Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Journey Begins - Athens

Posted by Melissa
After getting together with friends and family to say our goodbyes, we headed out for our big adventure. We plan to be traveling in Europe for 6 months. We began our journey with three days in Athens.

Lucky us, we managed to arrive for a (not so) lovely HOT spell. Temps were around 100 with high humidity. A bit too much for a couple who are now acclimated to summers in the Pacific Northwest. None the less, we enjoyed the many amazing sights in Athens.

We stayed in a small hotel in The Plaka neighborhood with a spectacular view of The Acropolis.
This was the view from our balcony.
We enjoyed walking through the small, traffic free streets of The Plaka.

Lots of fun window shopping!
The gold here is 18 carat and so pretty!
We hiked up the Acropolis to the Odium of Herodes Atticus, built in 161AD.  It seats 6,000 people.
and, of course, the Parthenon.  It was just so amazing seeing this structure in person after seeing so many photos of it.

From the top of the Acropolis we could see 360 degrees over the city of Athens.  The city has notoriously bad air, however the days we were there were not bad.

Next up on our agenda was strolling through the ancient Agora.  We found this11th-century Byzantine Church of the Apostles. It was quite small and had some nice frescoes.

This is the Temple of Hephaestus, completed 415 BC.  Some people claim it was used as a model for the Parthenon, built just a few years later.  What's nice about this building is that it still pretty much intact, including the roof.  It helped us to picture what the Parthenon would have looked like if it had not been severely damaged by an expolosion in 1687.  

We checked out the changing of the guards at the Parliament building. These guys stand almost perfectly still for four hour shifts.  How they can do that in this heat is beyond me.  The new guys who are starting their shifts look so fresh with crisp uniforms while the ones leaving have completely sweated through their uniforms.

Two years of military service is mandatory in Greece for men.  The guards here are the Evzones, considered the best of the best.  They must be over six feet tall and be able to stand motionless for long periods of time.  It is considered an honor to be chosen.

This 11th century church, The Agia Ekaterini, (St. Catherine's) was just across the sidewalk from our hotel. 
This skull is a relic from Saint that is on display - we could even touch it!

Our first meal in Athens - A seafood risotto, a tasty beef dish with a wonderful tomato/herb sauce, and fried anchovies.  Neither of us had ever had fresh anchovies.  It was interesting.  We found that we liked them, although I don't really like eating the bones.

We spent several hours touring the National Archaeological Museum.  Their collections were amazing!!
16th Century BC gold death mask

Mycenae Funeral Diadem
Amazing piece of gold jewelry
We also saw the original frescoes from ancient Akrotiri, Santorini.  We where going to be visiting Santorini and were excited to be able to see these frescoes before heading to the island.

Before leaving Athens for our cruise, we met several friends for a roof top dinner.  Good friends, good food, and good wine - it doesn't get much better than that. Oh yeah, it also had an acropolis view - very sweet evening.

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