This was my first day on my own. Later I would walk up to the Acropolis. But first I needed to go shopping for a small amount of groceries I could fit in our teeny-weeny mini-bar fridge.
On Google Maps, I could see there were a few grocery stores a few blocks away from the hotel. I chose what looked to be the closest, a Lidl. Looking them up online, I found they are a German global discount supermarket chain, that operates over 10,000 stores across Europe. I’m not a fan of discount stores. I prefer to pay a little more and get higher quality and more selection. At home, I’ll choose Thrifty’s, Safeway or Whole Foods over Super Store or NoFrills. But this was a new place and I had a small list of things I wanted so I gave it a go.
The weather was just perfect, about 74F/23c, and sunny, and it was an enjoyable walk up to the store, through the narrow streets. I find it interesting that the discount stores use primary colours, a lot of yellow regardless of where you are in the world. This store had a very low selection, and what there was, wasn’t the same quality we’d get at home. I had a small list however, and was able to get pretty much what I’d come for and a few things I hadn’t.
I had an epiphany while shopping at Lidl that gave me a new understanding for how lonely it must be to move to a new country and know nothing of the language and culture. In North America, I am just great on my own, and I owe some of that to being able to have small conversations with strangers in places such as grocery stores. When you speak a totally different language, that option isn’t open to you. If I were to move here, I’d have to immerse myself quickly, and find groups to join where I could speak English while learning Greek.
The Koukaki neighbourhood
In the afternoon, I walked through the Koukaki neighbourhood, to the Plaka, and wound my way around and up to the Acropolis.
Koukaki and it’s neighbour Makrianni, are south of the Acropolis and Mount Philopappos Hill. They are bordered by Syngrou Avenue (the street our hotel sits on) to the south and Dionysiou road, the beautiful pedestrian street that rings around the south side of the Acropolis.
I’m not sure what year most of these buildings were developed but they definitely aren’t very old, in European standards. I’d guess post World War 2, to maybe the 60s and 70’s. They aren’t particularly attractive buildings but the narrow, winding, up and downhill streets and the balconies overflowing with greenery make up for the bland buildings. It’s an enjoyable stroll through here.
The Animals of the Acropolis
There are a ton of stray dogs and cats in this area, and I will find the same all over Athens and the other parts of Greece we will visit. The stray animals appear to be taken care of. They are well fed, to the point of being overweight. They all wear collars and are tagged. I saw a number with surgery scars and they appear to be sterilized.
I’m pretty open about the fact that I am a huge dog lover and merely tolerate cats, however, in the month I am here, I will come to realize that feral cats are much nicer than feral dogs. The stray dogs could care less about me. No amount of cajoling or talking or cooing had any impact on them, while I had so many cats coming up, rubbing themselves on me and begging to be touched. I found my cold cat heart melting like the Grinch. I can no longer say I don’t like cats. It’s just those arrogant, pampered, spoiled North American felines I can do without.
Not one of these dogs wanted anything whatsoever to do with me. I never have that problem at home. Dogs love me! But not these stray Greek ones. I’m no dog psychologist but I suspect their attitude has to do with being brought up without love and human touch.
This dog was watching a group of cats eating food put down by a local woman. She called to him a number of times but while he watched her, he wouldn’t go over there.
I didn’t take a picture of the cats because I hadn’t been won over by them yet. I was all about the dogs. That will change in the coming days. Although I never stop trying to befriend the canines, they never change their minds about me. I thought of trying to win them over with food, but as you can see, they are very well fed.
Entry to the Acropolis
The word acropolis is Greek for “upper city,” – akros or akron meaning “highest”, “topmost”, or “outermost” and polis for “city”. It is a settlement built high up above on elevated ground, typically with steep sides. This is for defense, making it difficult to attack. Most often associated with the Acropolis in Athens, there are a number of other Greek cities who have their own acropoles: Argos, Thebes, Corinth and Crete.
It’s a 12 Euro charge to get into the Acropolis but if you keep your ticket, you can get into six other archaeological sites in Athens over the next four days: North & South Slope, Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, and the Temple of Zeus.
Looking up at the Acropolis from Dionysiou road.
This paving stone road rings around the southern end.
Stairway on the way up to the Acropolis.
My brother visited Athens a number of years ago, and had some bad memories of the place. One thing he has bemoaned multiple times is how he, and his family were threatened with being kicked out of the Acropolis because he was singing and dancing and videoing it. I took this picture to show him that it wasn’t anything personal, and wasn’t just some grumpy guard making silly rules. The Athenians take this very seriously and do not want tourists coming in and making it ludicrous. I suspect it’s no different than tap dancing on the pews in a church.
The gardens and woods of the Acropolis
Looking through these trees, I could imagine Socrates and other Greeks wandering and lazing, expounding on a theory or debating some idea, or a young white robed boy chasing a young girl, with her hair flowing behind her as she giggled. This place seems almost otherworldly, harkening back to 2,000 years ago. The trees and landscape actually affected me more than the amazing architecture all around me.
Ironically, this area was only restored in 1954-1958. Before that, the land was mostly razed, without any trees at all. The architect, Dimitris Pikionis, chose appropriate plants from those found elsewhere in the local area. He did a wonderful job.
Looking southwest from the wilds outside the Acropolis. The monument seen here is on top of Philopappos Hill. Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos was a Prince of the Kingdom of Commagene who lived in the Roman Empire, in the years 65–116 AD. He was one of the most prominent Greeks who lived in the Roman Empire. When he died, his death caused great sadness. To honour his memory, his sister and citizens of Athens erected a tomb structure on this hill. It is known as the “Philopappos Monument”, and the hill became known as “Philopappos Hill”. I will visit this area later on, in this trip.
Odeion of Herodes Atticus
Built in 161 AD, by Herodes Atticus, in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annie Regilla. Used as a concert hall until it was destroyed by the Heruli in 267 AD, it was restored in the 1950s and is now used for the Athens Festival, an annual arts festival that runs from May to October each year. It’s closed for the season, so it is being worked on. Notable artists who have performed here include Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, the Bolshoi Ballets, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, and Jethro Tull. This theatre is considered among the top venues for live theatre in the world. View the images here to see how gorgeous it looks on a clear summer evening.
Wall and entrance to the Odeion of Herodes Atticus.
An alcove at the entrance to the Odeion.
At one time it would have held some treasure, but those are all long gone.
Looking up into the Odeion from down below.
The lower outside wall of the Odeion and another phone booth.
They have these things all over the place!
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus from part ways up the Acropolis.
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus from the top of the Acropolis.
More of the Odeion of Herodes Atticus with Philopappos Hill and monument in behind. Off on the horizon, you can just see the glimmer of the sun on the water of the Saronic Gulf, that leads out to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
Climbing up to the top of the Acropolis
Athens is a vast city, sprawling across the central plain of Attica that is often referred to as the Athens or Attica Basin. The Athens Metropolitan Area spans 2,928.717 km2 (1,131 sq mi) and includes a total of 58 municipalities, which are organized in 7 regional units, with a population of 3.7 million people.
Looking east, towards Mount Hymettus.
Looking east, towards Mount Hymettus, part ways up to the Acropolis.
Mount Aegaleo in the far west with Areopagus and Nymphon Hill with the National Observatory in the foreground and midground, respectively.
Named after Ernest Beulé, the French archaeologist who discovered it, it is the entry to the Acropolis but more often used as the exit. Built in AD 280 under the direction of F. Septimus Marcellinus, it was once used as a base for a quadriga (a chariot drawn by four horses), then as a monument for the Roman vice-regent. It consists of two towers, of different height, and was used for defense.
Monument to Agrippa, Propylaea
This tall pedestal, lies just west of the Propylaea, on a landing half way up the stairs. Originally dedicated in 178 BC in honor of a Pergamene charioteer’s victory in the Panathenaic Games, it has held two different quadrigas (a chariot drawn by four horses). Later, statues of Antony and Cleopatra were placed upon it, only to blow down in 31 BC. In 27 BC, after Marcus Agrippa’s third term as consul, a dedication to him was placed upon the structure.
The Propylaea is the monumental gateway to the Acropolis, built under the general direction of the Athenian leader Pericles and designed by the architect Mnesicles. Since 1984, it has been partly restored. It is now used as the main entrance to the Acropolis.
Stairway up into the Propylaea.
Tall columns of the Peisistratus Portico, within the Propylaea.
Peisistratus Portico, within the Propylaea.
The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. It was constructed between 447 and 438 BC during the peak of the Athenian Empire. Considered the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, and the zenith of the Doric order, it’s decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. It is seen as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and western civilization, and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure.
This temple was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. It was built between 421 and 406 BC. It is believed the architect was Mnesicles who also designed the Propylaea. The name comes from either a shrine dedicated to the Greek hero Erichthonius or King Erechtheus, who is said to have been buried nearby. The Greeks were known to do something called Syncretism, which is the combining of different beliefs and schools of thought and these two men were often syncretized.
Other Views from the Acropolis
An elevated flag platform used for the views down
below and the other way to the Parthenon.
Looking out at the northeast side of the city and Mount Lycabetus, the highest point in the city. Later on this month I will hike up there and the views are just amazing.
The Theatre of Dionysus, considered the first theatre in the world,
was used for festivals in honor of the god Dionysus.