A Travellerspoint blog

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Getting there...

Our Journey Begins

We left Ithaca at 3:30pm Wednesday. After getting to Newark, we discovered that our next flight (the one to Athens) was not full. Not even close. Good news for us! We each had our own row of seats to lie down on, movies to watch, and a dark, dark cabin in which to (try to) sleep to adjust our clocks to Greek time. Tad and Reilly were thrilled, although Tad would tell you that he thinks the food left something to be desired.
We arrived in Athens at 10:30am Greek time - 3:00 in the morning our time - and decided to try to tough it out until bedtime - something the kids seemed to be fine with, but Dad was not really up to the task, nodding off here and there throughout the evening. We were picked up at the airport by Anne (Dad's sister) and Caeden (our cousin), and drove through Athens to Kifissia, where they live.
We headed down to the neighborhood park, and had lunch there - our first Greek meal. We had Kefteves (pan-fried meatballs), tost (like a ham or turkey-and-cheese panini), homemade sausage, horiatiki (village salad - not for the last time), tzatziki, and french fries. Apparently lunch is a big thing in Greece! We also met the first of MANY stray animals - this time a cat who cuddled around Anne's feet.

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We returned to Anne's house, and hung out with our family before bed, eagerly awaiting the next day's adventures!===

Posted by Dunnie 10:19 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Athens - the Plaka and The Acropolis

Our first foray into the city

We woke up (late) today. After a breakfast, we headed out to downtown Athens. We learned that when the Athenians were digging for the Metro, many archeological finds were unearthed - now, some of the stops contain mini-museums, with plumbing from the first century BC and even a body whose grave was discovered!

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Our next stop was at the Greek Parliament House, where their government meets - Greece is faced with many challenges, including nearly continuous demonstrations against government policies, strikes in all areas of life, and many more. We were treated to a strange sight - the changing of the guard taking place right in front of a demonstration against the Greek government's austerity measures.

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We continued on to the Plaka, the old marketplace of Athens at the foot of the Acropolis. We were amazed at all the different sights, sounds, and smells! Musicians played on corners, while vendors sold their wares. We stopped and got some carrying food (gyros, souvlaki, and more - the real thing is so different than we were used to!), then headed on up the Acropolis toward our destination: the Parthenon.

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Posted by Dunnie 10:46 Archived in Greece Tagged athens parliament plaka mars_hill Comments (2)

The Parthenon (or the PartheNOT)

Why it pays to look up Winter Hours in Greece

When last we wrote, we were at the Plaka, happily munching on Souvlaki and gyros, making our way up the Acropolis toward our ultimate destination: the Parthenon. We wound our way up the narrow lanes, taking pictures of the Ancient Agora (marketplace) with its massive Hephaisteion, a temple dedicated to the blacksmith of the gods, Hephaistos.

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We ended up on Areopagus, a hill just below the Acropolis. Famous as the place St. Paul delivered his famous sermon to the Greeks, as well as the scene of many trials dealing with murder (as seen in the Eumenedies, when Orestes was tried there. It was a wonderful place to see Athens from above, and enjoy being alone with about 50 Nuns who made a pilgrimage to the spot that day!

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After enjoying the rest, we clambered off the hill, and walked over to the entrance to the Parthenon - only to find it was closing. The hours had changed during the week!

For now, we had to be satisfied with the view from here...

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But we were not to be discouraged - we used this opportunity to just head over to the Acropolis Museum!

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Believe me when I tell you that it was a can't miss, beautiful, modern museum. One can only hope that other countries, England especially, will choose to return the works of art they acquired over the years, so that the museum can house them all - especially the sixth "sister" from the porch of the Erectheion.

We continued down the hill, and were met by Hadrian's Arch - once the dividing point between the city of Theseus (Ancient Greece) and the new "City of Hadrian, not of Theseus" (when I say "new" I mean around 131 AD). We would have wanted to hang around and look at it, if it were only not for the speeding traffic right in front of it! We walked on and were met by a fantastic sight: the lowering sun shining on the columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus - the pictures are great, but they still don't do the real thing justice!

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We walked across the park and crossed the street, where we were met with another great sight! The Old Modern Olympic Stadium - from the first Modern Games in 1896. The kids couldn't run the track, but they certainly could jump in victory!

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And victorious we were - tired, but victorious nonetheless - with our aching feet and smiles on our faces, we returned to Anne's house to prepare for our next adventure: Hydra!

Posted by Dunnie 10:23 Archived in Greece Tagged athens temple_of_olympian_zeus Comments (0)

Hydra

if contentment was a place...

17 °C

this would certainly be it.

We woke up this morning, took our seasickness pills, and headed over to the port of Piraeus to catch a ferry to our Greek island of choice: Hydra. About an hour-and-a-half by ferry, Hydra is a wonderfully "old-world" sort of place, located in the Saronic islands, just off the mainland. There are no cars, no motorcycles, nothing of the sort - only donkeys and folks. Hydra is a beautiful little island that attracts artisans and artists.

We realized how lucky we were to be travelling off-season when we got to the port with little time to spare and had no problem at all making the ferry. Usually, there are three times the number of boats heading our to Hydra, and they are all full - ours was about three-quarters full, and we got to choose our seats - lucky for us, because that boat was rocking! The boys were joined by their Uncle TJ (more on him in a moment), and cousins Jake,Sophie, and Nicholas. We were all looking forward to a relaxing day following our Athens adventure.

When we pulled into the harbor at Hydra, truly one of the nicest I have ever seen, we were greeted by twenty or so stray cats: all friendly, and all enjoying a very mild morning.

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We went to the very interesting Historical Archives Museum to learn about Hydra's role in the fight for Greek independence. The kids were enthralled by the firearms exhibit, and all of the interesting stories behind the small island. The museum is small enough that the kids don't get bored, and certainly interesting!

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Once we were done with the museum, we did a little exploring of the island. The kids (and their parents) couldn't stop talking about the beauty of the water (so blue!) and just how peaceful the island was. We had lunch at a taverna next to the harbor and had our first taste of octopus (which the boys LOVED). It was at this moment that we realized a couple of important things: 1) Greek is nowhere near anything Cristy or I had ever studied in our lives; and 2) It was wonderful to have "pocket TJ" with us, speaking fluent Greek and giving us a link to the folks there - believe me, we were thanking our lucky stars for him - and not for the last time!

After lunch, the boys and their cousins hopped on the backs of some very understanding donkeys for a ride around Hydra. It was a highlight for Reilly!
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We spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering around the island, enjoying the sun and marveling about what we were looking at! We met a wonderful stray dog we named Athena, who protected us throughout our journey, right up until we hopped back on our ferry, tired, but very, very happy.
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We got home, refreshed, and ready to tackle the Acropolis the next day.

Posted by Dunnie 13:50 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Unfinished Business...

For those of you who thought we'd never get there

The day after we went to Hydra, we knew that we had a task to attend to: the Parthenon must be visited. I know, there are people who say that it's overrated, that there are plenty of other things that are more worthwhile, etc.

These people know nothing.

The Parthenon, simply put, is Athens, in the same way that the Eiffel Tower is Paris. You simply have to see it.

And so, we headed over to the Acropolis (again), climbed the hill from the Plaka (again), and saw it.

And you know what? It is AWESOME. In the true sense of the word. It is HUGE. It is a feat of mathematics and architecture that would be hard to replicate, even today.

The columns, huge by any standard, are slightly tilted and barely wider in the middle than at the top and bottom. Why? Well, the guys who designed it knew that if they did that, they would look straight from any vantage point in the city. The Greeks knew what they were doing, all right.

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It's a difficult thing, writing about something that has volumes written already - but our favorite story lies in something we don't have a picture of: the battle between Poseidon and Athena for rights to the city.

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As the story tells, Poseidon and Athena each wanted to be patron of the new city: Poseidon, in an attempt to impress the ancient Athenians, struck the rocks of the Acropolis with his trident, causing salt water to gush from the place. There is a large crack in the rocks next to the temple, even today.

The Athenians were impressed indeed, but didn't know what they could do with salt water.

Athena then struck the ground with her spear, causing an olive tree to spring from the place. Thus Greece became fruitful with them. The Athenians were so grateful to her that Athena won the contest and the city became known as Athens. Olive trees have gray undersides of their leaves, which is a sign that they are Athena's - she has gray eyes.

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In short, you know if you are in Athens you will go - and you should - it is moving, impressive, amazing, and interesting all at once. It is a wonderful reminder of what once was, and a reminder of how unique Greece is - with one foot in their glorious past and one in the future - the Parthenon standing on in glory over the modern city of Athens is a perfect metaphor.

Posted by Dunnie 13:17 Archived in Greece Tagged parthenon Comments (0)

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