Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Travel Project: Greece Day 1
These ruins are located in the Roman Agora. It was at one time, converted into a church and you can see the remains of a wall frescoe painted on the right.
I traveled nine hours to Schipol Airport to get to Greece. I can tell you now that I'd never been so scared in my life. I was travelling alone and I'd never been overseas before. And being a worry wart, I kept expecting something bad to happen.
View of Theseum in the Ancient Agora
This is also known as the Hephaisteion. It's one of the best preserved temples of the period in Greece. You also get a great view of the city and it's smog. You will need to pay to enter the Agora and keep an eye on your watch but there's lots to see along with the Stoa of Attilos that houses artifacts from the Agora.
After lounging around for most of the Dutch afternoon, I got my passport stamped for the first time, passed through Dutch security who were just as if not more scary than Canadian security. My flight to Athens International Airport took three hours and when I arrived it was completely empty. Like one of those biohazard movies where whole cities have been evacuated. Of course, it was 1am. I caught a ride to the hotel with another student. Unfortunately my ride there wasn't pleasant. The taxi I was riding in didn't have seatbelts in the back or the driver'd had them removed. He was also driving about 160 clicks down the highway. I thought If I die in some horrible car crash before I even get to see Greece, I am going to haunt this taxi driver and his children and his children's children forever and ever amen.
The Philopappus Monument
This is located on Philopappus Hill also known as Ares' Rock. The ruin was built to honour a Roman consul. It's a bit of a hike to get to the top but there are some really cool mosaics set into the path. As well, you might spot a tortoise on your way up. I didn't think Greece had them but apparently I was wrong. Someone spotted and we went a crazy with cameras. You don't need to pay to hike up here.
I didn't die but he insisted on a tip and we just shoved some euros in his hand to make go away. The hotel we were staying in was old but clean. There was one elevator that claimed to fit four on that metal plate by the buttons but in reality fit two with luggage. I swear it would have been slower to walk up. But the thing stairs was if you walked up one flight from the lobby, you were on floor zero. Our room was on the fourth floor and I didn't feel like lugging my stuff up five flights of stairs.
The Changing of the Guard
This happens every day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I love their uniforms, despite the silly-looking pom poms on their shoes. They were so formal and severe. I suspect they're much like the British guards and while I was tempted to try and make one smile, I was able to restrain myself.
We had one day before the course and spent it exploring the Plaka and having an amazing first meal at the Diogenes Restuarant, located behind the Lysikrates Monument. I highly recommend this place. Try and get a seat outside. I swear, I thought I was in Nirvana. The sun was shining through tree branches, the sky was clear, there was a slight breeze. The appetizer was freshly baked bread with something I called salmon butter. Our server provided us with a giant carafe of water and I order the Caesar's Salad. Again, I recommend. I comes with big slices of Parmesan cheese on top. Are you salivating yet? I know I am. Halfway through the meal a stray tabby cat with pale green eyes approached the table and convinced me to feed it some cheese. I couldn't help it. Those big green eyes, that strong silent stare. Ok I admit it. I'm a sucker for cats.
We were walking after our first day exploring Athens as a class and wandered into Syntagma Square and up the steps. In a way this reminds me of the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, BC. They're lit up at night as well. Isn't it gorgeous?
Here is a sneak peak at tomorrow. I took this picture from Philopappus Hill. Did you know that the Parthenon was fairly intact until 1687. Greece was still under the rule of the Ottomans(the Turks) and they were using the Acropolis as a gunpowder magazine. I can't imagine what could be more stupid. Anyway, the Venetians under Francesco Morosini attacked the city and on September 26, a Venetian mortar was launched from Philopappus Hill and blew the roof off the Parthenon. Man I hate that Morosini.