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Athens Trip – Day 2 – Part 1

The second day in Athens was probably our most eventful one, going to the mainly tourist places and also the unknown areas that were recommended to us by a guide, visiting the Acropolis and having lunch in the Plaka, before clambering up the Philopappus Monument at sunset. It’s just too bad we didn’t get to visit Socrates’ Prison, that was located inside the Archaeological site…

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Where Am I? Post in comments below to have a guess. Shoutout to your blog if you get it close enough.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Morning at the Herodion was a busy one. We awoke at eight in the morning and went downstairs to have our buffet breakfast. The food was largely shaped around Western and English-themed foods, but there was a Greek salad bar with cheese and feta. They also served a whole array of carbohydrates, with pain au chocolates, mini croissants and seeded bread. They also had condiments for the breads-cheese, butter, jams and even Nutella. They had freshly scrambled, fried and boiled eggs along with bacon, delicious little sausages and a selection of cold hams.

Everyday they made freshly squeezed juices: grapefruit, tomato, orange and vitamin juice. They also had a coffee/tea machine.

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Breakfast at the Herodion Hotel. Don’t try the cereal, it’s horrible.

After breakfast whilst my Dad and brother sorted out better rooms I scoured the ground floor, exploring the Hotel’s restaurant and bar, the Atrium, and playing a bit of chess with myself (I’m pretty bad.) It’s beautifully designed, with a skylight overhanging the cosy room bedecked with soft plush chairs stacked with cushions that you can just sink into. The atmosphere is serene and friendly, and outside the glass walls are a stunning display of canopy trees and shrubs, providing a jungle-like experience. At night, since Christmas was coming, the trees lighted up with yellowish bulbs.

First class view

After a bit of chess we finally managed to switch our awful first floor rooms for lovely fourth floor ones, with working doors and less noise, albeit just outside our window was a school with some raucous kids (entering the school secretly during the weekend, tut tut), although there was a magnificent view of the Acropolis and a sneak peak of the Museum if you bent your head round enough. The rooms were now next to each other and even had a door that connected the two rooms so we didn’t have to go outside just to go to the other room. The only problem with our new room was the fact that whenever you flushed the toilet, the whole room started smelling like a sewer which wasn’t entirely pleasant. Oh well.

The Acropolis

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The heavily angled trees on the Cecropia

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Fangorn forest

Living right next to the Acropolis, we made our way out at around ten and it took about five minutes to reach the entrance of the bottom of the Acropolis (before the part where you pay for your tickets, literally just inside the bars that surround the bottom.) As soon as we stepped through the bars it was like we had entered a whole new world-the trees eclipsed most parts of the pathway making it seem half a jungle. Unlike Beijing’s dead, yellowish straws and England’s squishy muddy ones Athens’ grass was all lush and a bright fir green. We entered through the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a spectacular work of stonemasonry created by the man himself in dedication to his wife (who indeed must have rewarded him lovingly.) Although then closed parts of the amphitheatre were still viewable either from above or below-the odd stone there, the statue without a nose, and random runes and numerals scraped into the rock.

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Side view of the Odeum of Herodes Atticus

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Yay! A man without a head! What fun!

Proceeding onwards we reached the ticket office, swathed within the canopied leafy tops of low-lying trees bent at disagreeable angles, pollarded whilst still hardly past there first couple of years in neat little grassy rows descending down the steep slope of the hill. The ticket-sellers weren’t exactly ‘friendly’-they at first said I was ‘eighteen’ and had to pay ‘the full adult price’ even though when going past cinema ticket-holders they always looked at me in this suspicious way whenever I went to watch a 12A movie with my friends. (Well I watched Fury over the weekend, so ha. Although honestly speaking it really should have been 18-Saving Private Ryan was nowhere near the abominations shown in Fury.) Once we moved past the gates and entered the Acropolis area everything altered dramatically.

Firstly the trees all became olive trees, the object Athena created against a battle with Poseidon (god of the sea and just so happened to be Zeus’ brother as well) who created a piece of coral, but the citizens were wowed by the new thing Athena had created (so thank Athena for your olives, basically.) and chose her to be the patriot of their newfounded city, Athens. Dried, shrivelled little olives were scattered along all the paved paths with their silvery rimmed leaves staying firmly on their branches. The entrance directly passed on top of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus so we could get a bird’s eye view of the area, which was currently habituated with two young girls and a young man taking photos of the surroundings from inside the amphitheatre.

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The top of the Odeum of Herodes Atticus. You can see the stone on the opposite hill which is the peak of the Philopappus Monument that we visited later.

Following the steepening path upwards we continued our ascent until we reached the Propylaea, or the gates to the entrance of the Acropolis. (The Propylaea quite literally means a monumental gateway and isn’t just a name that the gate belonging to the Acropolis has) The Propylaea has endured centuries of conflict, war and vicious attacks and it’s a wonder that any of it survives, let alone full standing pillars made of Pentelic marble and limestone.

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The Propylaea, filled with people.

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Two little lions

Finally we entered the actual site of the Acropolis, and what a sight it was! We could see the whole lengths of the city, down to the coast where you could just make out some of the many islands surrounding Greece’s coast, as well as other surrounding leaf-topped mountains with green forest running down their sides that were of a similar size to the Cecropia1 (the name of the rock on which the Acropolis stands). The site itself was actually rather lacking-half of the area was blocked up with those annoying rounded iron bar fences that are always in your way, with all kinds of rubble and stones thrown in that area.

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Hi over there!

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Let’s rock and rubble (sorry)

However, the attractions were truly resplendent in their beauty and gleamed in the winter sun (See, it was a week from Christmas Day and it was about as hot as England gets. So don’t forget your sun cream if you’re going there this summer.) We looked at all the sites but the ones I remember the most distinctly were, quite obviously, the Parthenon and the Erectheion. To be quite frank with you I have to admit that I honestly don’t remember that much about the others (I had to search up Athena Nike just to have a vague idea of what it was and where it was. As well as the Propylaea.) So sorry in advance if you were hoping for me to talk about all kinds of Greek and Roman gods and the like.

The Parthenon was obviously undergoing work, as ever, but the completed sides were obvious in contrast to the ones being redeveloped. Odd cut out white shapes of newly cut marble contrasted greatly with the old tanned stones, weathered and yellowish, but hopefully these stark differences will merge together with age as time goes on. Although you could not enter the Parthenon itself just standing in front of it was a spectacle to behold-how Pericles and Phidias2 could have performed such a feat, especially comparing their less efficient tools to our machines, each pillar cut out just perfect (the two outer pillars are slightly larger and rounded than their counterparts, if you look closely) and the ceiling creating a perfect triangular shape from which the basis of the friezes, metopes and pediments come from. Don’t worry-I’ll cover these later when we actually visited the Acropolis Museum-at night!

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The redeveloped side of the Parthenon. Notice how the white new marble definitely does not blend in with its yellowed and aged counterparts.

The Erectheion was a similar sight, and even if the Caryatids themselves have been redesigned and replaced (the originals are also now in the Acropolis Museum, although I have foolishly seemed to have missed them when I went and thus cannot go into much detail about them) they were still equally extraordinary.

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Was the Erectheion partially burned out? If not, why is the ceiling so black?

The Caryatids were beautifully carved Pentelic marble statues of young women, and they held up the Southern porch of the Erectheion as form of pillar. They really are lovely things-definitely something you should see when there yourself.

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NB These are not the originals! These are newer versions of the former, which are now located in the New Acropolis Museum. Just go up the glass stairs and turn around. You’ll see them (unlike me.)

After a bit of waffling around-taking pictures of cats, looking at the surroundings, getting some close-ups on a friendly butterfly or two we decided it was time to held back down to do some more exploring. At this point it was around twelve o’clock and we wanted to find someplace to eat. We hurried back down the slope, with a brief pause on the way to contemplate on the ruins of what would have been the Dionysos Theatre as well as some dry, stick-like figures of bamboo before reaching the road at the bottom of the Cecropia. We didn’t really know where to go until a lovely American man riding a Segway came towards us, handing out some leaflets for a local Segway tour company. He seemed like a very pleasant man and didn’t just try promoting his business; he also told us about good places to go nearby. The place he suggested to us was the Plaka, he told us: “the smart tourists go to the Plaka.” Maybe not 100% true, but we thank you anyways. (Don’t worry-we did go on a Segway trip the next day, so I’ll tell you all soon 😉 )

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A bird’s eye perspective of what remains of the Dionysos Theatre. Did you know that Dionysos was the god of wine and festivity? He was depicted as having grapes on his head!

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Here’s one of my butterflies.

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Charlie and my mum.

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Were they growing tadpoles or something?

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I love clovers. They’re so beautiful and smooth to touch.

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You can use this as a fancy background picture for your computer!

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Some will understand when I talk about the unimportant chair…

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I got no arm!

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