From a previous trip………..
The big news in Greece this summer has been the arrest of November 17 members. November 17 is the terrorist organization that has periodically bombed buildings and assassinated prominent people in Greece since the 1970’s. But walking through the National Gardens the next day, the big discussion was soccer or podosfero as they call it. I bought Andrea and Mike shirts with the names of two soccer players on them. The name on Mike’s shirt, Nicolaides, always elicits comments from people. Supposedly, he is one of their best players.
We also saw the Temple of Zeus in daylight. It is just as imposing in the sun as it is under the moon. Walking back, I saw an elderly woman riding a motorcycle (which are very popular here) and she lay on her horn because the traffic cop didn’t change the lights soon enough.
We passed the evzones again. This time they put on a show. Four people posed for pictures with one of them and he banged his rifle butt into the ground. His supervisor came out of his “hut” and glared at the public. Then, he told the people in Greek that only two people could pose with an evzone at a time. I translated for them. Another woman sat on the steps and the other soldier banged his rifle butt and brought out the supervisor. The poor woman jumped out of her skin when the evzone did that. The supervisor informed her that no one could sit on the steps, either. Then Andrea posed in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and he gestured to her to leave.
“Is it forbidden?” Ι asked.
“Forbidden!” He answered.
This time we were in time for the full changing of the guard ceremony. They walk like marionettes and the ceremony is short. They do, however, stop in front of the Tomb and pay respects. The soldiers were the fustanella, or short skirt, of the soldiers from the War of Independence. They wear tights, shoes that curl up at the toe and are decorated with a pompom, and long caps with tassels. Their supervisor wears pants, a shirt, and a beret.
Once in a while, he would come out of his hut and wipe the sweat off of their faces or look them right in the face and speak in low tones. I’d love to know what he told them. Something like, “Get ready to change positions.”
Later, we went to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Posideion. We drove in a different direction than we did yesterday. We passed the suburbs of Athens, like Glyfada and Voula, etc. lots of boats, and beautiful beaches (very few topless, etc., but I did see one guy’s butt) and new homes. Many of them are left incomplete because the owners ran out of money, or were built illegally or something like that.
The view from Cape Sounion is breathtaking and worth the trip with or without the Temple. Lord Byron wrote his name somewhere on the temple but I couldn’t find it. The bay and the boats and the village across the bay are very picturesque. I can appreciate Byron going there to write poetry (and graffiti), reflect and get away from it all.
In the evening we decided to walk up Mount Lycabettus which is above the neighborhood of Kolonaki. Kolonaki is not far from our hotel room. I didn’t know that it is a hilly neighborhood. There are steps that serve for sidewalks just like in Pittsburgh. Well, we climbed those steps looking for a trolley or lift of some kind that would take us up part of the way. Well, we never found it. So we kept on climbing until we reached the first of two cafes.
“Is there a vehicular that will take us up?” Mike asked.
“No,” the waitress answered.
So we kept climbing and climbing and climbing until, two thousand feet later, we reached the top. We didn’t see too many people on the way but when we arrived, we saw lots of people. They were all waiting for the sun to set. We went into the little church and lit candles, etc. and then waited with everyone else. The sun was an intense red orange and it produced rays that radiated toward the sky. As time went by, it grew larger and larger and redder and redder. It finally set behind a horizon of clouds. He took several shots of the view. Hope they come out.
We also ate dinner in the outdoor restaurant half way down the hill. I’ve never had bad food to eat in Greece but this time we had slow service. We also had visitors. Every stray cat in Kolonaki was there begging for scraps.
On our way up, we passed a woman who was sitting on her porch, talking on her phone. On the way back, she was still there, chatting away.
PS I forgot to say that the view from Mount Lycabettus was awesome like so many of the other views. You see all of Athens and probably part of Piraeus (if I knew what to look for when I looked towards that port city). The Acropolis is spectacular lit up at night and so is the Temple of Zeus.
The Parthenon is spectacular in 96 degree heat as well as in the evening. Of course, it involves another climb up another hill, the famous Acropolis, but by now, we were used to it. Experts are currently working on the ruins and there is scaffolding everywhere including the Parthenon. I understand that this work is being done because pollution is eroding the marble not because the monuments are falling. (Someone else might know more than I.)
It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World (depending on the list and the year the list was published). That fact alone gave me more chills but I am always astounded that I am walking where Pericles, Plato, and others once walked. One can see far and wide. I enjoyed the museum of artifacts there, too. Mike and Andrea left the museum before I did and in the interim, Andrea ran into two of her camp counselors from Camp Nazareth (a camp run by the Archdiocese here in the Pittsburgh area)! They took pictures to mark the occasion.
On our way down we ran into our friends and koumbari who are here for a wedding (to which we were also invited). I had called another friend that morning and she told me I would run into them. I didn’t think so because the Acropolis was so crowded. It was fun to see them even though I was going to see them that evening anyway.
On our way out, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant in Monastiraki and walked over to the Agora and archeological museum. I pointed out an olive tree to Mike. The olives are green and not yet ripe for picking. I barely touched them when a guard shouted to me not to handle the olives. Ooops. These trees are probably harvested in the fall like all the other olive trees in Greece.
Museum guards and others are very strict about the rules and regulations. In Rhodes I stepped on a footing so I could see through a bay window and the guard there also yelled at me. (The breeze was worth it.)
We walked around Monastiraki and looked at the flea market there. The objects for sale are much like the stuff I would find in a flea market in the US with
a few exceptions here and there. I did see two large Karagiozi (shadow puppets) but I decided not to even think about buying them. Where would I put them back home? I guess I would find a place.
Well, we lost our way back to the Plaka. We took the Metro as far as the foot of the Acropolis just to see what it was like to ride it. We had another long walk (and I mean long) but we finally found the Metro station. The Metro is very new and very clean and there are absolutely no vendors in any of the ones I saw. There are police who patrol them and are very helpful if you have questions.
On the way to the Metro, we saw new townhouses that had recently been constructed. They were gorgeous and looked like they were made of marble. I don’t know what they were really made of. They were right next to the Acropolis. What a sight, especially in the evening.
We found our friends in the taverna in Vouliagmeni that night. The family of the groom hosted the event and there was plenty to eat including kokoretsi. The kids enjoyed looking at the pig and lamb that were turning on the spit. Andrea and the other kids had a lot of fun together and practiced speaking Greek. I don’t know how many times I had to confirm the meaning of some very simple Greek words and terms to them but I hope they still remember them. It was a late night but fun to be with friends.
We landed at the big, new Eleutherios Venizelos Airport but a driver did not meet us. It was a misunderstanding with the travel agency. (Of course, I was upset but we weren’t going to waste time in the airport.) I should have expected a snag. We were compelled to hire a cab driver who took us for 42e (euros).
As I learned the streets of Athens, I later came to realize that he took us around Athens and did not drive directly to the hotel. I think Athenian taxi cab drivers should be, in keeping with the “humanistic” policies of the new European Union, sentenced to life in jail without parole. Actually, they should bring back the Rack, which they used to torture people in medieval times, and bring on a revival of nostalgia.
That evening we headed for the Plaka but on our way, I spied an evzone (soldier) marching as we were turning towards Syntagma Square. I ran to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament building. We took Andrea’s picture standing next to one. She loved it and every evening or afternoon we were in the neighborhood we had to stop and visit the evzones.
The Plaka is like the old medieval villages: narrow, streets, shops, tavernas, etc., but you can see the Acropolis from there. At night it is lit up and quite beautiful. The Parthenon is on the other side and I know we’re going there later in the week so I stayed near the other end. As the government built the Metro, more antiquities were discovered and you can see some of the excavations that have begun as a result.
We had a delicious dinner at an outdoor taverna (salad and mousaka) and passed Syntgama square and the evzones again. It was quite dark by this time so we didn’t take photos.
The next day we took a long motor coach trip to Delphi. We passed industrial buildings and an agricultural region. There are many, many olive groves. We stopped at two different villages to rest and buy souvenirs. Finally, reach Mount Parnassus which is an awesome site by itself. We enter the site and descend. The first stop is the old Roman agora or marketplace. You can see Parnassus close up and it is more imposing than from a distance. Delphi gave me chills because I came to realize that Alexander and other famous Greeks from ancient history walked these very paths and consulted the Oracle.
We climbed to the very top in intense afternoon heat, past the Rock of Sybille and other architectural landmarks. We finally reached the stadium there. It is like a football field. Mike and Andrea were ready to race the length of it but I stopped them. No use getting sunstroke now. The descent was easier but no less hot. We also visited the museum with the famous sculpture of the charioteer. Another interesting object that I saw was the early version of glass which was later developed by the Romans into the form it is today.
It’s also interesting to note that under these mountains were gasses. The Oracle would go down into the cavity of mountain and take a whiff of the stuff. Then she would come up and give her cryptic messages.
Archaeologists from Pennsylvania recently found traces of a gas in the mountains around Delphi giving some proof to this theory.
The view here is heady enough because you can see for miles and Mount Parnassus dominates the valley. That would give me a high especially if I came to work everyday to recite prophecies; I wouldn’t need anything else.
When we returned we walked to the Temple of Zeus which, like every other monument, is lit up at night. It is tall and isolated from the Acropolis which can be seen from there. Next to it is the Botanical or National Gardens. We ate at the cafe there. I had yogurt that tastes like the home made kind my mother used to make and “cure” in the linen closet. Mine had wonderful honey poured over it.
As we left, I again spied out of the corner of my eye, an acrobat. Andrea and I ran to see him and when we were close we realized that it was someone swirling ropes of fire. He was being photographed in front of the Zappeion so I guess it wasn’t a formal show. He repeated his act, though and I took pictures which I hope come out. Mike, in the meantime, wandered off to the restaurant a few yards away. The restaurant was showing MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING in the back to a party of diners.
The Gardens are filled with evening strollers and it is curious no one feels afraid. They stroll quite freely in the semi-darkness. I certainly did not fear to walk the streets at night and we often did so.