Sunday, 23 July 2017

Around and About in Athens

The Parthenon is presently a giant building site

Although Athens boasts a fine new airport road, it seemed it was necessary for our taxi to leave it and plunge through tangled suburban streets which showed considerable evidence of the city’s current financial hardships. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so much graffiti; hardly an inch of any ground floor wall seemed without. To the first-time tourist this is disconcerting; what exactly have I let myself in for here? Fortunately that was where the bad impression both started and stopped.

Monastiriki  Square
With just one and a half days to take in the sights, we began as we often do on the top deck of a circular tour bus. Whoever invented the hop-on/hop-off open-top bus performed a great service to tourism. In Athens that meant our first call was at Monastiriki Square (left) at the foot of The Acropolis where we browsed around the Flea Market and immediately encountered the vexing problem of attractive pottery and glass that had little or no realistic prospect of homeward transportation by air.



Excavations of the old Agora


It was surprising to find excavation of the old agora district (right) going on. For some reason I’d supposed central areas must have been explored long ago, but of course the level at which the archaeologists are working is well below the current city and our own country is always finding ancient sites when digging foundations for new developments too.

A tip for EU citizens visiting The Acropolis: take your passport or pictorial ID; you’ll get in for half price. It’s no good saying you left it in your hotel safe and anyway one can always tell an Englishman by the way he talks.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

On your way up you first encounter the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (left), a superb ancient theatre still in use for modern performances.

The Propylaea, the monumental gateway to the temple area, is a remarkable building in its own right, as is the Erechtheion (below), the older temple at the summit, though of course all the crowds are flocking round The Parthenon (top). How sad that such a magnificent structure should have survived from antiquity only to be blown up in a relatively modern war, sadly an all too familiar spectacle to this day.

Erechtheion

Surrounded by crowds one can only marvel at the colossal remains. I found it impossible to feel the spirit of Ancient Greece while being broiled in the sun on top of an exposed rock. In fact it was hard to feel anything but the urgent need for shade.

Neverthless, from the summit you can see great distances. Amongst the landmarks I picked out Lofos Likavitou, the site of one of my (sadly as yet unpublished) stories, along with the Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Temple of Hephaestus, all of which we had little choice but to pass by in the energy-sapping heat.

By this time we were ready for a rest in our air-conditioned hotel room and a very pleasant dinner in a penthouse restaurant overlooking the Acropolis.