To Athens

We left Meteora (translated “suspended in the air”) and its mystical rocks Saturday a.m.

The Rocks of Meteora in the background of our hotel.

The Rocks of Meteora in the background of our hotel.

with Athens as our target; this involved extended time on the bus, but we did stop several times at rest areas as well as at the Warm Gates (“Gates of Fire”, according to Steven Pressfield’s book, Thermopylae according to Greek legend), site of the famous battle between the Spartans and the Persians.

A monument at Thermopylae erected in honor of Leonidas, leader of the Spartan 300.

A monument at Thermopylae erected in honor of Leonidas, leader of the Spartan 300.

The whole area steams from vents and hot springs resulting in a mysterious (and somewhat smelly) aesthetic.

Upon reaching Athens, we headed directly to THE Acropolis:  every ancient city we have visited has an Acropolis (literally “high city”, meaning the highest point in the settlement, usually the home of important things including temples, statues and government buildings), but the high point in Athens is THE Acropolis — with good reason, it seems.

Top to bottom:  the Parthenon (under restoration right now) and the Erectheion

Top to bottom: the Parthenon (under restoration right now) and the Erectheion

Pericles, coordinator and facilitator for the memorialization of the Acropolis, had a great vision for making Athens the envy of all its neighbors, so grandeur and aesthetic ruled the day.  Large marble structures built to honor gods or heroes were created on a grand scale, then decorated with carvings depicting important battles, major myths, or special Athenian events.  Sadly, England’s Lord Elgin looted the entire site in the 19th century and absconded with many beautiful and important pieces.  Seeing the site is still an unparalleled experience, however, especially visiting the Acropolis museum (finished in 2010) where original artwork and a true-to-scale model of the Parthenon almost make up for being unable to view the stolen works.

Clockwise from upper left:  Frieze detail, Erectheion maidens, Pedestal model dramatizing the contest between Poseidon and Athena for the favor of Athens.

Clockwise from upper left: Frieze detail, Erectheion maidens, Parthenon pedestal model dramatizing the contest between Poseidon and Athena for the favor of Athens.

Our group enjoyed themselves on the Acropolis,People at the Parthenon                                                                   awed not only by what was on the hill, but also the surroundings:

Top:  Looking down on the ancient Greek agora; bottom:  looking out over the modern city.

Top: Looking down on the ancient Greek agora; bottom: looking out over the modern city.

Our hotel is in the heart of old Athens, so we easily strolled from the museum to our rooms.  Since our luggage was still on our bus, however, we waited in the hotel lobby for its arrival.  The one-way VERY narrow street in front of the hotel presented a challenge, so Yanni, our driver, tried backing down the street to the front door.  Cars, one right after the other, came up the street and soon there was quite a jam.  The hotelier went out into the street and with a great deal of gesturing, finally got the cars to back away to make room for the bus.  The vehicle right behind the bus was too slow in moving; being quite small and thus impossible for the bus driver to see, he almost was struck by the bus.  All of us were watching the drama and, I must admit, rather enjoyed it when both the car driver and our bus driver leapt from their vehicles and loudly, with expressive gestures, demonstrated their disapproval of each other.  All ended well, however:  nothing was damaged and we finally were able to unload our luggage.  It has been decided that, for the remainder of our stay here in Athens (through Monday), we will walk about a block to our bus so our driver no longer has to try to fit into the too-small street.  More from Athens tomorrow …

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