Ancient Athens

Well, I finally find some time to update the pictures from my travels. Even though six months have already passed!

After two and half weeks relaxing on the Greek islands, we headed to Athens, for an injection of culture.

People had warned us off Athens; told us it was dirty, derelict, boring, grungy, with nothing to do. We were apprehensive, and booked a limiting two night stay, planning to heed the advice of others and get out as quickly as possible.

Yet, as often happens with travel, plans had to be changed upon arrival. We got to Athens and fell in love!

We found it to be a city of immense juxtapositions; a fascinating step back in time to the very foundations of Western civilzation. A blend of old and new. Rich and poor. Expansive and limiting. The history, architecture, food and passion of that city were incredible and awe-inspiring. Yes, there were some dodgy areas populated by pimps and drug addicts, but there were so many other interesting parts to the city!

We immediately decided to stay five nights, and are so glad we gave ourselves more time to explore this culturally-rich, historical and artistically-driven city.

Athenic Guards
These soldiers stood guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, out the front of Parliament.
Their shifts were four hours long, standing and protecting the site. Every ten minutes or so, they would stomp around like this, in carefully choreographed moves, banging their guns and frou-frouing their little pompom feet. Once finished, another soldier would then attend to both as they stood frozen in place; he would comb and rearrange their tassles, mop their brow of sweat, and straighten their uniforms, all with the utmost gentility and care. Quite amusing.

Athenic Columns
The Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora.
Visiting Athens, you can be assured of one thing: the Greeks love a column or two.

Financial Crisis
Evidence of the Greek financial crisis was everywhere in Athens. On the islands, you wouldn’t have a clue what was happening. But in the capital, it was writ large. Buildings like this were a common sight; shut down, evacuated, abandoned, dilapidated. Often they had been looted or destroyed. This one was plastered with banners of political messages. Not a happy time for Greece. We had just missed a large riot which had occured a few days before we arrived.

The National Archaelogical Museum was one of the best museums I have ever been to. It was fascinating! Ideally, I would have gone back a few times to take in all the different sections, because it was all a bit too much for one day. Chris and I started to suffer from our characteristic museum delirium after a few too many hours there!

Mycene Outfit
My favourite section was the area about Mycenae, an ancient civilization. It was FILLED with artefacts which had been collected from various sites, and I found it an absolutely fascinating glimpse into past lives. Also, the Mycenaens loved a bit of gold. All the jewellery and various forms of body and clothing adornments left me awe-struck. Above is a ceremonial outfit made from gold for the burial of a baby. I found it creepy, but was also really drawn to it as a concept too. I guess there are worse ways to be interred.

Mycene Pins
Amazing bits of decorative gold, used to pin on clothes.
I loved their repetition of shape and pattern.

Mycene Bull

Mycene Gold
More repetitive shapes. Again, I believe these were used for ceremonies, and to place on clothing. So much bloody gold!!!

Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium. This was built in the 4th Century BC, and was the site for the first modern Olympic Games, in 1896.
Yes, we ran around the track, and pretended we were Usain Bolt.
I actually found it a really interesting site, and once again, as in most of Athens, struggled to conceive of the extensive history of such a place.

Panathenaic Stadium Statue
Well, the sculptor of this guy just went “I really can’t be stuffed today. I’m just going to carve the absolute basics, the only things necessary to convey this man as young and virile. Then I’m going to go home, eat a gyros, and have a nap.” (Remember, we are in Greece.)
So, yeah. I think we can perfectly conceive his artistic vision!

Stockholm Olympics 1912 Poster
Loved this poster.

Coming up to the Parthenon, atop the Acropolis. As with nearly every sight we visited in Europe, it was heavily under construction, and concealed with scaffolding. But I like this shot for the juxtaposition of the ancient stucture, and the modern, man-made intervention for preservation.

Temple of Olympian Zeus
Temple of Olympian Zeus.
This bad boy took 700 years to build, only to crumble down at a later date. These are some of the only columns still standing. Wouldn’t you be miffed if you were the builder?

More Parthenon glory. More Greek columns. More crumbled ruins. More glorious, crisp blue skies (some of the last we saw for a while!)

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