Day 11: Another visit with the ancients: Athens and the Acropolis

10/21

Got into the port of Piraeus about 7am or a little earlier. It was cloudy, and had been raining, but the precip had passed by the time we were up and about.

Paul didn’t sleep well because he’s caught a cold. He got in a few micro-naps during the day, and seemed fine–I don’t know how people do that. I am not a nap-taker–can’t function without a good night’s sleep. Unless, of course, strong coffee is available.

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We had a quick breakfast and a few minutes up on the top level, then did the match-up with the tours again. I think this is our last scheduled tour excursion–tomorrow is another day at sea, and we’re doing Venice on our own.

Today’s tour was the Acropolis and environs. To get there, the bus had to navigate the craziness that is considered normal traffic. Once again, hooray for bus drivers with nerves of steel!

Piraeus is a typical big city–however, this one has only (!?) five million inhabitants. Clogged narrow roads (although the ones here are bigger than some we saw), little cars bumper-to-bumper, motorbikes making up their own rules, and pedestrians for whom the traffic signals are merely a suggestion. It’s a wonder that anyone is alive at all in this place!

Like Herculaneum, the Acropolis, along with all those other temples and ruins, is right in the midst of newer buildings. “Modern” Athens has nothing really to commend it–none of the buildings are more than a hundred years old (that sounds so weird). The city lost a lot of its buildings because of the bombings that took place in WWII. Nowadays, the replacements–offices, shops, hotels, and residences–bear the strafing of graffiti. Terrible.

(Oh, I think Id better write more later–I am too tired to think…)

Well, after a micro-nap in my chair in the library (a rare occurrence for me), and after reading a few chapters of a new book, I think I can carry on now.

Okay–bus ride.

We reached the Acropolis in about 20 minutes. It is surrounded by a park, which is very pretty and gives the ruins a much-needed separateness from the rest of the city.

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And what’s a park without a dog???

The marble steps and paths were just as slippery as the ones on our walk yesterday, with the same sort of marble used here as in Ephesus. Again–pocked with holes. It’s marvelous that the ancient people formed the pavers this way, but after so many years and so many people, they are getting pretty smoothed out. I walked on concrete or bare ground wherever I could.

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We reached the top in some 30 minutes or so, stopping on occasion so that our tour guide could tell us important historical information. There were a lot of other tour groups going up and down the same path, and it was easy to get lost. This listening-device system is a really good one; if I couldn’t see the guide, at least I could hear her, and knew I was at least within range of the group.

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This is the place where St. Paul preached to the Romans.

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The Temple of Hephaestus–this was as close as we got to it. Bummer.

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Hey, guess what–the Acropolis is under restoration. Seemed to be the theme everywhere we went. However, this one has been going on for some 25 years now. They’re replacing the concrete replacements of the 1970s with titanium marble, making it look exactly like the originals. Yes, it’s taking forever, but it’ll be worth it to have them look less like a patchwork mess and more like the structures they were when they were first built.

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Again–cats everywhere. I am a happy cat lady indeed.

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Walkways at the top weren’t much better than on the way up. In fact, they were pretty much non-existent. Except for patches of smooth stones, washed-out gravelly areas, or sand, the terrain was all rocks. Uneven and harsh, they stood up from the ground like a landscape of misshapen teeth. I had to be really careful where I stepped so as not to antagonize my foot. Still hit that spot a couple of times though–not pleasant. But I didn’t slip or fall, which was a blessing.

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Oh, the humidity amid the humanity! I felt like I was in a sauna practically the whole morning. Oxygen was at a premium, which did not help my breathing. Once in awhile a breeze would blow through–I jumped into that stream as often as I could.

We spent a good couple of hours on our own, climbing around the rocks and taking pictures. Paul focused more on the big picture…

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…while I looked for “angels in the architecture”, a.k.a the details.

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Someone was kind enough to take our picture:

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We were two of the last people back to the meeting point, but I don’t think we were the last. It felt good to get back into the air conditioning! Not that hot out–it was the humidity. I will certainly need a shower tonight.

Our ride through Athens and back to the ship took us past a few really cool sites, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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The guide told us that the guards were specifically chosen for their good looks and their physique. Hmmm…I think I will sign up for the assessor’s job…

We also passed the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate:

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Then we passed them again.

I guess it was because of the detour to see where the first “modern” Olympics were held–in 1896.

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Miscellaneous pictures taken from the bus:

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Then the treat of the day–getting caught in a traffic jam. Oh yay. Well, at least I got to see crazy Greeks in action–or, in this case, non-action. Even the mass-transit vehicles were stuck.

Once we got back to the ship, Paul and I immediately went aboard–no shopping or sipping this time around. We had lunch (yes, it was still early in the day), and Paul went back to the room to take a much-needed nap. Colds are a nasty thing to have on vacation.

Me, I’ve been in the library–in a lovely, dark, quiet corner for a couple of hours. As much as I’d like to remain here, I am dying for some water. I think it’s time for a mile or so on the promenade deck too–I could do with the exercise. (Clambering over rocks and climbing slippery slopes just wasn’t enough–haha.)

Or maybe I’ll go take another nap myself…

***

Can’t close off without a picture of today’s critter:

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Tomorrow: I finish up the afternoon and then regale you with our second day at sea.

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