Saturday, April 12, 2008

Closing Already?

We awakened, well rested and ready for adventure. We chose to have breakfast at the hotel, which was typical European-ham, boiled eggs and breads, then set out to see the Acropolis, which we could see immediately upon exiting the hotel. The streets were crowded with people walking to work and traffic was heavy on the narrow cobblestone streets. The neighborhood reminded me of China, small old shops lining the sidewalks selling household goods, sundries, and shoes. On the street corners, older men were selling oval shaped sesame breads that were stacked several feet high. There was a distinct smell of a busy city. Along the way we stopped to see the Roman Agora and then made our way through a fruit market and gift stalls, up the hill to the Acropolis. It is really an incredible contrast in time, these enormous ruins sitting on a flat rock high above the busy city of Athens. As you walk up the path, one of the first stops looks down into the theatre of Herodes Atticus. At Beule gate, there are throngs of tourists and school groups making their way up. We seemed to have reached this place at prime tourist hour.

The new entrance to the Acropolis is the Propylaia with its majestic columns. As you make your way in through the gate, the path opens out into a large flat area and the splendor of the Parthenon greets you and literally takes your breath away. It is surrounded on almost 3 sides by scaffolding as they continue to renovate the building. I think it is probably a lifetime job for some of the men. There are stacks of marble and columns waiting to be retrofitted and you can see where the old joins the new on the structures already completed. I was amazed at the size of the building for pictures cannot do it justice. It leaves you in awe and lets your imagination run wild in picturing what it must have looked like in its full glory. The path runs around the building; it is not possible to enter into it, or to see into it and being there makes you long to go inside. The Acropolis museum is now closed and its collection has been moved to the National Arch. Museum in Athens. We took our time, leisurely walking the grounds, soaking in the atmosphere and the grandeur of the place.

Walking back down the path, we went into the Ancient Agora, a marketplace that was the political heart of ancient Athens. The rebuilt Stoa is the most complete building, and there are some statues on display; I loved the colonnades and the great hall and took many pictures of them. From there, we walked up to Areopagos Hill, a stony hill, which looks across to the Acropolis.

Lunch is a guidebook recommendation-in a small residential square-I had stuffed grape leaves and Ray had lamb; we also tried their fava beans in tomato sauce. It was ok but expensive-the stuffing in my grape leaf reminded me of Heidi’s food, lamb and rice! We walked around the city and the traffic and pollution reminded me of cities in China.

After a short break at the hotel, we set out for a walk around around the city at sunset and took night shots of the Acropolis, all lit up. We decided to forego a fancy dinner and tried some local spinach pie, Greek pizza, and gelato.


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