Thursday, May 28, 2015

Athens Greece And The Scenic Coast......

It was day 12 of our cruise as we docked in the port of Piraeus, the largest port in Greece.  Also one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean, between 12 and 13 cruise ships can dock here at any one time.  Piraeus, a city in it's own rite is seven miles from the city center of Athens. Once again we met up with our tour bus and our guide for the day named Dimitri. 

Todays tour began with a drive along the stunning scenic coastline of the Aegean Sea. I looked out the window in awe at the crystal clear waters so inviting that I just wanted to jump in.  The winding road snaked through the hills which formed small coves in the water just perfect for private skinny dipping. At least that was what Dimitri told us since I surely would never have contemplated such a naughty feat,  at least that's my story for now.

The Scenic Coast Of The Aegean Sea.....Greece


With Some Eight Months Of Summer Greece Is A Popular Tourist Destination


Fish Hatchery
 


About an hour later we stopped at the Temple of Poseidon which sits 200 feet above sea level. Located on Cape Sounion this is where King Aegeus, King of Athens leaped to his death.  According to legend one day he saw his son's ship returning with a black sail indicating that his son had been killed.  Terribly distraught Aegeus jumped off a cliff into the sea thus giving it his name; the Aegean Sea. The temple was built around 440 BC in honor of Poseidon, the god of the sea.

Temple of Poseidon Overlooking The Sea


Stunning Views



Another Look From Below
 

Unlike all of the other tours today's tour includes lunch at a fancy hotel in Athens.  We were a bit worried since we were one of six buses that would be stopping at the hotel.  How could they possibly feed that many people so fast? Totally impressed as this was the nicest, most well organized buffet that I'd ever seen.  Our bus arrived first and we quickly found a place to sit and then off we went to the buffet.  The buffet tables were spread out so many could get to the food at the same time making the process go smoothly.

Since we were in Greece we were served Greek salad, pita breads,  pasta with red sauce, pork souvlaki on skewers, grilled veggies, bottles of wine in either red or white and beer. And for dessert of course there were several types of delicious baklava along with rice pudding. While chatting one of our table mates seemed pre-occupied with something nearby. When I asked she pointed out a member of the dining staff dressed in a white chefs coat.  She said, "look at him, he looks just like Anthony Bourdain from the Travel Channel."  I turned around to look and he really did look like the chef turned actor and thought to myself, "could it be? After all Anthony Bourdain IS a chef, so maybe?"  So I called him over and began to say, "you look like a celebrity on television."  Looking surprised he said, "who?"  I mentioned the name Anthony Bourdain and began to explain who he is. No explanation was necessary since he had other people make the same comment. Ok so we didn't really bump into a famous Travel Channel star today, but at least we found out for sure that it wasn't him. But the buffet was wonderful and filled our bellies with great food as we stumbled out the door from way too much wine.

Next was a tour of Athens with a stop at the very first Olympic stadium made of pure marble.  The Panathenaic Stadium built ca. 556 BC had wooden seats and once sat 50,000. The very first Olympic games were played NAKED and consisted of all male athletes.  Performing naked really epitomized the perfect bodies of the athletics who would anoint themselves with olive oil for an even nicer effect.  In fact the Greek word "gymos" means naked and is where the word gymnasium originated. And the word gymnasium simply means "school for naked exercise."  It was the Greeks who brought physical education to schools which originally was also done naked.  Perhaps more people would have gym memberships today if this tradition still held true?

Original Olympic Stadium Made Of Marble


Another Look

Clyde Posing In Front Of Stadium
 


In 1896  the stadium hosted the first modern Olympic games and today is used for concerts, sporting events and more.  Located on a main boulevard in the middle of Athens the impressive ancient stadium is a site to see.  Throughout our day in Athens we passed by at least four or five other Olympic venues from the 2004 Summer Games now all abandoned.  Our guide said that the government is trying to find uses for the structures but for the most part they just lie dormant.



Next we went by Syntagma Square to see the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier for a photo.  The tomb is guarded full time by a hand selected group of Presidential guards. Across the way sits the Royal Palace which now houses the Greek Parliament.  Nearby we saw another type of triumphant arch called "Hadrian's Gate." 

Syntagma Square
 

Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier, Athens, Greece

 Special Guards
 
 


Then off to the famous Acropolis which means "upper city" so we'd have to climb up hundreds of steps or more. The steps and all of the pathways to and around the Acropolis complex were made of marble and prone to be slippery.  Fortunately we had a sunny, dry, warm day to make the climb because I imagine that the walkways are rather slippery when wet.

Going Up.....To The Acropolis

The Acropolis

Handmade Steps Going Up


The Acropolis Propylaia




This ancient citadel known as the Acropolis sits on a high, rocky area some 490 feet above the city of Athens.  Nearby are the remains of several other important structures, the most famous being the Parthenon.  Apparently even after studying it for centuries experts still don't really understand how the Parthenon was made so perfect during ancient times. Also on the site are Propylaia, the Erecththeion, and the temple of Athena Nike (Apteros Nike) or wingless victory.

Monument Of Agrippa



The Parthenon






The view looking down from the mountain was gorgeous as we strolled through the marble pathways around the ancient monuments.  As our bus made it's way back to the port of Piraeus we marveled at this modern city so full of ancient ruins everywhere we looked. Another place we'd love to return to someday when we're in this part of the world again.......along the gringo trail.

View From The Top










http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acropolis_of_Athens
http://www.theguardian.com/sport/gallery/2014/aug/13/abandoned-athens-olympic-2004-venues-10-years-on-in-pictures

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