08.07.2010 97 °F
Hello! We are just getting on the boat after touring Kusadasi, Turkey, today, but this post will be about Athens. I tried to upload it last night, but it didn't work, so I'm trying again!
So … who noticed yesterday that Kev has shaved his beard?? Doesn’t he look so amazing! (He did before also). Can’t believe I forgot to write that last night!
Anyway, we had a great day in Athens today. It started off this morning pulling into the port (watching off our balcony), which is actually Piraeus. Athens is not a port, but has relied on Piraeus as its port for hundreds of years, so much so that Athens and Piraeus have kind of meshed together into one huge city – MUCH bigger than Kev or I would have imagined! We took a quick peek off our balcony, had a quick breakfast, and headed out to our tour.
We had chosen the most popular excursion – a combination of a guided tour of the Acropolis and walking around the Plaka (city center/ shopping area) on your own. Once we met our group and boarded the bus, it was only a 30-40 minute drive to the Acropolis, and we arrived around 11am. Little did we realize (or focus on the fact that) the Acropolis is THE destination in Athens, so EVERYONE on our ship, plus the three other cruise ships that were in Piraeus today, would be heading to the Acropolis at the same time. It was PACKED! Our tour guide estimated that 120-140 busloads emptied out at the Acropolis today. Walking up the 80 ancient marble stairs to the Acropolis itself took about 30 minutes because the crowds were so dense. But the views were worth it! Here are a few shots from our walk up, and showing how big the city is.
It was so incredible to be standing on, in, and around the ruins of such an elaborate structure, some of which was built as early as 437 BC!!! The Acropolis was initially built to house the government, when Athens (which was the first place to establish a true democracy) was governing other city-states of the ancient world. The Acropolis contains the Parthenon (the largest building you’ll see), Erechtheion (smaller temple), the Propylaia (the entrance), the Temple of Athena Nike (smallest temple), and several other ruins. Currently, they are doing a good bit of restoration, especially on the Parthenon and the temple of Nike, but even despite their efforts, it is amazing to think that we were looking at the exact same slabs of marble that people were looking at 2500 years ago! Here are a few shots of the Parthenon …
And the restoration…
We spent a few hours looking around the various ruins, including the aforementioned ones, and a large theatre that is still in use today, seen below. Here’s an incredible story … as we were wandering around, looking for our tour group (which we’d lost about 45 minutes before), we stumbled into one of Kevin’s friends from the Harvard Cross Country Team, Tom Benson! He is traveling around the world with his sisters and just happened to be at the Acropolis today. What a small world!
Did I mention that it was HOT? It was 97 degrees today (we had to look it up, since of course they use Celsius/ Centrigrade here), and it definitely felt like it! Anyway, once we finished touring the Acropolis, we boarded the bus and had a quick city tour. One of the highlights was the first stadium of the modern Olympics – first used in 1896 and also used in 2004 for archery and the MARATHON! It was really cool to be standing on the same grounds that the Olympic marathoners ran on a few years ago. Hopefully it gave Kev some good luck for the Chicago Marathon in October!
We also saw Hadrian’s Arch, which is famous but was relatively plain (I want to look up the story on it – all I know is that Hadrian was a very romantic ruler and built the arch to woo some girl – but I could be making that up so don’t use that in your next Jeopardy game! We passed by the Parliament building, with guards that are changed every hour in a somewhat elaborate ceremony (that we didn’t see).
After our tour, we parked at the Plaka, which was basically just a handful of cobblestone streets packed with stores selling tourist goods (Athens postcards, Athens pictures, etc.) We didn’t buy anything, but we had fun looking around. We also had lunch at an authentic Greek place – doesn’t Kev look hot (as in sweaty hot)? I had a Greek salad and a pita, Kev had chicken kebabs (which he swears were undercooked but ate after I assured him they were fine). We also had a scoop of gelato each, but I forgot to take a picture of that.
By the time we got back to the ship, we were tired and exhausted! The heat really drains you, and our tour was almost 7 hours! There is one cure for that – the ship’s LIBRARY! I spent almost an hour perusing their selections – I’ll let you know how I like my new book once I dive in! We tried to sit on our balcony to watch the sailaway (which was supposed to be at 6:15pm), but several of the tours got delayed somehow, and the ship waits for all of the tours, so we didn’t end up sailing away until 8pm. By that time, we were already at dinner. Another good one! Kev started with Aegaen shrimp, and I had <insert Greek name that I forget here> chicken, lemon, and mint soup. He had red lentil soup next and I had house salad, but we didn’t take pictures. For our entrée, he had the grilled filet medallions, and I had chicken braised in <insert second Greek name that I forget here> wine. For dessert, we each had the Love Boat Mousse, which was SOO good – we were moaning of fullness for a while after that.
After dinner, we headed to the pool deck, where they were showing the World Cup game on the outdoor big screen. We got chairs with a pretty bad view of the screen, but were happy to be there anyway. It was such an experience to watch the game outside, in the middle of the ocean, and there were SO many fans! Embarassingly, we left early, but Spain is up 1-0 and I hope they win! We have a 5:45am wake up call tomorrow for our excursion in Kusadasi, Turkey, so I’d better get in my 6 hours of sleep! Hope all is well!
PS … YES! Shrimp Newburg! Who said that?