Monday, October 3, 2011

Athens: Day 1...Happy Birthday to Me!!

So, today's the big day.  30 years old.  (!!)  In honor of my birthday...well really both of our birthdays, as Eric turned 30 this year too...we made the trip to Greece.  Today we did all manner of fun things to orient ourselves with Athens.

We started our day off right with this delicious pocket of phyllo dough, pistachios and honey.  Yum.

After breakfast we wandered down to Syntagma Square, the central public square in Greece.  From here we busted out our iPods, and like true 21st century humans, began our Rick Steves guided walking tour of Athens.  Que fun!

This is the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier guarded by these guys in the pompom shoes.  They are the evzone guards, an elite infantry unit of the Greek army.

This is a mosaic in the Eastern style above the  entrance of the little Church of Kapnikarea on pedestrian only Ermou Street.  I was wearing a knee length skirt, so I was not dressed modestly enough to go in, but I am glad I got to see this part at least.

This statue was in front of the Greek National Cathedral.  It's of Archbishop Damaskinos who was the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church during WWII.  He was one of the only Christian leaders who spoke out about the wrongs of the Holocaust (even while Greece was under Nazi occupation).  As a thank you, the Greek Jewish community erected this statue in his honor.
I really recommend using the free Rick Steves podcast tour guides.  We learned so much!

This is the Church of Agios Eleftherios, nestled right next to the National Cathedral.  The National Cathedral was covered in scaffolding, so it was not a pretty picture, but this little church was very picturesque.  During Ottoman occupation this tiny church was the national Church of Greece.  

The stone mosaic around the Church of Agios Eleftherios.

After winding through some tourist traps, where oddly enough we heard a lot more Spanish than any other language (including Greek) being spoken, we came up on these ruins.  Rick told us to just peek through the fence for free, which we did.  These are the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 CE.

 This is Hadrian's Arch, which maked the entrance to his planned community Hadrianopolis.  Pretty creative guy.

We decided to break for lunch before finishing the city walk.  Eric was very thrilled with the fact that one can get draft beer here...and it is not from the Corona or Modelo family of products.  Salud!

Here I am enjoying a gyro (or taco griego according to the Greeks who live in Mexico City).  It was very delicious.

Alright, back to the tour.  We climbed up the base of the Acropolis a little bit and were met with some great views.  This is Lykavittos Hill, the tallest hill in Athens.  There's apparently a church on top and a bad restaurant that one gets to by cable car.  I think the view is enough for us.

Here we are wandering through the Anafiotika neighborhood at the base of the Acropolis.  It was built by people from the Greek islands, and looks like houses you would find there.  There were a bunch of cats running around up here too.  It was really very cute, and something we probably would not have seen normally.

We think this graffiti looks like Oakley. 

 Cheers!  Happy 30!

Here we are at the Ancient Agorra.  This is the Stoa of Attalos, reconstructed.  There was a museum inside with a baby toilet that the iPod tour and guide book were oddly obsessed with.

Here we have the capitol of a Corinthian column.  Oh yea, look at that.  I know art words.

The view up the Agorra to the Acropolis.


Us with the Temple of Hephaistos.  Apparently Hephaistos is the father of humanity through a an attempted rape, according to the myth.

Here we have a merman, aka a triton.  He was a column on the theater at the Agorra.

The Panathenaic Way went from the Athens city gate to the Acropolis, and was the main drag through town.  We got to walk on it too!  Que cool!

To finish out the day we had a nice dinner downtown for my birthday.  It was a great day, looking forward to much more fun as our action packed vacation continues!

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