Sunday, Self Tour Around Athens!
Slept in and had a late breakfast. We decided to take the metro around Athens to visit more ruins. As a side note to our exploration, we have noticed thousands of homeless dogs all over Greece! Not just little dogs, but monsters over 100 pounds! What is really amazing about this is that the Greeks take care of them! They feed and care for them medically. Every dog is treated as a national treasure! Of all the dogs I saw there was only one miss behaving and barking at everyone who was close. Like I said, they are everywhere, even in the temples!
There are only 15 standing pillars left here but it is still very pretty and worth the time to visit. It makes a better infrared subject with it’s rust colored stone and green grass and trees. It is across the street from Plaka which is a great upscale area under the Acropolis for shopping and dining.
Hephaistion Temple (Theseion)
This is the best and oldest temple in Greece. It has all of its roof and pillars intact. While I shot in both Color and Infrared, it was a Color day. Heavy overcast sky with periods of heavy rain. it is located on the hill of Eolonos Agoraios, which is a metro stop on the Green line. It is a little further away from the Acropolis than Zeus’s temple which is easily viewable from this location. We arrived at the park with only 15 minutes till it closed, but luckily the temple was just a few steps away.
Acropolis at Night
Set high on a large hill overlooking all of Athens, it is the most popular and visited of all the ruins. Today we viewed it from its base from several locations for long shots mostly in Infrared due to the weather.
The Acropolis is the one historical site you can’t miss. You can take a tour or wander up there yourself but during the summer, whatever you do, unless it is overcast, go early or late in the day. It can get very hot up there and gasping for breath can take way from your ability to marvel at the greatest of all archaeological sites. Getting to the Acropolis is easy and more pleasant than ever because the large avenues which border the south and west of the site (Apostolou Pavlou in Thission and Dionissiou Areopagitou in Makrianni) have been turned into giant pedestrian streets with cafes and restaurants and the walk is quite pleasant. From the Plaka and Monastiraki side it has always been a car-less, enjoyable walk and all you have to do is walk uphill from wherever you are and when you get to the top and there are woods instead of buildings, and steps, take a right.
After climbing the steps you are at the entrance, or the Propylaea, which was completed in 432 just before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian wars. The main architect was Mnesicles, a colleague of Phidias. To your left is the Pinacotheca and a Hellenistic pedestal and on the right the tiny temple to Nike Athena or the Athena of Victory which commemorates the Athenians victory over the Persians. This small temple stands on a platform that overlooks the islands of Saronic Gulf and used to house a statue of Athena. It was dismantled by the Turks in 1686 so they could use the platform for a large cannon. It was rebuilt between 1836 and 1842 and again taken apart and rebuilt in 1936 when it was discovered that the platform was crumbing. If you looking from the propylaea towards Pireaus on a clear day you can see ships waiting outside the port of Pireaus, the islands and the mountains of the Peloponessos beyond.
The Parthenon and other main buildings on the Acropolis were built by Pericles in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens. The term acropolis means upper city and many of the city states of ancient Greece are built around an acropolis where the inhabitants can go as a place of refuge in times of invasion. It’s for this reason that the most sacred buildings are usually on the acropolis. It’s the safest most secure place in town. As little as 150 years ago there were still dwellings on the Acropolis of Athens. Those of you who have read Aristophanes will recall that in Lysistrata the women have Athens barricaded themselves in the fortress in protest, being tired of their men going to war against Sparta. Depriving them of sex, cooking and care it was a terrific strategy that might even work today. Regardless, the play opened the door to the subject of sexual frustration in comedy and without it we might not have Woody Allen. Nowdays there are still protests which occasionally take place by site employees closing the Acropolis to tourists, some of whom have waited a lifetime to come to Greece. Thankfully these are rare and of short duration.
The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. Most of the streets have been closed to automobile traffic, though you should still keep a watchful eye for a speeding motorcycle or delivery truck. At one time it was the nightclub district, but most of these closed down when the government out-lawed amplified music in the area in the seventies in an effort to get rid of undesirables. The strategy was very successful and it is now an area of restaurants, Jewelry stores tourist shops, and cafes. Though it is quite commercialized it is still a neighborhood and arguably the nicest neighborhood in central Athens. Most of the restaurants are typical tourist places but the quality of food is not bad in many of them and if you follow my leads in the restaurant section of this guide you should have a few enjoyable evenings and not be unpleasantly surprised by the bill.