A highlight of the few days spent in Athens before we got to the islands....
22.04.2013 - 25.04.2013 9 °C
An amazingly vibrant and old neighbourhood still in action after a few thousand years! Everywhere you turn from the square, there are wonderful items of every kind to find, to buy, to eat and savour. Spent almost an entire evening walking around this neighbourhood, tasting authentic Greek cuisine and shopping for trinkets and souvenirs. Spending an evening here gave me an insight into the life of a modern day Athens resident which seems to combine a heady mixture of the modern and the traditional with the ever present backdrop of the ancient. Literally!! (The Acropolis looms in the background of this old town).
I attended the evening service at a Greek Orthodox church at the entrance of the Monastiraki square which incidentally seems to be where the name of the town is derived from. It makes you feel like you are in a timeless oasis within the hustle of Athens.
There are lots of bars and restaurants in the small streets off the square, we however found a picturesque back alley eatery and with a little help from our friends at the adjoining table who happened to be locals, ordered a rustic and delicious Greek meal.
Acropolis - Athens
THE BIRTH PLACE OF MODERN DEMOCRACY - There are quite a few stairs to get to the top of the hill where the Acropolis is built but, the view once you reach the top is truly humbling. There’s nothing that prepares you for the feeling that comes with the realisation as to how much history lies beneath your feet and all around you. It is a definite journey back in time and is a surreal experience imagining that something of this magnitude was built by hand nearly 5000 years ago.
Visiting the Acropolis took me back to the time when I studied Greek Mythology in school and like me if you are fascinated with Greek history, Greek gods and goddesses, then this is bound to be a surreal experience. There is a lot of restoration work going on at the site and its heartening to see the Greeks doing everything they can to preserve and restore the buildings on the Acropolis.
The Parthenon that stands proud even in its ruins seems to tell stories as to how it shaped up to be the seat of modern day democracy. It must have been an unbelievable sight all those years ago when the structures were still in their original form. Even like it is today, it is an impressive sight. The carefully calculated spaces between columns, the overall symmetry of these huge marble structures built all those years ago just goes to show how advanced the ancient Greeks were. It was cloudy and windy for the greater part of the time I spent here, but just for a minute the clouds parted and bathed the entire Acropolis with bright sunlight, which if you ask me is probably the only way this wonder has to be viewed. Was lucky to get a good picture of the Parthenon before the sunlight disappeared.
The Porch of Maidens was another sight that was just a treat to the eyes. The statues of 6 women are used as structural pillars are beautiful to say the least. I heard the guide say that the statues on the site are replicas and that 5 of the maidens are housed at the Acropolis Museum and one of them is at the British Museum in London.
After the long trek back to the bottom of the hill lined with a zillion olive trees and fat lazy pigeons who prefer to walk after a meal instead of fly, I now know for a fact that no matter how familiar with the sight of the Acropolis you are and how much familiarity you may credit to your knowledge owing to your school work or just because you browsed through the internet and read everything possible on the subject, nothing (absolutely nothing!) prepares you for the astonishing scale of such a structure that was built millenniums ago. I strongly advise you make the effort and hike up that hill. It is an experience like no other.
NOTE : Its extremely windy atop the Acropolis. The best time to visit would be in the morning or evening. Wear sensible shoes as the path winds and is uneven.
As you make you way down from the Acropolis you can see the fully intact Temple of Hephaestus built in honour of the Greek God of Blacksmiths and Metalworking (pictured above). Did not visit it to the Temple of Hephaestus, but instead paid a visit to the ruins of the Temple of Zeus which is at the base of the hill.
On reaching the city square we found ourselves outside the imposing structure of the Academy of Athens. Took a couple of pictures and walked on, only to find out later that that if we had taken ten steps towards the building, we could have also seen the statues of Socrates and Plato near the base of the pillars supporting the statues of Athena and Apollo.
This city is truly MYTHOLOGICAL.