Tuesday, October 21, 2014

experiment in retroactive reporting: athens day one

September 22 - our first full day in Athens. This whole gig was a work trip for Kevin, so he had places to be and people to see. He spent the morning and afternoon running hither and yon from one meeting to the next. I was going to be on my own. We started the day together, though, on the rooftop of our hotel, having breakfast.

Here's the sun rising over Mt. Hymettus.  


Hymettus is just one of several ranges framing Athens, similar in scale to the Santa Ana mountains rising above Orange County, where my brother lives. Except these mountains are made of limestone and marble. The overall feel - dense, low-rise sprawl as far as the eye can see, bound by dry scrubby ranges, with the sea nearby, felt familiar. I couldn't tell whether it was because of my many visits to California over the years, or whether some kind of past life DNA was getting triggered. 


Given the setting, the views, fresh squeezed orange juice AND as much Nutella as a girl could want, I was happy to contemplate the possibilities while lusting over the neighboring apartment building.


Eventually, Kevin and I headed out for our respective business. Mine involved visiting the Acropolis Museum a few blocks away. I stumbled across it from a side entrance.


During excavations for the construction of the building (which opened in 2007), a whole neighborhood complex revealed itself. The archaeologists got busy, and the plaza in front of the museum was rearranged to display the results. 


I arrived before the crush and had the place seemingly to myself for a while.


The Caryatids of Erechtheum. These are the originals, minus their sister held captive in the British Museum.


I need to figure out how to do my hair like this. 


The top floor of the museum contains a to-scale model of the Parthenon, using stainless steel for the columns. The sculptures are all original: the Parthenon has replicas. Above is what remains of the west pediment, showing Athena and Poseidon competing for the city's favor.  


I tagged along a French tour group to learn more about what the friezes depicted. Battles, lots of battles. Apparently it's not a good idea to invite centaurs to your open-bar wedding. Mayhem results.

I have about an hour and a half in me for any museum, no matter how fascinating. It's a character flaw. I absorbed all I could before brainmelt and hunger set in. There's a shi-shi restaurant in the museum, and I elected to grab lunch there, rather than face the prospect of starving to death in the neighborhood. I successfully avoided accidentally ordering pureed fish roe salad through the magic of free wifi and the Google Translate app on my phone. Victory. (Later, I learned that there is plenty of food nearby. And naturally all the restaurants have menus in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc. etc. etc.)

I spent the afternoon wandering around the Plaka neighborhood on the eastern side of the Acropolis, window shopping. Leather sandals, olive wood carvings, scarves, statuary, dresses, jewelry, armor and helmets, and my personal favorite, a T-shirt reading "Oedipus Rex: the Original Mother Fucker". 

In the early evening, Kevin and I met up at the hotel and immediately set out to climb the Acropolis.


First up, the Propylaea - the formal entrance to the site. 


And then the Parthenon.


I hadn't realized how many structures have come and gone over the centuries on the Acropolis. Here's a random assortment of rubble. Not sure what structure this is from. 






On the east side of the Acropolis is a little walled-off overlook with a great view of the Temple of Zeus. Stay tuned for more on that. 



We, and hundreds of our fellow tourists, crawled over every inch of the top like ants. We finally made our way down the western slope, coming eventually to this view:


I could have scrambled about on that hill for hours, but evening was coming on. We didn't know where we were, exactly, when we entered the gates of a park of some kind. Turns out to have been the site of the Temple of Hephaestus, in remarkably good condition.


We made our way from here, through the remains of the agora (marketplace), and back into the marble-paved streets of the Plaka neighborhood. We had dinner at an outdoor cafe under an enormous tree, and then began our extensive research into which gelato was best.


We staggered home. Day one: success.