We're very excited because we are finally visiting the Acropolis today! This is pretty much the main reason we are even in Greece! I know a lot of people head straight towards the islands for their vacations, but if you are into Greek temples and ruins, this is the grand-daddy of all Greek ruins.
Instead of riding, our AirBnB host recommended we take the subway into the city. The weather is sweltering... still over 40C. I was more than happy to be sitting in an air-conditioned subway car for the half-hour ride to the ruins.
The Acropolis is a temple that was built on top of a flat piece of rock that rises about 150m above the city
The name is actually quite descriptive. Acro means Edge and Polis means City. I'm a huge fan of etymology (which is the study of bugs). So Acrophobia, which is the fear of falling off heights is quite literally the fear of the edge.
The one thing we *were* prepared for... crowds. A million people visit the Acropolis every year!
Everyone's photos of Santorini always show an idyllic, peaceful place, free of crowds; those lone blue-domed buildings gleaming in the orange sunset. Those Instagram pictures never show the tens of thousands of people *behind* the camera, beating each other with selfie-sticks while jostling for elbow room on that tiny island.
But the Acropolis... We knew this was the main attraction in Athens. So it wasn't a shock when there was a line up to actually climb the stairs to see the main ruins. I think we queued up for 45 minutes before we reached the top. It felt like we were lining up for a popular amusement park ride, except there wasn't any entertaining sideshows playing along the sides of the lineup...
One thing we weren't prepared for: That same hastily bubble-jet printed-up sign that we last saw in Delphi at the admission booth with the "new" prices listed. €20 for just the Acropolis. All the literature we found on the Internet said it should be €12, and I'm sure if I had pulled off the temporary piece of paper, the sign would still read €12 underneath it. It felt so unofficial and scammy. It just screamed, "Sorry we need the money, and we can't afford to print real signs. Also, we might need to raise the price again next month..."
The only way it could have been more sketchier is if the sign were to have been written in crayon... with €15 crossed out in red...
So obviously we paid. Doing our bit to prop up the Greek economy...
This isn't my first time at the Acropolis. My parents took us on a family vacation here, but I was only a small child when I visited. I do remember the ruins, but I also remember that the most interesting part were the rocks strewn at the base of the ruins. I remember playing at these rocks while my parents walked around. It would be a few more years before I started reading any Greek mythology and would probably have better appreciated these structures then.
The main temple at the Acropolis is dedicated to the goddess Athena.
And then the lightbulb went off... Athena... Athens... *duh* Never made that connection...
Neda says, "Really, you didn't know that Athens came from Athena?!?"
no i r dum neda :(
This smaller building is called the Temple of Athena Nike
If you look closely, you can see kids in the back of the temple assembling Air Jordans... Whew! So hot here, I'm sweating...!
The heads of state would gather at the Acropolis for important meetings. Meanwhile, their bodies stayed behind in Athens.
"So is this one better than the Pula amphitheater, Neda?"
"I'm hot. Can we sit down?"
Taking a break from the heat
Neda is in no mood to be comparing amphitheaters right now. It's too bad, because this next one I think could have given the one in Pula a run for its money...
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus - they still hold performances here
Elton John played here recently, in 2010. Also Sting in 1996.
Neda pipes up, "Sting also played at the Pula Amphitheater!" Ah, there she is!
The Erechtheion, a temple on the north side of the Acropolis site. The six statue/columns are part of the Porch of The Maidens
Although the bricks have been reconstructed, the contrast between the new and the old is very pleasing
The unbuilt section of bricks in the middle looks like a Tetris game in progress
Acropolis was totally worth it! It was so grand and brought back so many of my childhood memories of reading about the Greek gods and heroes. Ancient Greece for me was never about old men in togas spouting philosophy and buggering young boys. It was swords and sandals and horny gods having their way with animals, trees and rivers.
Walking around these old ruins, I'm suddenly ten years old again. Three-headed dogs guard the entrances to the temples and a minotaur lurks behind every corner! Up in the sky, the outline of two men flying, borne on wings made from feathers and wax. The younger of the two soaring higher and higher towards the sun.
This is another thing that Neda and I share in common. She's always been a bookworm and she was into Greek mythology as well when she was younger. There's nothing like walking around old ruins to really fire up the imagination!
You get a great view of Athens from atop the rock that Acropolis sits on. Mount Lycabettus in the distance
In the distance, I spy our next destination, another set of ruins right in the city
And then another one! We're going to have a field day in Athens!
Instead of just buying a pass for the Acropolis, we ended up getting a multi-site pass to the other ruins in Athens. The guy at the ticket booth said that the rest of the sites were between €10-€15 each, so if we visited at least three sites in total, it would be cheaper to get the multi-site pass for €35. We were definitely going to visit more than three sites today, and I do so like a deal!
I checked to see if the multi-pass ticket was written out in red crayon...
Cat stretches out in the shadows to escape the relentless rays of the blazing hot Greek sun overhead
It's only a 2 km walk to the next set of ruins, but we get lost a couple of times on the way to the Temple of Zeus, so it takes us much longer than it should have. Just like when we were in SE Asia, Neda is not coping well in the heat. We have to stop often to find shade. But she is a trooper. And I sense she wants to make the best of our multi-pass just like I do!
Temple of Olympian Zeus, you can see the Acropolis in the background
Closeup of the tops of the columns at the Temple of Zeus. Very pretty.
Even after visiting all these ruins, I still can't tell you anything about the style of these columns.
It's a bit Ionic, don't you think...? Makes me feel like such a Doric...
This column was felled by fierce winds in 1852. They look like the chopped up currywurst we had in Berlin. Mmmm.. getting hungry...
A Roman Bath added just off to the side of the Temple of Zeus. Nice tiling!
Okay, two sites down! "We only have to visit one more site to make our multi-site ticket worthwhile!", I tell Neda excitedly. She gives me a big smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up, but as I turn my head back I swear I could see her smile falter a little. Or maybe that was my imagination.
It was probably my imagination.
We walk back into the pedestrian streets of downtown Athens to try to find the next set of ruins
The air is filled with Greek smells and sounds
One thing we have noticed, there are a lot of excited people yelling, "No! No! No!" They yell this at each other with smiles on their faces, which is quite unusual. Until we find out that the Greek word for "Yes" is "Ne". This is completely confusing to English speakers (and probably for a lot of other non-Greek speakers as well). If you didn't know this, you would think Greek people are very negative people that live to argue with each other. "No! No! No!"
There are a lot of pedestrian streets in Athens. Nice not to worry about being run over by cars or buses while walking around
Next stop! Hadrian's Library! Thankfully, there are a lot of sites all within the centre of Athens, so not too much walking for poor Neda. I can't believe I'm the one more excited about hiking now...
Hadrian's Library. Well, some columns at the site of the library
I told Neda that I'd like to Check Out some columns at the library. I told her I shouldn't be too long Overdue. I told her not to worry, even if I was Overdue, I'd be Fined.
She just starts walking away.
"I'd be Fined! Fined! Get it?"
At least this guy was busting out in laughter
I think I've lost Neda. I walk all over the site and finally discover her in this climate-controlled room where they keep these statues and artifacts that need to be kept out of the sun. There's a security guard here and Neda is pretending to be interested in every single artifact in the room, lingering for minutes on each one as she soaks up the air-conditioning.
"So what did you learn in here, Neda?" I ask. This was her response...
"Ready to see another set of ruins, Neda?"
She looks up at me and yells, "No!" Which as we now know means "Yes" in Greek. Neda was always so good in picking up new languages!
"Okay, off we go!" With every new site we visit, we're practically *making money*!
An Agora is a gathering place or assembly. Somewhere where people can meet up. It's also the root of the word agoraphobia, which means fear of wide open spaces. There's a gift shop here at this site, which sells some specially made clothing. They're called Agora Sweaters.
The Temple of Hephaistos at the Ancient Agora. Very well-preserved!
Finally found some shade in the museum at the Ancient Agora.
We ended up visiting five different sites around Athens! Totally got our money's worth for that multi-site ticket. Poor Neda has melted into a puddle next to me. I'm going to have to scoop her up into a bucket and pour her onto the subway to go home...