tallest and straightest legged men are chosen as the guards. When they left their posts they did a weird almost dance and bent their legs then kicked them out. The guide said it may be to bring back circulation to their legs after standing still for an hour.
Behind the guards was a monument for the unknown soldier. The idea came from the war between Athens and Sparta in the second half of the 5th century BC where the Athenians were defeated. The Athenians had an empty grave dedicated to the soldiers that didn’t come home.
On our walk we saw many olive trees. We were told that 370,000 tons of olive oil are exported from Greece every year. An acidity of 0-1% indicates a good quality of olive oil. We even saw pink pepper trees which I didn’t know existed. Danny picked some and we tasted them. They tasted exactly like pepper except pinker.
We saw the Temple of Zeus which was constructed in the 6th century BC, but not finished until the 2nd century AD when the Romans took over. The temple was constructed of limestone. There were originally 104 corinthian columns, but only 15 columns remain standing and one laying down. It would have had a double pitched roof made of wood. There was also a gold statue of Zeus inside, but it was taken by the Byzantines to Constantinople and melted to make coins. Other groups occupying Greece and then many earthquakes have destroyed most of the temple.
We moved on to Hadrian’s Gate. Hadrian was a Roman ruler in the 2nd century AD. He was a fan of Greece and wanted to make Athens the cultural capital of the Roman Empire.
The Acropolis of Athens is one of its best known sites. Acro means high and polis means city. During the Brozen Age in the 13th century BC it is believed there was a fortification at the Acropolis. In the 5th century BC, Pericles coordinated the construction of the main buildings. It was believed that the Cyclops built the buildings as they would be the only ones able to lift the stones that high.
In the 13th century AD the crusaders took over Greece and the buildings on the Acropolis were converted in to Christian buildings. In 1459 the Ottomans captured Athens and then converted the Parthenon to a mosque. They stored gun powder inside and when the Venetians sieged the city, the Parathenon was damaged.
Many statues from the Acropolis were taken during the Ottoman rule. A British ambassador bribed the Ottoman officers so that he could take them and make replicas. Instead, he kept them and sold them. There are now sculptures all over Europe originally from the Acropolis.
At the base of the Acropolis we were told about the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It was built in the Roman period for musical performances and could hold a crowd of 5,000 people.
Up further was the Theatre of Dionysus that was built in the 2nd century BC. It is believed to be the oldest theatre in the world. Tragedies were told with people dressed in goat skins singing religious songs and dancing.
Atop the Acropolis, we saw the Temple of Athena Nike depicting the Athenians deafeating the Persians.
We walked through the Propylaia to enter the Acropolis. Propylaia means a monumental gateway. It was constructed from 437-432 BC, but was never finished.
The marble used for the buildings have iron in it so it has rusted and lost the original white colour. Preservation includes filling holes in the marble like a cavity in your tooth. Lasers such as those used for cataracts are used to clean the black spots caused by acid rain. Plants are also removed from the holes to prevent their roots from destroying the marble.
We walked along to the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. It was built between 421-406 BC.
The protectors of Athens were Athena and Poseidon. In a competition between the two, Athena gave the people the olive tree and Poseidon gave the people the sea. Poseidon brought the sea by striking the Acropolis with his trident and water flowed out. The roof of the Erechtheion had a hole to show where Poseidon’s trident would have gone through. In the end, the people voted for Athena which caused Poseidon to get angry. He took away the women’s right to vote because of this.
The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Athena. It was built between 447 and 438 BC. The east engravings depict the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus. The west shows the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for protection of the city.
From the Acropolis you could see the sprawl of the city. The population of Athens is five million. The highest building allowed is ten stories due to the frequency of earthquakes.
We were given free time to walk around and take pictures. We walked down and got a better look at the Theatre of Dionysus. Then we exited and sat to eat our lunch.
We walked back to the Hotel Amalia to catch the second part of our tour. It was an hour bus ride south to the Temple of Poseidon. Along the way we were told that the main wealth in Greece comes from tourism followed by agriculture, shipping and industry.
The location of the Temple of Poseidon was a sacred spot during ancient times as soldiers returning from the Trojan war were buried there. It was also easily accessible by boats. Sailors could see the temple as they returned to the Attica Pennisula. Down the hill there was also a smaller temple for Athena. Temples were homes for the gods so the Ancient Greeks did not go inside. They would worship and perform sacrifices in front of the temples.
The Temple of Poseidon was in pretty good shape, but the guide said it was easy for people to take marble to their boats from that location.
We drove back and were dropped off closer to our Airbnb. Danny made us supper, we watched a cat documentary on Netflix and stayed up chatting before bed.
Our guide had mentioned that Greeks usually don’t eat supper until 9:00 pm and then go to bed at midnight. This explains why the restaurant the night before was empty at 5:30 pm. It seems odd to us to eat that late, but with the heat and the siestas it makes sense.
Day 69: May 20, 2018
We woke up this morning around 7:15 am and made eggs, sausages and zucchini for breakfast. We walked to Monastiraki Flea Market. Lots of shops were not open yet so we went to the Ancient Agora. It was a large square on the northwest slope of the Acropolis. In Ancient Greece, social and religious activities, commerce, theatre and sports would occur there. It was also where important administrative and judicial functions and political assemblies took place.
The Stoa of Attalids was reconstructed how they believe it would have looked in Ancient Greece. It was interesting to see all the columns and the wooden roof.
We moved on the the Nymphaion which is under the Church of Holy Apostles built in 1000 AD.
We saw where the water clock would have existed. A flotation device would record the passing hours as the water level fell.
Next was the Middle Stoa built between 180-140 BC. It would have been the largest building in the Agora.
We saw the Odeion of Agrippa which hosted musical performances and would hold about 1,000 people. In front was a gymnasium or “Palace of the Giants”. It had statues of the Tritons and Giants from the Odeion.
Then we saw the Altar of Ares and the Temple of Ares. We also saw a container for offerings to the dead from the 5th century BC. We saw the bust of the Emperor Hadrian and you could see how the arms would detach.
We saw the Old Bouleuterion that may have served as a meeting place of an early council that prepared legislative bills to be voted on by the Assembly of the People. The council would have consisted of 500 members.
The Metroon was where the official documents were kept, but there was not much left of it. The New Bouleuterion housed the council in the late 5th century BC. This council was also made of 500 citizens from each of the ten Athenian tribes. The Tholos or Skias was a round structure that was the headquarters of the 50 person executive committee of the council. They served 35-36 days and then were replaced by another 50 people.
We walked up to the Temple of Hephaestus which was the most intact temple we have seen.
There was a view over the Agora with the Acropolis in the background from the temple.
We stopped for lunch and had a mixed meat plate. I think just the gyros would have been better. After we had ice cream. The flavours were delicious.
We walked back through the markets to Areopagus Hill which wasn’t where we were aiming. We continued our hike to the Monument of Philopappos which is where we were aiming. There was a good view of the Acropolis from there.
We walked back down the other side to our Airbnb. We chilled then Caitlin and I went in search of dessert, but everything was already closed. Danny made supper and we watched more 13 Reasons Why before bed.
Athens was a bit less exciting than I anticipated. I very much enjoyed seeing the Acropolis and walking around, but I didn’t get the same excitement as when I was in Rome. I do feel Athens is a place that you have to see to take in the history.
Tomorrow we leave on a road trip of mainland Greece. We are a bit nervous about the driving as we have read that Greek drivers are not the safest. The bus system around Greece seemed a bit complicated and we felt we couldn’t plan properly so a rental car was the only way to go. We are looking forward to the freedom to go where we want and see all the sites.