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Christmas Day

We wish you a Merry Christmas.

Christmas Day; we allowed ourselves a bit of extra sleep: ah the luxury of getting up at nine o'clock. Most archaeological sites were closed on Christmas Day. We set out to explore some of the modern day city proper. We started with a..... .....graveyard. OK, I know it's not the cheeriest way to start off Christmas Day, but I had read that the First Cemetery of Athens was worth seeing and I do find historical cemeteries interesting. We walked to the cemetery from Acropoli Station and ended up entering through a side entrance by mistake. Thus, it was we started off in the modern part of the cemetery which people were visiting to place flowers on the graves of the recently departed. This was not what I had intended to visit and I felt like a bit of an intruder. Fortunately, after I retreated from this area, I found the historical part of the cemetery with its highly ornate graves of the rich and famous. Greek lettering did not help with our efforts to find the graves of the famous, but, oh well, we just looked at the ornamentation and were satisfied. Famous people buried here include: Melina Mercouri, actress, singer and politician; T.H. White, the author of 'The First and Future King' - one of my favourite books; Heinrich Schliemann, the German archaeologist who excavated Troy, rather controversially using dynamite and Demis Roussos, the famous Greek singer. One of the loveliest tombs has a beautiful sculpture called 'The Sleeping Girl'. This tragic tomb marks the grave of Sophia Afentaki. She was from the island of Kimolos. She was born in 1855 and died from tuberculosis in 1873 when she was just eighteen years old. The Sleeping Girl sculpture by Yiannoulis Chalepas is a beautiful tombstone in her memory.

The Sleeping Girl.

The Sleeping Girl.

Nearby stand the tombs of Georgios Averoff, a Greek businessman and philanthropist who lived from 1815 to 1899 and Melina Mercouri, who lived from 1920 to 1994. Thee tomb of Heinrich Schliemann occupies the hill behind these tombs.

The grave of Averoff with Schliemann's grave in the background.

The grave of Averoff with Schliemann's grave in the background.

Monument depicting a mother during the German occupation of Greece in the 2nd World War.

Monument depicting a mother during the German occupation of Greece in the 2nd World War.

Grave of Melina Mercouri.

Grave of Melina Mercouri.

We left the First Cemetery of Athens and headed for the nearby Panathenaic Stadium. This dates from around 330B.C. when a stadium was built here by Lykourgos, an Athenian statesman, on the site of a small racecourse . This stadium was used as the venue for the Panathenaic Games, a religious and athletic festival celebrated every four years in honor of the goddess Athena. Hundreds of years later the stadium was rebuilt entirely in marble by Herodes Atticus, an Athenian born Roman senator. When the Roman Emperor Theodosius I banned blood sports and the worship of the ancient Greek gods in the fourth century, the stadium was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was excavated in 1869 and used to host the Zappas Olympics in 1870 and 1875. It hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was used again as an Olympic venue in 2004.

We did not pay to go into the stadium. We just viewed it from the outside.

Athlete limbering up outside the stadium.

Athlete limbering up outside the stadium.

The discus thrower.

The discus thrower.

The wood breaker.

The wood breaker.

After looking at the Panathenic Stadium, we crossed the road to the National Gardens. We passed the equestrian statue of General Karaiskakis by Michael Tombros, then headed towards the Zappeion Exhibition Hall. This hall is named after Evangelis Zappas. He was a rich businessman who lived in Romania. He fought in the Greek War of Independence between 1821 and 1832. He wanted to revive the traditions of Ancient Greece and decided to start with the Olympic Games. Despite much opposition, he succeeded in re-starting these and on November 15th, 1859, the first modern Olympic Games were held in central Athens. They were called the Zappeion Olympiads in Zappas' honour. The Zappeion Conference and Exhibition Center was built to serve the needs of the Olympic Games.

Statue of General Karaiskakis.

Statue of General Karaiskakis.

The Zappeion.

The Zappeion.

The Zappeion.

The Zappeion.

Not far from the Zappeion on the edge of the National Gardens there is a statue of Byron, who was extremely pro-Greek. Apparently he is still very popular in Greece. Not far from the statue, we found the remains of some Roman baths.

Byron statue.

Byron statue.

Roman Baths.

Roman Baths.

National Gardens.

National Gardens.

Peter in the National Gardens.

Peter in the National Gardens.

We wandered all around the National Gardens looking at its trees, ponds and statues, then we headed for the parliament where we watched the famous Greek Evzones, or presidential guards, marching around in their rather strange costumes.

Evzones.

Evzones.

Evzones.

Evzones.

Evzones.

Evzones.

Parliament.

Parliament.

Next we went to visit some famous buildings near the Panepistimio metro stop. These buildings were The Academy of Athens, which is the highest research establishment in Greece, The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. which is the oldest institute of higher education in Greece and the Athenian National Library. This trilogy of buildings were designed by the Danish architect Theophil Freiherr von Hansen.

The University.

The University.

Academy of Athens.

Academy of Athens.

Athena.

Athena.

Apollo.

Apollo.

National Library.

National Library.

From here we walked to Klathmonos Square which was staging a Christmas market. I liked the bronze sculpture of three intertwined figures in the centre of the square. This statue dates from 1988 and was sculpted by Vasilis Doropoulos. It symbolizes National Reconciliation.

Christmas Market.

Christmas Market.

Christmas market.

Christmas market.

Klathmonos Square.

Klathmonos Square.

Klathmonos Square.

Klathmonos Square.

After browsing around the market, we returned home and I cooked us Christmas dinner, washed down with an excellent bottle of Greek wine.

Posted by irenevt 05:02 Archived in Greece Tagged greece

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