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Acropolis now

sunny 74 °F

You have to do it, right? The Acropolis looms over Athens, popping up unexpectedly as you round a corner or on souvenir tea towels all over town. My plan was to get there early; very early. So I set off well before dawn from my apartment and headed up. Another thing about Athens - they are not very big on signage; street names, directions to this or that or even buildings (the National Archaeological Museum doesn't have its name on it). Instead I relied on Mr. Google and the notion that the Acropolis was up so up was good.

Well, here we learn the difference between a local and a global maximum. There are actually two hills in the same vicinity. One is the Acropolis, the other is the Hill of Muses, which I ended up on top of. No worries - in retrospect this is actually the clever way to do it. The climb to the top of the Hill of the Muses is over somewhat rough paths (especially if you are improvising) but no big deal. Arriving, though, I had a fabulous view. Hey - I got your rosy fingered dawn right here.....


There is a small ruin on top of the hill that is also pretty picturesque


and of course you get a great view of the Acropolis (and, sadly, all the construction equipment)


After enjoying the sunrise I dropped back down and, armed with actual sunlight, I struck out for the Acropolis - again. I was aided by one sign that said, helpfully, "Acropolis" and had an arrow. Unfortunately, while technically true, it did in fact point in such a way that I had to walk 320 degrees around the hill to actually find the entrance. Still, a nice walk through a pretty neighborhood. Part of it was through a very tony area and then down tiny pathways between tiny houses likely full of people tired of people like me getting lost on their hill. They have supplemented the Acropolis signage by doubling it to two.


Again, better to be lucky than smart. I arrived at about 7:45 AM. The Acropolis doesn't open until 8, so I got my ticket and was one of the first visitors. This has got to be one of the most photographed places on earth, so I won't show too many of my efforts. This one of the Parthenon is pretty good and illustrates a point - there are only 2 people in the picture! This is the virtue of visiting Greece in the fall, apart from the ludicrously good weather; not many tourists. It turns out that tour buses don't show up until 9, so that first hour is the magic moment to spend some quiet and contemplative time at this amazing place. After 9 - fugeddaboutit.


The second picture above is of another smaller temple next to the Parthenon, which is also quite beautiful and illustrates another point. The statues you see are fakes. This is not something the Greek authorities are trying to hide; it's right on their signage (yes, there is decent informational signage on the Acropolis). As you can see, there is a whole lot of preservation and restoration work ongoing, in part to prevent further damage from air pollution as well as stabilizing the structure. They have made the decision to replace certain parts with replicas so that the originals can be preserved in museums. Oh, and by the way, they are clearly still super pissed off about the Elgin Marbles.

Once it became clear that the crowds were in control, I headed downhill and found a nice cafe for breakfast. Chicken crepes and coffee. By the way, ordering coffee in Greece is probably trickier than even Australia. I never really got the hang of it but ordering a cappuccino is usually a safe option. The Greeks drink tons of 'frape' - milk and water and instant coffee served over ice. I did learn to order a frape metrio - meaning with just a little sugar but it wasn't my fave beverage.


Armed with a few calories, I hit the Metro and headed for the Mediterranean coast of Athens, more or less at random. I ended up along a shoreline that had both mega yacht harbors


and squatters villages of refugees.

The other thing the area held was many Olympic venues. Apart from the main stadium, most of them were completely abandoned and going to ruin. Here's one that doesn't look to bad yet, but is clearly never used - the beach volleyball venue.


Another sad indication of the state of Greece today were the UAC's in this area - someone had gone along and carefully pulled up each and every one of them in the sidewalk and sold them for scrap.


Still, after much walking, I came to a yacht harbor


that had a very nice outdoor restaurant where I had a delicious fish lunch. Which I shared.


I then took the metro to the next stop, Piraeus, which is the end of the line and Athens' main shipping and tour boat harbor. I decided to see if I could squeeze in a visit to a Greek island, as my friend Audrey had suggested. I got a ticket for the next day and headed back. I noticed something odd that I had been unconsciously aware of on the way from the Olympic site to Pireaus. the subway roadbed from Piraeus to the Olympic site was rough and irregular and used traditional jointed rails. As soon as you hit the Olympic site, the roadway was smooth, level and used modern welded rail. Clearly the Greek government had upgraded the track just far enough to get Olympic visitors to the venues from downtown but had cut corners by leaving the last mile in its original sorry state.

A real day of contrasts in Athens. Again.

Posted by tdeits 23:58 Archived in Greece Tagged temples food athens sunrise acropolis

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