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Monday, May 20, 2013

Greece - Athens - Acropolis - Parthenon - A Boyhood Dream Comes True

Lulu ready for her Athens conference - the Parthenon ready for me. 

It was 1960 - in the old Tamaqua Junior High building along the Schuylkill River - where I first was fascinated by the Parthenon in Ancient History class. Mrs. Bonner required us to draw maps and pictures of historic places for extra credit. I choose the Parthenon because she said it was where Democracy was born. All my life I have wanted to hike up the Acropolis to find the "Cradle of Democracy."

On Sunday at about 4 PM our KLM jet landed in Athens. Getting our bags and the train ride took almost two hours until we arrived at our Olympic Hotel. For the next 5 nights this will be our home. After unpacking - we went up on the roof to find the Acropolis. We looked all over and could not find it until we turned around - boom - there is was - our first glimpse. The sun was setting in the west - we were in the east with the high historic plateau in between. For 2500 years that building was up there waiting for me to see it.

The city/state Athens is given credit with being the first democracy in the world. People voted for leaders and passed laws by majority just like our country does it today :-)

We decided to walk to the Acropolis - we knew it was closed - but we figured there would be a place to eat nearby. There were very few people on the street - very little noise.  We rounded the corner to the wonderful sites and sounds of a festival. There were street musicians and entertainers - food stands and restaurants. There was a giant marble wide walkway that seemed to circle the base of the mountain. We walked to the gate of the Acropolis hoping that it might be open. When we got there a bus full of troops arrived - we heard there could be trouble here. Not this time - as about 20 ornately dressed guards got out of the bus. Hardly anyone was there - but it was the changing of the guard - the night guards coming on duty. They assembled - I got a picture or two - and they marched through the gate and up the zigzagging path to the top. 

Lulu said my first comment was "I never expected to see the Acropolis in such a state of disrepair." She thought - typical Harry - he wants to tidy everything up. What I meant was that this is documented as one of the more historic sites in the world and someone should be doing something to preserve it. It has been selected as most important world heritage site in Europe. Lulu said, "What do you expect - it is called historic ruins?" 

We were here one day too late - or we are leaving here one day too early. There was a special festival Saturday (International Museums Day). All admissions to the museums and Acropolis were free. They only do this once a year - and everyone comes into town to visit this wonderful hill. We will be here for 5 days - but the day after we leave is full moon. Again - they let you go up the Acropolis for free and at night to boot. No time for feeling sorry for myself - I have 5 days to explore in this historic mecca. 

We walked back down the marble path - enjoyed the street crowds - found a lovely sidewalk cafe - had some wine and local Greek food. I do not talk about food much - but my veal and pasta was very nice. Lulu looked enchanting under the bright first quarter moon - directly overhead. Tons of scooters were parked along the street - some quietly came and went as we dined. After that - it was a short two blocks back to our hotel.

This morning - Monday morning - we had breakfast on the roof. The eastern sun was lighting up the plateau above - we were still in the shade. Lulu was all dressed up for her conference as we enjoyed a large European breakfast. For the next 5 mornings - I will dine with two beautiful sites - Lulu and the Parthenon - my two childhood friends. 

The Night Guard of the Acropolis. As we approached the gate to the famous hill - this bus pulled up and unloaded the graveyard shift - 12 hours of duty on the mountain in those outfits. 

When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon - he quickly scooped up some dirt and put it in his pocket. In case there was a speedy exit - at least he had something. I always quickly take a scoop of dirt picture - nothing spectacular - looking northeast - sun already down - me and my new found old friend - The Parthenon. 

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