Greece, Athens – Meeting Greek Gods on Old Roads!

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All our holidays, big vacation or a small weekend break, have been a world different from each other. Even so, there are certain things common to all our vacations. The commonest one is – rain! Greece had been well loved an exception to this ‘rule’ but only until last year.

So it rained in Athens (you must’ve noticed a nasty black cloud looming over our pictures in Temple of Zeus, if not, to quote Great Sherlock Holmes, ”you see but you do not observe!”). I’m not a rain hater per se. But the good thing about this rain was that it made a silent exit after an overnight cooling shower, with a few traces of it in the balcony. That’s my favourite kind of rain, if we were to have a favourite kind of rain, that is.

The night rain left the day sunny and clear like the fried eggs we had for breakfast which were savoured with wonderful views of Acropolis.

Et voila! ready to devour a big helping of history.

 

 

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The handsome Parthenon  at Acropolis, literally translating as the ‘high city’.

 

 

I had always been terribly confused in all these names Acropolis (okay this name is easy but what does it indicate), Parthenon or Pantheon, which one’s which? And now that most of what’s left of one looked like what’s left of the other it’s even harder to tell them apart (okay, I’ve made all the Greek Gods and Greek Gods of architecture turn in their grave with that line!!)

Doing some reading on it has set things straight for me. I’ll do the same for you, just so these words and pictures that follow, make more sense.

ACROPOLIS – is actually a citadel or a large fort comprising of several buildings of historical and architectural importance, the most significant of them all is – Parthenon (and NOT Pantheon, which is in Rome, by the way). The other important structures (well all are important actually) on Acropolis are the Erechtheion, Propylaea, Theater of Herodes Atticus and Temple of Athena Nike.

Some of the best places to view the Acropolis are The Athens Gate Hotel rooftop, Temple of Zeus and ancient Agora of Athens.

 

The following pictures are in order in which they were seen.

 

The first one of these is Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a 1900 year old stone theatre that is still in use! More of a monument of love as Herodes Atticus built this in memory of his wife.

 

 

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Gearing up for an event later in the evening. This theatre has hosted Miss Universe contest and concerts by Frank Sinatra, Nana Mouskouri, Yanni to name a few.

 

From this point you can see the spread of the city goes till horizon where the sky and the sea and city converge.

 

Passing by this we made an entry to the ‘Acropolis’ through the Propylaea which is the name given to a  large monumental entrance way (something like the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the general design of which is also based on Propylaea of Athens).

 

 

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Because the Kings like to make a grand entry!

 

 

Once you are through Propylaea, you’re in the complex proper and you can start ‘oohing and wowing’ and clicking and posing and getting beaten down by the raging sun. Or you may not. Honestly, the first impression might not be that great as the Parthenon looks encaged in a mish-mash of metal rods. You know, something like a handsome cricket player behind a helmet. But they’ve been there since 1975 for the purpose of restoration, that’s long before I was born and they should be off anytime soon.

 

But there’s a good advice that I’ve got from a friend for a forthcoming trip and we did follow it unknowingly here, to see the smaller temples or monuments first and then go on to the big fish. Just like you see the show stopper at the end of the fashion show.

 

The next structure that we saw was Erechtheion, a temple built 2500 years ago, dedicated to Greek Goddess Athena and the Greek God of seas – Poseidon. What’s interesting is, they both were actually rivals!

As goes the mythical lore, a competition between the two took place to decide who would be the protector of the city of Athens. Poseidon struck his trident and drew water from the ground while Athena created an olive tree. The citizens chose the olive tree hence Athena became the protectress of the city that has been named after her.

 

Take that! For all the talk of women power, 2500 years on. And it was a public vote!

 

 

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The beautiful Erechtheion (south side) in the background. In the foreground was the old Temple of Athena Nike.

 

I’ve got lots of pictures of Erechtheion coming up as I found it more interesting than Parthenon itself. Oh well! take another turn Greek Gods!

 

 

 

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Although it was a Greek temple to begin with, it has been modified and used as a palace and a Turkish harem as well.
What you see in background is called ‘Porch of the Caryatids’ or ‘porch of the Maidens’.

 

 

 

 

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These draped ‘maidens’ function as supporting columns built to camouflage an anaesthetic part of the structure.

 

If you ‘observe’ carefully (ahem, ahem) you would notice that all the maidens are different in their face, body and hair and drape. The three on the left stand on their right knee and three on right stand on their left knee! Their hair have been so ‘made’ or designed as to be a part of neck which could not be made a slender one according to conventions of beauty but a thick one that could bear the weight of roof.

Isn’t that so very clever?

 

 

 

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Out of the six maidens one was shipped off to Scotland by a Scottish diplomat!

 

So the missing maiden is now in queen’s country where you can pay her a visit (no offence but by spending big bucks to see the loot). It was taken to decorate Lord Elgin, a Scottish diplomat’s private mansion who later sold it off to the British Museum in London.

To add insult to the injury of Greek maidens and it’s rightful owners, after his first success, he tried his hands on another maiden (greed knows no boundaries) and destroyed it in process. The rest of them (the originals) are now in New Acropolis Museum which you MUST visit.

Make it your commandment ”Thou shalt not cometh back from Athens without visiting the New Acropolis Museum!”

 

 

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The olive tree of Athena at the Acropolis.
Don’t scoff, it could be! :P

 

 

 

 

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Okay, if you’re thinking ‘as if the day isn’t sunny enough looking at the egg yolk yellow”
I’d say ”that’s why”
The sun rays were like Lasers!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Part of Erechtheion.

 

 

And finally the big gun – Parthenon!!

 

 

 

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Parthenon is said to be the most perfect building in the world’s most advanced civilisation!
Also the most copied one!
On top of my head, two I can think of are White House in D.C, The British Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

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This structure is also a temple dedicated to Athena.
It also served as a victory memorial and a treasury.

 

 

 

 

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On a different note, husbands should pay more to attention to their wives, know!?

 

 

 

 

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Over the centuries various historians and architects have studied Parthenon but it said that it still remains to be understood completely.

 

 

 

 

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The stacked columns and the pediments of the temple are the most fascinating  parts for me.

 

Pediment is a triangular shaped topmost cap structure, in this case missing, which almost tells a story graphically. But you can see it re-created in the link below.

Here is an interesting link to beautiful gif showing how Parthenon was or rather could have been today.

 

 

 

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North side of the East Pediment of Parthenon.
Depicts the mythological story of birth of Athena from Zeus.
What remains to be seen today is the horse of Helios, pulling the life giving sun God behind him with great vigour and energy.
I’m sorry, don’t have a better picture to show you.

 

 

 

 

 

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On the other end the horses of Selene (moon) are shown to be tired with eyes bulging and energy flagging at the end of their journey.

 

 

For the rest of the sculptures and story, you may have to travel to Paris, Rome, Vienna and Palermo, where they have been preserved.

 

 

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Besides braving 2500 years of sun and rain, explosions and pollution, wars and vandalism, it’s beauty and enormity makes it one of the most admirable architectural gem of all times. Hands down!

 

 

 

 

 

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Parthenon not only features on World Heritage Sites’ list but also on it’s logo!

 

 

Well, that was pretty much what we saw in a couple of hours, after that heat, hunger and history started weighing us down!

 

 

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But even a small cloud covering the sun can bring such a big relief in this otherwise shadeless place.
A happy and relieved Adi!

 

 

 

 

 

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But if you love history and Greece, you’ll be more than happy here!

 

 

 

 

 

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And don’t forget to go to this spot for views of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

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View of Temple of Zeus and surrounding city from Acropolis

 

 

 

 

 

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Lycabettus Hill rising above the city.

 

 

 

 

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Theatre of Dionysus, said to be more significant a structure than Theatre of Herodes Atticus but no so well preserved.

 

 

Some tips that might help…

Take care of basics – sunblock, sunglasses, a water bottle and rubber sole shoes or sandals.

The terrain is uneven and most of the stones (and boulders) are slippery so watch out for that.

I know you’re on a holiday but rising early does have it’s perks. For example,

 

 

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Escaping school tour groups and cruise crowd!

 

Early morning is really a good time to visit Acropolis. Late evenings should be nice too.

 

 

 

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Keep hydration on – before, during and after!
Otherwise that’ll be the only thing you’ll see in this big city!

 

 

 

 

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A cover up, umbrella or a cotton cape or a desi Indian dupatta or stole, like mine, would help. A lot.

 

 

Here is a link to the official site of Acropolis for tickets prices, opening time and free admission days. You can also read about it’s history and monuments.

 

Besides swimming in and out of Greek history, you can also shop for some great finds in Athens. Two things every girl loves – Shoes and Jewellery!

 

 

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For handcrafted shoes pay a visit to Melissinos . The hundred year old ‘workshop’ of a poet sandal maker.

 

 

All the famous faces behind the shoes are his clients!! And no it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. But don’t go expecting anything fancy. What you’ll find is a collection of about 6-7 authentic Greek shoe designs, you just pick yours and wait in the so called waiting-cum-trying-cum-buying area. You can watch your shoe being made to fit right before your eyes. There definitely is an option for embellishments and colour choice but that takes some time to make. For short time visitors like us, the basic does it.

We both got a pair each and it cost us around 60-65 Euros for both! The shoes are pure leather and pretty comfy.

 

Other shopping areas that can be browsed are …

 

 

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Plaka – a colourful, shadowy and quaint neighbourhood under the shadow of Acropolis, dotted with restaurants and shops that you can spend some time in

 

 

 

 

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Monastiraki square is flea market neighbourhood in old town of Athens.
You can skip it if flea markets and old towns are not your thing,

 

This area is counted as one of the best flea markets in Europe! It also makes it a good viewpoint for beautifully lit Acropolis at night.

Also, by jewellery I mean – trinkets worth 5 to 15 Euros. Also lots of antique stuff so antique hunters can go on an orgy!

 

 

 

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There are lot of places to buy trinkets and jewellery, this is on the way down from Acropolis where I bought a gorgeous copper cuff! On a different note, I repeat myself, husbands should pay more attention to their partners!

 

 

On a final note – do visit ATHENS and do brush up with this post before you take off!

 

 

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Athens on iPhone!

 

 

Do tune in to find out what I shopped here in my next post.

See you soon! 🙂

Comments

  1. Hi, I love your blog, I came across the blog while planning a trip to Santorini. I’m inspired by your travel outfits! What’s your secret/tip for packing all the matching shoes?

    • pastlifeseamstress says:

      Hey there OS!

      Thank you for sharing your love and being here.

      Well, I must confess I’m not a super light traveler but I do manage to get by within the small luggage limits. The secret is one word – BALANCE! As some clothes and shoes are heavier than the other, it’s good to keep a balance of both heavy and light weight clothing and shoes. Also it’d be wise to wear your heaviest outfits(likes of linens, denims ) and heaviest shoes while in transit rather than carrying them in suitcase. Carry all your matching shoes if you must but spread out the weight in your hand luggage and check in baggage.

      Another tip is to use vacuum bags for clothes so that you have enough space for ‘enough’ shoes. But vacuum packing does crush your clothes and those’ll need good ironing before you wear them. That’ll manage the space in your suitcase but not much of weight.

      With my progressive travel experience and progressive shrinkage of luggage allowance I’ve stopped buying shoes and clothes that are too weighty and cumbersome to carry.

      As with everything else in life, keeping it Simple and keeping it Balanced is the key! 🙂

      Hope this helps and I look forward to seeing you here again. Happy and safe travels to you!

      Nykita

  2. Anonymous says:

    Athens___ancient,antique,magnificient. Surely your blog will Attract many more.

    • pastlifeseamstress says:

      I hope so too! Greece is such a wonderful place. Thank you for being here! 🙂

  3. Once again, lovely snaps, precised write-up & a good guiding note for the travelers to be!!!

  4. Absolutely brilliant read.A classic piece about a classic city.Looking great,stay blessed.