One day in Athens Greece but a lifetime of wow. Our stay was longer than a day but we utilized each one to the max. The list of things to see in Athens cannot be described in one post or be seen in one day.
For me this trip was inspired by my mother. As long as I remember I loved history. Both ancient and modern history books were abundant in my parent’s household and not just for decorations. My mom was fascinated by Greek Mythology and would spend hours telling me stories and explaining Greek Gods. Since Gods have always played role in warfare and politics, they have also shaped our world and history.
Over three thousand years old this magnificent array of structures sits atop a 500-foot hill. Fortifications and wall around the site first sprung up in 13th century BC for Mycenaean ruler. By the 5th century BC Athenians built up Acropolis and surrounding area as a result of defeating Persians in a series of great battles and feeling City State pride. This was the time of such architectural marvels as Parthenon and temple of Athena Nike. It is not only miracle that structures like this survived the test of 25 centuries but also shows the excellence in craftsmanship and architecture.
Acropolis is not just one building. Name translates to Summit City (roughly). The Acropolis hill has been center for religious and cultural buildings for Athenians for hundreds of years. Parthenon being the largest on the hill however was not a religious building. Built to commemorate victories over Persians was mostly used as a treasury. The Cult of Athena or the original Athenians considered this place sacred. Erecthion sits on the spot where Athena won over Poseidon to be the patron of the city. It is said that olive tree grew on the spot she touched with her spear.
Entrance will run you about 20 euros in the summer and 10 euros in the winter. You might also be inclined to purchase Athens Pass for about 35 euros which includes 72 hours of bus fares around town and entrances to multiple sites around Athens. Kind of like a combined ticket which you will use up to the fullest. Museums have separate fares. Top of the hill is breezy and provides with excellent views of the City as well as visual bearings for other ancient sites.
The Theaters of Herodes Atticus and Dionyisos
It was a beautiful morning when Kat and I decided to walk up the hill. Gradual incline and wide stairs led us to the stage entrance to this antient Greek theater. Built in 161 AD it was constructed by Romans during Emperor Hadrian reign. Yup, the same Hadrian that is responsible for the divider wall stretching across Britannia. It was Emperors friend Herodes who built it in memory of his wife.
For being almost 2 thousand years old, it is quite amazing that this is still a functioning venue. It can seat up to 5 thousand spectators. Both plays as well as concerts take place here.
On the same slope, just down the path you will run into great remains of spectacular Greek theater Dionyisos. It is the first theater to be built on Acropolis hill before Romans added Herodes Atticus. Originally built of earth works and wood it was upgraded to stone built by 3rd century BC.
It is a great place to sit and relax a while. Depending on your imagination but I just couldn’t help that feeling that I was sitting on the same spot that a spectator did 2 thousand years ago cheering on his favorite gladiator. Yes, the original blood sport was presented here.
Well, all that hiking and strolling along with ancients will make you hungry and thirsty. The best place for satisfying that craving is Plaka. The oldest neighborhood in Athens. Over the years it has been commercialized but still it is a great place to hang out. I know I always preach to stay away from touristy places for meals and such but there are few exceptions and this is one of them. Very old and very colorful are the little streets and shops. If you are looking for souvenirs for yourself and family you will most likely get them here. Shops of all sorts are packed with stuff. Lots of them sell same kind of items but if you search besides the usual T-shirts, coffee mugs, decorative plates and cheap plastic Spartan helmets you will find local crafts.
Just about every corner you will find a proprietor, waiter or host trying to get you to sit in their establishment. We chose a place in the heart of it all as we love watching people. You will hardly ever see vehicle on those streets as it is pedestrians and delivery vehicles only. Poor are the souls in cars that must. Kat and I have seen a couple of them trying to make it thru the crowds. Not an easy task.
For appetizer, there will be plenty choices but we were partial to Saganaki and fried peppers. Saganaki is delicious fried cheese Greek style. Fried green peppers were a local favorite too.
After light lunch with a couple of adult beverages consisting of House Vino and Mythos Greek beer we were ready to see more sights.
Roman Forum and Tower of the Winds
As we left Plaka at the basin of Acropolis we stop to examine Roman Forum. Founded by ever so famous Julius Caesar back in the year of 50 BC. It was like a large market place for commercial use. Smaller than Greek Agora but greatly relieved crowding. Surrounded by columns and having two entrance gates it was Roman heart of commerce in Athens.
Today partial rows of columns and outline of the shops are still visible. The best preserved and known structure in this area is the Tower of the Winds. The 40 feet high tower gets its name from having eight sides with relief depictions dedicated to each wind. On the top of cone-shaped roof there was a shaft with weathervane. Inside the tower at one time there was a very complicated water-clock that was powered by a stream coming from Acropolis.
Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate
Since our hotel was directly across the street from Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate it was easy for us to include it in our days itinerary. The temple that took over 600 years to build enjoyed title of grand and biggest temple for little over 100 years. Construction that started in 6th century BC by tyrants, had to wait to be completed during Roman Emperor Hadrian reign. It was the largest temple in all of Greece. Unfortunately, only 130 years into its complete state, it became one of casualties of barbaric raids into the region. After being sacked it was left in neglect and even stripped for building other projects around city.
Presently there are sixteen massive columns darting into the sky, standing on a platform and surrounded by gardens. Interestingly enough last religious ceremony was performed at the temple in 2007 by the local cult followers.
On the edge of the temple and adjacent to a busy street lone stands Hadrian’s Gate also referred to as Hadrian’s Arch. In its glory days, it is believed that purpose of it was similar to triumph arch. Presumably dedicated to Hadrian by Athenians for being a benefactor to the city.
Hopefully I didn’t bore you with all that history, however in Athens you just can’t get around it. There was not enough time to even mention Greek Agora or first modern Olympics stadium.
More pictures of our travels on our Instagram.