|Our bus tour today is the highlights of Athens. Our first stop is the sacred rock of the Acropolis. It was for many centuries, the most important religious center of the city of Athens. After the 11th century BC, it became the home of the cult of Athena, patron goddess of the city that took her name, and of other gods, and was adorned down to the end of antiquity with majestic temples, brilliant buildings and a vast number of votive monuments.
In the middle of the 5th century BC, when Athens was at the height of its power, the ambitious artistic program of Perikles was implemented: the Parthenon, the Propylaea and a little later, the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, were all erected between 447 and 506 BC remaining to the present day witnesses to the Greek Classical civilization.
Over the centuries, the rocky hill was continuously used either as a cult place or as a residential area or both.
The inscriptions on the numerous and precious offerings to the sanctuary of Athena (marble korai, bronze and clay statuettes and vases) indicate that the cult of the city's patron goddess was established as early as the Archaic period (650-480 B.C.).
The monuments on the Acropolis reflect the successive phases of the city's history. Some of them were converted into Christian churches, houses of the Franks and later on, of the Turks.
We observe several stray dogs around the monuments. Our tour guide explains that Greeks believe that animal shelters are inhumane so they only use them when an animal is sick. Instead, abandoned animals are picked up and taken to the animal shelter where they are spayed or neutered, given vaccinations and then given a Greek name which is engraved on a collar. Since Greek apartments are too small to house a dog, the dog is released on the street. Greek residents adopt each dog and feed it but they run loose around the city. Many stay around the monuments for the attention and the comfort of the marble (warm in winter and cool in summer).
Our next stop, Panathinaikon Stadium, is a beautiful marble stadium that was built in the 4th century BC. It was the stadium where the Olympics 2004 opening and closing ceremonies were held. Our next stop, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, is an impressive temple dedicated to the father of the gods – Zeus. This was the largest temple in ancient Greece. Our final stop, the Greek Parliament, is a neoclassical building originally built in the 1800s as the palace of the first kings of Greece. We are just in time to see the ceremonial “changing of the presidential guards”.