What a wondrous day! Where to begin is truly a difficult task. We walked today where St. Paul challenged the Athenians with his incredible debating skills and prevailed. It was in the ancient Agora that Paul made known the unknown God, and began what has become his 'signature' sermon.
Today was the day we walked backward in Greek history to the top of the hill up to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, the Temple of Dionysis, and so very much more. It was an awesome day.
Stavros dropped us off right by the Parliament building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Immediately we saw the changing of the guard. While a bit silly looking it was never-the-less quite a feat of practice and perfection in movement. Each step, each turn was perfectly coordinated. Quite impressive, indeed.
But, the ruins beckoned, and we went for a brief walk in the National Gardens before we saw Hadrian's arch and the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We were on our way! Buying a comprehensive ticket we then began the trek toward the Acropolis. But on our way we stumbled on the Plaka district which was truly FILLED with storefront vendors of every kind and description. Karen found some things which interested her but, true to form, she bought nothing. At the back of Plaka was a sign to the Acropolis pointing to a quaint winding path which made its way through refrigerator-box sized houses clinging to the side of the mountain. At times we walked through pathways between the houses (always with well-worn steps leading upward), and at others we literally walked on the roofs of homes! Everywhere there were sparkling white walls and contrasting red roofs, interlaced with beautiful plants and blossoms of every description. We climbed and climbed until finally we saw the ticket-taking booth ahead of us. But, what's up? There was a lock on the gate!! It finally dawned on us that this was the off season, and only the main gate was open. So, down and down we went, then hiked around to the opposite side of the Acropolis. Finally we found an open gate, and began our climb all over again. This winding path went to the very summit of the Acropolis, and was every bit worth the climb. The colossal Parthenon greeted us at the top of the final broad stairway. Surrounded by scaffolding (the Greek government is trying to overcome the economic crisis by providing jobs) it was thoroughly impressive. How could people with none of the tools or mechanisation of today have built such a sound and lasting structure? It is truly a mystery. Yet, there it was, waiting to cause our mouths to drop in awe and wonder just as millions before us. We also were awestruck with the Erechtheion, with its beautiful feminine figures continuing to hold it together over the centuries. We saw from above the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Theater of Dionysus and the sprawling city of Athens far below us. Perched high on another peak we saw a monastery, its white dome glistening in the sun. As we began our descent we saw the Temple of Athena Nike, and left by the Beule Gate. Before walking down, and having filled ourselves with the visual images around and below us we decided to look in on the Acropolis Museum. How sad, though. It was closed, and perhaps even permanently. It was the major disappointment of the day. Another unexpected was that all the ancient sites closed at 3:00 p.m. It was just impossible to get to all of them before closing time. Still, we were able to take photos of them from vantage points beyond the fences which opened our eyes with wonder. Maybe they were actually better than going into the sites. That, at least, is what we've convinced ourselves. While making our way down, by way of back streets, we came upon The University of Indiana Athens Campus. Of course, we had to take a picture for Steven!
We walked through the Monastiraki section of town (an outdoor flea market kind of place) and then went to look at the Roman Agora with its Tower of the Winds and the Ancient Agora. It was in one of these that St. Paul held his debate. We saw the massive Hadrian's Library and walked by the Apostoli Church (though it, too, was closed).
The next thing on our agenda was to find the Larissa train station so we could purchase our tickets to Thessaloniki for tomorrow. After a thoroughly exhilarating day we had the further adventure of returning to Glyfada. We were able to get on the subway across the street from the train station and took it to a stop where we caught a tram which finally placed us in downtown Glyfada. The wonder of it all was that this went without a hitch! (Thank goodness for English speaking people in information booths!) We were picked up by Stavros and family, and had a delightful time at friend George's creperie where we had a delicious crepes filled with white chocolate and strawberries or cheese and ham. Finally, it was time to head back to Spiros and Faye's for a much needed night's rest.