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The Acropolis with Yannis

September 30, 2022

This morning found us on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus again, this time to venture down to the beaches and the Greek Riviera. We were a little disappointed, because the driver sped past all the scenic spots and the stops were always behind some structure that blocked the view. We had decided just to stay on the bus instead of hopping off, since we would have to wait an hour for the next bus whenever we got off. But note to selves (and anyone reading this who might be going to Athens): next time make a day of it; take a swimsuit and towel, get off to enjoy one of the gorgeous beaches and have lunch in a fish tavern.

The reason we were concerned about time today was that we had booked a private late afternoon tour of Plaka and the Acropolis with Yannis, a college senior studying history and political science. He turned out to be a great find: engaging, charming, knowledgeable and fun. And his English was perfect. My only regret was that we failed to get a photo of us with him.

We began with a leisurely meander through Plaka, the oldest, mostly pedestrian section of the city snugged up at the foot of the Acropolis. The narrow streets are crowded with shops and restaurants, including Yannis’ favorite ice cream store, where we had a fortifying scoop before tackling the climb to the top. Outside Plaka the street widened as we made our way to an obviously upscale part of town, which Yannis told us had been a neighborhood for the wealthy since ancient times, due to its views of the Acropolis.

The arched structure is the Odeon, an ancient Roman theater which is still in use today for concerts, opera and theater.

When ascending the Acropolis, there’s the hard way, by climbing slippery marble, or the easy way, by taking the glass elevator, which is more like a funicular. Yannis encouraged us to take the easy way (which I was more than happy to do, given the nasty falls I had taken in Provence and Santorini, which I won’t detail here). Most funiculars ascend at a steep angle; this one went straight up the side of the rock. Not for people with fear of heights, for sure. All we had to do was get by Cerberus guarding the entrance, who demanded to see our papers showing we had some disability. Yannis, who has taken the elevator dozens of times, charmed her into letting us through.

During Covid, when tourism was at a standstill, the Greek government added concrete walkways throughout the site, which make it more accessible for everyone, since the marble rocks are very slippery and the ground is uneven.

I asked Yannis how long the scaffolding on the Parthenon is expected to be in place, and was surprised when he estimated another ten years because the damage is so extensive. It was built to honor the goddess Athena in the 5th century BC, so is two and a half thousand years old. It variously served as a Roman Catholic cathedral and a Byzantine church. During the Ottoman conquest in the 1400s it became a mosque; then they turned it into a munitions dump and it was bombed by the Venetians during their war with the Turks in the 1600s, which accounts for most of the damage you can see today.

Two other smaller temples share space on the Acropolis with the Parthenon: the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. The caryatids on the Erechtheion are replicas; the originals are in the New Acropolis Museum. Interesting fact: each caryatid is a sculpted representation of a real person.

With our time in Athens coming to a close, we realized that we had barely scratched the surface of this amazing city. A return trip would have to include the New Acropolis Museum, more time to explore Plaka, a day on the Greek Riviera and so much more. For our final dinner we went to Krasopoulio tou Kokkora, a taverna recommended by the hotel, and ordered way too much food. I think we agreed that the best of all the dishes was the appetizer of baked feta with honey, though the pork souvlaki was very satisfying — and we were able to have one last bottle of Assyrtiko.

From → Greece, Uncategorized

  1. Mary Madden permalink

    Amazingly I am in Athens right now and was at the Parthenon yesterday morning ahead of you. So glad you had fun. My trip is just beginning. Heading to Delphi this morning. But

  2. Your food sounds amazing and so different from our standard American fare but the french fry must be a universal favorite. What a fabulous experience and I know you are already plotting your return!

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