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Athens Christmas 2017.

Arrival and First Day.

I had hit exhaustion point when my school finally closed for the Christmas holidays and I had scarcely enough energy left to make it anywhere, but somehow I managed to drag myself onto a plane where I endured eight hours of someone reclining right into my face, a kid behind me repeatedly battering my chair, as he played his computer game, a screaming baby, tasteless food and shockingly bad wine, accompanied by an inability to sleep. We went through a ridiculously long stop over in Doha Airport, around seven hours, before boarding another very full, very cramped flight and flying a further five hours. Then, finally we arrived in Athens. Thank God. We exited the airport and were almost blown away by an icy rain filled blast of wind. Dispirited and completely shattered we boarded a train to Panormou Metro Station, then set about looking for Angelos ' Studio Apartments, the self-catering flat we had booked for our six night stay.

We had an arrangement with Angelos, the owner of the apartment, that he would leave the key to our flat with the Grill Restaurant downstairs from it. We dragged our suitcase through the rain over pothole after pothole on the broken pavement till we found The Pitta Queen Grill and asked for our key. Of course they did not have it and knew nothing about it, but they phoned Angelos for us and we sat and waited there till he came. To pass the time we ordered a delicious pork souvlaki and some Alfa beers while we waited. It took around three hours till Angelos had arrived, collected his cleaner, sorted the flat and finally let us in. To be fair he did apologize for the delay and pay for our beer and souvlaki. We were greatly relieved when we finally had possession of a key to our own little home. It was basic, but had everything we needed and at a cost of twenty pounds a night could not be faulted. After showering and toileting, we walked back to a nearby supermarket, stocked up on provisions and finally collapsed onto our beds and got some much needed sleep, ready to start looking at Athens the following day.

Next day was cold, but not raining, so that was fine for sightseeing. We took the train to Monastiraki Metro Station and began to enjoy our holiday. Monastiraki means monastery and takes its name from a tenth century monastery of which the Church of the Pantanassa is the only surviving part. This church can still be seen on Monastiriki Square as can a nearby mosque - Tzistarakis Mosque. This is an Ottoman mosque dating from 1759. In the distance behind the square we got our first glimpse of the famous Acropolis.

The Church of the Pantanassa.

The Church of the Pantanassa.

Tzistarakis Mosque.

Tzistarakis Mosque.

First View of the Acropolis.

First View of the Acropolis.

We walked from Monastiriki Square to the Library of Hadrian where we purchased combined entry tickets for all the ancient remains in Athens. As my husband, Peter is a pensioner, his was good value at fifteen Euros. Mine cost thirty Euros and, as sights are half price in winter, worked out just the same as paying for each sight individually.

Hadrian's Library was created by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, after whom it is named, in AD 132. This sight was originally home to a library, reading rooms and lecture halls. This library was badly damaged during the Herulian invasion of 267. Wandering around we noticed preserved patches of mosaic floors.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

Patches of mosaic floor.

Patches of mosaic floor.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

The Library of Hadrian.

I also noticed a sleeping dog and later observed that there seemed to be a similar looking dog at every sight. I doubt we were being followed so have to assume there are many dogs that look like this in Greece. Every sight came with its own cat, too, but these at least had the decency to look different in every place.

Greek dog.

Greek dog.

Surveying the sight.

Surveying the sight.

After visiting the Library of Hadrian, we strolled past some souvenir shops on route to the Roman Agora or Roman market place.

Souvenir Shops.

Souvenir Shops.

The Roman Agora was built in the first century BC during the reigns of Julius Caesar and Augutus Caesar. The Gate of Athena Archegetis used to be the entrance to the Roman Agora. On the other side stands the Turkish mosque of Fethiye Djami. This mosque was built in 1456 AD to celebrate the visit of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror to Athens. Another important building in the Roman Agora is the Tower of the Winds, an eight-sided marble tower. This was built between the Second and First Century BC by Andronicus of Cyrrhus. Andronicus of Cyrrhus was a Macedonian astronomer. The tower depicts the eight different winds.

Turkish mosque of Fethiye Djami.

Turkish mosque of Fethiye Djami.

Tower of the Winds.

Tower of the Winds.

Tower of the Winds.

Tower of the Winds.

Roman Agora.

Roman Agora.

Roman Agora.

Roman Agora.

The Gate of Athena Archegetis.

The Gate of Athena Archegetis.

Roman Agora.

Roman Agora.

After visiting the Roman Agora, we walked to the Acropolis. Although we visited on the same day as the Library of Hadrian and the Roman Agora, as it is a substantial sight, I will cover it in a separate blog.

Posted by irenevt 07:44 Archived in Greece Tagged athens 2017 Comments (2)

Finishing off the ancient and a trip to Piraeus.

The day that could have ruined our whole trip.

On the 27th of December all the ancient remains opened up again. We had two still to do on our combination tickets. We started with the one we had not heard of before the trip and that we were only visiting because it was on our multi-entry ticket. This was the The Lyceum of Aristotle. We got there by taking a train to Evangelismos Station, we passed a beautiful Greek church on our walk from our flat to the metro. The lyceum was very close to the metro stop, but we went the wrong way and wandered around hopelessly for a while until we found it. While lost, we did find a statue of former U.S. president Harry S. Truman. Apparently this statue was bombed in 1986 by people protesting against American imperialism.

Greek Church.

Greek Church.

Harry S.Truman statue.

Harry S.Truman statue.

The Lycaeum was a temple dedicated to Apollo Lyceus. It is best known for the school of philosophy founded here by Aristotle around 334 or 335 BC. Plato and Socrates also taught here.

The remains of the Lyceum were only discovered quite recently - in 1996 - when workers began construction of a new art museum. The Lyceum is right next to the Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art and they share a pleasant garden you can stroll around. The remains of the Lycaeum really only consist of the outlines of its walls.

The Lyceum of Aristotle.

The Lyceum of Aristotle.

The Lyceum of Aristotle.

The Lyceum of Aristotle.

Garden of Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art.

Garden of Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art.

Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art.

Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art.

Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art.

Museum of Christian and Byzantine Art.

After visiting the Lyceum of Aristotle, we walked back to the metro, took a train to Acropoli station and walked to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We found this more interesting than the earlier site as there was more of it left.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, or the Olympieion, was once a colossal temple dedicated to Zeus, head of the Olympian gods. Construction of this temple began in the 6th century BC, but it was not completed until the days of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD - around 638 years later.

The temple was pillaged during a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD and was never repaired. It began to fall into ruins and people took materials from its remains for other building projects. It was first excavated in the late nineteenth century.

This temple is interesting to see in its own right, plus it is possible to take a photo of it with the acropolis perched on the hill behind it.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus.

We then took a train to Piraeus. This is where our holiday could have been ruined. We jumped on a really crowded train, which we should not have done. We should have waited for the next train. A young Greek woman kept talking to us and indicating she wanted to pass us, but then did not pass us when we moved for her. I pushed my way through the train away from her as she was annoying. Instantly this girl and three others formed a sort of human cage around my husband. Also suspicious of them he kept his arms tightly wrapped around his body though they kept trying to get him to hold on to things or move in certain ways. We are both convinced these people were pick pockets. The girl distracts you and the others steal your stuff. We had on us money, my husband's passport, cameras and phones. I am relieved to say when we got off, none of our belongings were missing. This is due to the fact the money and passport were well hidden. We were lucky to still have cameras and phones. This incident was very, very unpleasant and to some extent it spoiled Athens for us as we were extremely cautious after this.

Piraeus itself was worth seeing. It has a massive port area where ships leave for the islands. It also has lots of beautiful buildings though there was a lot of construction work going on round about them. We walked to Piraeus's two marinas. The first, Zea marina or Pasalimani, was lined with boats. The second, Mikrolimano, was surrounded by restaurants. There is a long stretch of beach, called Votsalakia Beach, in between the marinas.

Piraeus Port.

Piraeus Port.

Georgios Karaiskakis statue.

Georgios Karaiskakis statue.

Church in Piraeus.

Church in Piraeus.

Zea Marina.

Zea Marina.

Votsalakia Beach.

Votsalakia Beach.

Votsalakia Beach.

Votsalakia Beach.

Sunset over Piraeus.

Sunset over Piraeus.

Mikrolimano.

Mikrolimano.

Mikrolimano.

Mikrolimano.

Mikrolimano.

Mikrolimano.

Instead of walking all the way back to Piraeus Station after visiting the second marina we followed a river all the way to Faliro Station which is located next to a football stadium, home to Olympiakos, F.C.

On the way to Faliro.

On the way to Faliro.

On the way to Faliro.

On the way to Faliro.

Peace and Friendship Stadium.

Peace and Friendship Stadium.

Home of Olymiakus F. C.

Home of Olymiakus F. C.

We took the train back from Faliro to Acropoli Station and went for a lovely meal in Old School Restaurant I had chicken souvlaki and Peter had pork meatballs, all washed down with pints of mythos beer.

Dinner in Old School Restaurant.

Dinner in Old School Restaurant.

Posted by irenevt 17:59 Archived in Greece Tagged athens Comments (5)

Last Day

Riding an open-top bus.

Our last day was still a full day as our flight left really late at night. This is where our self-catering flat came in very handy. We paid extra to have it for the whole last day and it was cheap enough for this not to be a problem.

It was my husband's choice for what to do and he wanted to go along the Athenian Riviera on an open-top double decker hop on hop off bus. We disagree on these hop on hop off buses. He loves them and I don't, though having said that I did love the one in Cape Town. Anyway we got our pass and paid slightly extra to go all around Athens as well.

We started out from Syntagma Square, then changed to the Riviera route. It was a cold day and it was freezing on the top of the bus. There were just a few hardy souls up there with us. The route goes past Glyfada Beach and all the way down to Vouliagméni Bay and Vouliagméni Lake.

On the Riviera.

On the Riviera.

On the Riviera.

On the Riviera.

On top of the bus.

On top of the bus.

Church.

Church.

War Cemetery.

War Cemetery.

Stormy seas.

Stormy seas.

When the bus took us back to the Acropolis, we took a walk to Pnyx Hill. The Athenians used this hill, which has a large flat platform of eroded stone at its summit, as a gathering point from around 507 BC. They held popular assemblies here. Thus Pnyx Hill is one of the earliest and most significant sites in the creation of democracy. Among many others, Pericles, Aristides and Alcibiades all spoke here.

In addition to its historical significance, Pnyx Hill has fantastic views. This was easily the best view of the Acropolis from anywhere.

View from Pnyx Hill.

View from Pnyx Hill.

View from Pnyx Hill.

View from Pnyx Hill.

Peter, the Acropolis and the flat stone platform of Pnyx Hill.

Peter, the Acropolis and the flat stone platform of Pnyx Hill.

The Acropolis from Pnyx Hill.

The Acropolis from Pnyx Hill.

We then jumped on the hop on hop off around Athens city centre tour. Again we sat upstairs and shivered but it was quite interesting and it did take us to some places we had not got around to visiting.

Flower Market.

Flower Market.

Omonia Square.

Omonia Square.

Omonia Square.

Omonia Square.

Monastiraki Flea Market.

Monastiraki Flea Market.

Monasiraki Square.

Monasiraki Square.

Athens Central Market.

Athens Central Market.

Athens Central Market.

Athens Central Market.

Christmasy Athens.

Christmasy Athens.

Syntagma Square.

Syntagma Square.

Old Parliament Building.

Old Parliament Building.

On our second trip around Athens city centre, the skies opened and we were lashed with icy rain. It was time to go home. We bought excellent value souvlaki and kalamaki from the Pita Queen restaurant downstairs from our flat.

Dinner from Pita Queen.

Dinner from Pita Queen.

Then it was time to head for the airport and fly to Doha, Qatar. I loved the airport Christmas tree which was made up of aeroplanes.

Airport Christmas tree.

Airport Christmas tree.

Posted by irenevt 22:26 Archived in Greece Tagged athens Comments (4)

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