Athens turned out to be a very nice city. We were lucky to get an apartment near everything we wanted to see, including an 11th century Byzantine church directly outside the balcony. Turns out, these churches are on every few blocks and being 11th century in Athens is nothing when everything else is thousands of years old. A café owner told us, “You dig anywhere in this city, you find something ancient.” And he was right. There are several places on the sidewalks that are covered in glass where you can see ancient ruins or tiles. Most likely, this happens when they are fixing a pipe or a crack in the sidewalk and then it’s, (sigh…) “Looks like we’re going to need another piece of glass over the sidewalk. Got some more ruins from 1000 BC…. again.”
Our apartment also turned out to be very strategically located just a block from the Pinball Museum. Måns was immediately at home.
Of course we spent our first day exploring the Acropolis, which is high on a hill in the center of town looking over everything. This, of course, includes the famous Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena, completed in 438 BC. It also includes many other famous sites and ruins. The oldest artifacts found in the Acropolis so far date all the way back to 6000 BC. So, just a bit older than my kids think I am.
On other days, we visited the Temple of Zeus, the huge Flea Market, the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus. We even saw the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Parliament, where on Sundays, the guards wear the traditional uniform of the War of Independence in 1821, which is the famous outfit with the white skirts and pom-pom shoes.
We were in Athens on January 6th, which is a very important Christmas holiday in Greece (and many other countries). The 11th century church across the street wanted to make sure we didn’t forget this and rang the bells at 7am. The day before this, it seemed to be the custom that groups of children would walk down the streets with violins, triangles and special decorated boxes to collect money while singing Christmas songs. It was very cute!
Other notable things about Athens:
- Vendors sell a street snack called koulouri, which is a ring-shaped bread covered in sesame seeds. Very good!
- The entire city is filled with orange trees! They’re everywhere. A few lemon trees too. They line the streets, so I guess you could eat for free if you want. I picked one and besides having a lot of seeds, they were just fine.
- There is a special Greek wine called Restina, which has been made for at least 2000 years. It contains pine resin. It makes an interesting flavor.
- You can’t flush toilet paper. Most the pipes in the city are too small. You have to put it in the trash (except new public places). We would often wait until we were at modern museums so we could go to the bathroom without doing that.
At the Parthenon, completed 432 BC.
Måns at the Acropolis.
The Erechtheion, completed 406 BC. Part of the Acropolis.
Overlooking the city of Athens.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the Acropolis. Completed 161 AD.
At the Parthenon
Taking a rest as we make our way up the hill of the Acropolis.
Five Caryatids, maidens that once held up the roof on southern porch of Erechtheion.
Turn the corner from our apartment and WHOA! Acropolis!
Agia Aikaterini Church, 11th century. Photo taken from our apartment balcony.
The Pinball Museum!
Restina wine, made with pine resin.
Every street is lined with orange trees!
Playing with camera filter at Temple of Hephaestus.
Temple of Hephaestus, completed 415 BC.
Up close at the Temple of Hephaestus.
Offering at the Temple of Zeus
Temple of Zeus, Acropolis in the background.
Zeus in current form. Missing my lightning bolt though.
Leo on a giant tree in the National Park.
Changing of the Guard parade
Traditional uniforms from War of Independence in 1821.
Famous Greeks: Socrates, Plato and Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (aka George Michael)
Streets of Athens