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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Athens By Foot - An Easy City to Fall For

Caryatid Women Porch on the Erecthium on the Acropolis.

Lulu had sandals made at Athenian Shop - Thebes model sandals.

As Lulu left for her conference after breakfast - Monday -  I decided to explore some of the historic ruins myself. I did not want to hit the big ones alone - I would wait until Lulu was done her conference to do that with her. Generally when we are at conferences - while Lulu works - I search out the good stuff for us to do together. I am like an editor - reviewing everything and cutting out the stuff that would not please the publisher. 

I lean heavily toward history and transportation. Lulu likes shopping - the Arts - entertainment - and dining. Stuff that pleases me can be downright boring. Her eyes glaze over with talks of scooters - cars - battlefields - and geology. I snooze at shopping and overdone plays and musicals and swimming pools. 

Just north across the street from our hotel is the Temple of Zeus Olympia. It was easily the largest temple in ancient Greece and Rome. The Athenians started it around 500 BC - it was so massive it never got done - money problems - what else is new. When Hadrian was emperor of Rome around 100 AD - a mere 600 years later - he really took a liking to Athens and finished the temple. He put a 50 foot tall statue of Zeus inside - and just in case the Greeks did not know who was in charge here - he put an equally impressive status of himself next to Zeus. It reminds me of a situation that happened at Florida State a few years ago. In front of the Wescott Building - FSU's Old Main is a statue on the right of Frances Epps - the first benefactor of FSU. In one of his last acts as leader - recent president T K Wetherell worked a statue of himself on the left - in an equally important position. When looking at the accomplishments of Wetherell - I can think of two that reach the status of impressive. First - he convinced the NCAA to allow the Florida State sports teams to continue to be called "Seminoles." Second - he hired my son to work in his office. 

Hadrian is considering the 3rd of 5 - great emperors. During his rein he steered clear of any major wars. He also supported the arts - and traveled all over the empire publicizing his benevolence. He built the famous wall across England keeping the barbarians out. He stretched the Roman Empire into Africa. In Athens - many of the ruins are Roman - from Hadrian's time.

At the Temple of Zeus Olympia - I bought a combo ticket that had coupons on it that allowed me to visit 7 different ruin sites. I got one for Lulu too - 12 euros each - $16.

It was hot - and I went back to the hotel to rest for lunch. Athens reaches 90s and dry in May - this was such a day. When you stepped into the tree shade - a wonderful breeze kept you dry. I found myself bopping from tree to tree - finding benches - and just sucking it all in.

At lunch - Lulu emailed to say she would be done at 4:30 PM. This gave me a good 4 hours to hit another  major ruin site. At the foot of the Acropolis was the Amphitheater of Dionsys. I used one coupon and walked among the ruins of this old Greek showplace. It was in a major state of disrepair - but they allowed you to walk in the ruins - sit in the seats - climb around. This is what I had in mind as a kid. Historic places in America would have barbed wire around ruins this important. It would be like climbing over the stone walls at Pickett's Charge in Gettysburg. This stuff is 2500 year old - and for that many years - tourist shave been hauling off their own little part of history. 

Behind that theater - I started hiking up the mountain. All along the way are bases of old temples - a bronze smelter - and a Byzantine well - and many large stone pots buried in the mountain. The Acropolis first looks like a plateau - then your realize it was just a mountain - and the people from 500 BC chose to built high walls and fill them in to make a butte - mesa - plateau - fortress - high place. One can only enter the citadel on the west side - up steps thru a gate. I walked that way - not planning to enter the gate - I did not want to spend another E ticket - like Disneyland. 

To my surprise - somehow I passed the admission area - and I was at the top for free! My camera was going a mile a minute as there ---- right in front of me was the Parthenon. It was about 2 PM - and the sun was not in a great picture position - but I could not stop now. I had two hours before I had to meet Lulu at the hotel. We are not using cellphones here - I had to keep my schedule. Snap - snap - snap - The Erecthium ---- click click - Caryatid Porch - and from the east side - some long pictures of the Parthenon. You cannot go inside - safety reasons. The Parthenon is not in great shape. To see what it really looked like - go to Nashville TN. The replica they build there might seem gauche - but it impresses me.

The Parthenon was a perfect building. There is not a straight line on it - every line is curved for pleasing visual effect. It was doing pretty good all the way up to 1478 - before Columbus came to America. The Athenians stored their gun powder there - a lucky cannon shot by the Turks hit dead center and blew it up. The middle is gone - along with the roof. All those beautiful polished marble tiles - gone. The marble has a slight yellow tinge to it - making the place glow in the morning or evening sun. I will bring Lulu here in the morning at 8 AM.

The clock was pushing 4 PM - like Cinderella I had ot rush back to meet Lulu. I would be able to bring Lulu back here another day. 

At around 4:30 - Lulu and I headed out to ward the modern Capitol. It was just one subway stop away - north of us. Every city has one major shopping street. In London it is Oxford Street - in Tamaqua it used to be Broad St. Paris has Champs Elysses. Lulu wanted to visit a famous sandal place off Emmou St. Downtown Athens - is a wonderful place to stroll and shop. Find the shady side of the street - and away you go. Finally we hit the sandals place. Their window was full of large leather hides - pictures of celebs in sandals - Jackie O - John Lennon - Joe Biden. Lulu picked a style - picked a leather - was size up. 28 Euros later they were snipping the strap and Lulu accomplished a major goal. 

We weaved our way back thru the street using the Acropolis as a beacon. It was very easy to navigate - and I was surprised at where we were - and how close to home. We passed tons of eating places mixed in among homes - ruins - shops - ruins - and scooters. It was Lulu's job to pick a place to eat. We were getting close to home and 8 PM - 3 hours past my eating time and 2 hours to bed time. Finally - she picked a place - within 20 feet of the table we ate at the night before. Although our waiter from the night before we resisted - spurned his offer - and just across the sidewalk line - at a table in another restaurant. I had a porch chop that covered my plate. Another carafe of wine - and a short two blocks to our hotel. My head hit the pillow at 10 PM - and the next thing I re-call - it was 7 AM - and breakfast.

Temple of Zeus Olympus - started by Greeks - 700 years later Roman finished it.

Ruins right in front of our Royal Olympic Hotel.

The roof top restaurant on out hotel. We have breakfast there every day. Yes - it is included.

Marble blocks held together by metal pins.

This pillar survived 2400 years - it fell in a wind storm in 1842.

Hadrian Gate - Rome made Athens the center of culture. Hadrian surrounded the city with a wall.

Theater of Dionysos at base of Acropolis.

Every tree was an oasis - place to sit - enjoy the breeze - avoid the heat - contemplate

I have not looked up Peripatos yet.

Roman theater near west side of Acropolis.

The Parthenon - west side.

My favorite - Caryatid Porch. The statues are replicas. The originals are in the museum now. One is missing - stolen by Lord Elgin - placed in British Museum.

Read about the Erecthium - I am not kidding.

The Erecthium and Caryatid Porch.

Athens is a low city that goes on forever. Few buildings above 4 floors.

Fancy home at base of the Acropolis.

East side of Parthenon. Notice the marble is light yellow and glows in sunlight. Sun was at 2 PM - not good for pictures. I will go back tomorrow.

Another temple on Acropolis.

Athen subway - Lulu on shopping excursion.

Subway was simple - 3 lines - red - blue - green.

Lulu loves libraries. This is Hadrian's Library.

Harry - ruins - north side of Acropolis.

Lots of cats live in ruins. Must enjoy rats.

Rats 1 - Cats 0.

Parthenon from our hotel roof - 7 AM - morning sun.

New meaning  to the term "box seats"

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