14 May 2011
We have our fruit for breakfast and leave for the Acropolis before it gets too hot. It was a noisy night last night, we are just down from the town hall and there has been a lot of protesting. Three days ago a local Greek was killed by an illegal immigrant during a street robbery. The local skinheads and radicals walking down the street with baseball bats, they are having a go at the illegal immigrants, and there is a sizeable police presence. It is a big problem here, and it has turned violent. Near where we are staying (close to where we stayed the first visit) is a bit of a rough area. Many illegal immigrants here are from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Arabs and Indians. Being illegal they cannot work, so turn to petty theft, pickpocketing etc, and flog it off on the street. There are sellers everywhere down the street from our hostel. We hope we are careful enough going out. We don’t carry a purse or wallet, Tony has just one credit card with him and a small amount of cash, worn around the neck but kept down his pants. The phone is in a pouch around the neck too. Nothing much in the backpack, and all the zips are locked, which is a real pain in the arse when you want something out, but hopefully it is enough to stop them. We are told later that they tend to leave the tourists alone, it is bad for business and the police come down hard on them if they have a crack at the tourists. But apparently it is ok to have a crack at the locals.
We find our way to the Acropolis, basically down the hill from our hotel, and start making our way up. For EUR12 ($22) each we can buy a four day pass to the acropolis and six other attractions in Athens. So we reluctantly go with that option, because to get to the Acropolis you had to buy a ticket to get onto the lower slopes, or walk some considerable distance around the hill and then start the climb to the ticket office. They are not exactly truthful about the pass, we were lead to believe it was four days, and you could visit anywhere, any time. For starters there is no date on the bloody thing, so in theory you could use it all week, or more if you were so inclined. Then there are tear off stubs, every time you enter one of the “other” attractions you lose a stub, and when you run out, you cannot visit any more. So yes, you can revisit a place, but it means you miss out – or pay more – for other places. Only one stub has “Acropolis”, so there is only one visit here with this pass. The other thing is that there are not enough stubs to visit all the places they advertised that you could see with the “pass”.
There is no guide or map available, so we are thankful to have our own. The directions we are given are pretty inadequate, as are the signposts. We make our way up the path, the climb up is not as bad as we expected, in fact we hardly notice it. Before long we are overlooking the 5,000 seat theatre, The Odeion of Herodes Atticus, built in 161 AD. We are in awe of the amount of restoration that has been undertaken, the theatre is huge, and to think that this also once had a roof is even more incredible.
Next is the Propylaea, the grand entrance to the Acropolis, built in 437 AD, and as we leave there we come before the Parthenon. This is truly an architectural masterpiece, there isn’t a straight line in the whole design, and the columns only appear to bulge. The Parthenon was built in the late 6th C BC, and is dedicated to the goddess Athena. We spend quite some time on the hill, looking at the other ruins that have been so wonderfully restored. At the Erechtheion we finally see how they managed to put a roof over their buildings. It must have been a hell of a job to lower massive thick marble beams into place, and then place marble tiles over the top.
We are surprised to find free water on the site (no shops of any sort there at all), and fill our water bottles (twice), that saves a few euros!
We leave the Acropolis buildings and are thankful for some time in the shade, it is getting hot. There is a huge marble rock nearby, Areopagus Hill, and a lot of people are climbing it, the view must be great from there too, so Tony has to investigate. There are signs warning how slippery it is, worn smooth by millions of feet. On the top some sheila is complaining how slippery it is (obviously took no notice of the signs), she is wearing jandals on her feet and before long goes tits up on the smooth marble. Actually, she goes tits out. No Tony didn’t get a photo, he was trying not to laugh too loudly. Mastercard moment? You bet!
Back at the park bench Cynthea is enjoying icecream, and Tony is told he will have to share, the snow freeze cost EUR3.50 ($6.60!!). It is stinking hot still, no wonder the Greeks all shut up shop at 3pm for a few hours. As we head away there is a hell of a commotion, a pickpocket has had a go at someone’s wallet, and the police have their dogs are after him. Actually that should be them, there were two working together. One caused a diversion and the second one tried to snatch the wallet. We are not sure if they got it or not, and we didn’t see the police catch them.
We head down to the south side of the Acropolis, there is another ruin over this side of the hill, an ancient theatre. The 17,000 seat Theatre of Dionysos was built in the 5th C BC. In the 4th C BC the wooden part was replaced with marble, and sections of this survive today. It was a quick visit, as the area closes at 3pm, as do all the other sites around the town. Only the Acropolis is open until 6.30pm, now that they have started extending the hours for summer.
The new Acropolis Museum is across the road, at the entrance is a glass floor, and we have no trouble walking over it! Our four day pass doesn’t cover the museum, and they want EUR5 ($9.50) each to enter. We are shattered, we have walked a fair distance already, and it is bloody hot today. We also have to check in our backpacks (but no responsibility for anything missing or broken!), and you are not allowed cell phones or cameras inside. We are too tired to bother, and decide to walk back to the hotel via Hadrian’s Arch and the Plaka district.
Hadrian’s Arch is impressive (and you can see it for free!), constructed in 131 AD. 18m tall, 13m wide, made of marble, this arch has inscriptions on each side. The west side reads “This is Athens, the city of Thesus”, the East side reads “This is the city of Hadrian, not Thesus”. We walk back through the district of Plaka, full of cafes and restaurants, tables all out on the footpath so you have no choice but to walk in the street. It is very, very busy, and after a while you soon get sick of everyone trying to sell you their overpriced food and drink.
Tony grabs a beer from the kiosk, and we make doorstep sandwiches again, bread is a bit stale though. Tony heads up to the common room on the roof for a couple of beers and talks to a few other travellers (mostly Aussies). We chat to an English couple who have also taken a year off work, Chris and Megan are doing volunteer work in exchange for food and board with Next Exchange, we have also looked into that for the UK. No one else in the room tonight, we have the dorm to ourselves.