on October 11, 2009
We had arrived by cruise ship at the port of Pireas and since the port is a reasonable distance from the city of Athens we took a tour bus in and around as we only had one day. First impressions were of a huge, very built up city which was very hectic. It was a lot larger than I had originally anticipated.First stop was the stadium built for the 1896 Olympics. It was impressive to view but we were not able to enter the stadium but had to take our photographs from one end. If you time it badly and lots of coaches are there at the same time it is hard to get much of an impression of the size. However if you turn around and look up on the hills you get a lovely view of the Acropolis. We then went past what we were told used to be the Royal palace and now the traditionally dressed Greek presidential guards can be seen at the monument to the Unknown Soldier. They are a splendid sight in their white and black adorned uniforms and red shoes with pompoms. We were told that we were not able to stop and take photos for security reasons, I don't know if that is strictly true or whether the coach driver didn't want to try and park as the roads seemed very chaotic! We were then taken to the Acropolis. This is the name of the hill on which several monuments are clustered. Being July it was very, very hot and the crowds were unbelievable. If you are an independent traveler I believe it would be well worth the effort to get there early. By the time we arrived at about 10.30 it was heaving. The car park is at the bottom of the hill and there is a pleasant shady walk at the foot of the hill, there are lots of locals selling all sorts so be prepared for people trying to talk to you all the time but no-one was persistent or unpleasant if you were not interested and were polite about it! There were a couple of men in Greek Guard outfits who would pose for photographs for a fee. Once you get to the base of the monuments it gets steeper and even busier. Hang on to your loved ones as it is very easy to get split up as you work your way up the narrow walkways. There are lots of groups so make sure you know what your guide looks like if you are taking a tour. This area is really not at all accessible to people with any problems in walking or in a wheelchair.Once at the top the marvels of the Parthenon are breathtaking as are the fantastic views across the whole of Athens. There is a lot of scaffolding around the Parthenon. I was surprised to find that most of the damage to the structure took place because of shelling in 1687 and gunpowder that was being stored there exploded. The Greek guide spent quite a while explaining about Lord Elgin who took most of the remaining marble to the British museum! The other main building up there is the Erechtheion which was built about 410BC and which was built with a whole in the roof to show where Poseidons trident came down whilst fighting for the city of Athens with Athena. This building is surrounded by the Caryatids which are statues of traditionally dressed maidens. None of the ones seen are original, one original is in the British Museum (Lord Elgin again!), one is missing and the others are in the Acropolis Museum. If you get a good guide they tell you all the Greek legends which are fascinating in relation to the place and the buildings. Once you have shuffled down the steps again it is time for a change of pace. The Plaka is a maze of quiet streets with cafes and shops, not far from the Acropolis. Compared to the Parthenon it felt quiet anyway! Turn off the main streets and it was not too hectic but be careful to note which way you are walking it was quite maze like but made for good souvenir hunting. I believe Athens has far more to offer but from what I saw I would prefer to stay out of the city and travel in for a few days to visit more of the historic sights as the city itself didn't look too appealing and the pollution is quite bad. However to visit places I had seen in photos when I studied Greek legends in my primary school was worth my asthmatic wheezing!
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009