Sunday, May 13, 2012

going the distance

I must admit that, as my plane descended into the Athens airport, I felt slightly apprehensive.  For the past few months, I had been reading about the financial turmoil, political upheaval, and street riots plaguing this city.  Was it safe for me to come here?  We boarded a bus at the airport and began to make our way towards the city.  At first sight, I did not see anything that seemed particularly daunting, but parts of this city certainly were not pretty.  We exited the bus near the Plaka - the old city centre - and began to make our way towards our hostel for the night.  We walked about a block and then turned down a small cobbled side street.  Immediately, we felt transported back in time to a whole other world.  This was the Greece that I imagined.  Street vendors and local tavernas lined the street and ancient ruins could be seen in the distance.

When we arrived at the hostel, we quickly unloaded our things - stopping briefly to admire the quaint garden terrace - and headed for the sites.  Our first stop was the historic Acropolis.  To reach this spot, we climbed to what must be the highest point in the city, and it was quite a long trek.
When we reached the top, we discovered the first noteworthy site - the Theatre of Dionysus.  

Once the centre of Athenian entertainment, this site was the location of festivals that honored the god Dionysus.  

From here, we walked through the Propylaea and gained our first view of the infamous Parthenon.  I felt my art history textbooks come to life as I admired its massive columns that made the structure almost appear buoyant.  

I then thought of the Elgin marbles that I saw when I first arrived in London a few months ago.  How must this temple of looked in its' full glory, before years of degradation... ?

Directly across from the Parthenon is my favourite building in the Acropolis - the Erechtheion.  I do not know exactly why, but I find great humor in the caryatid columns.

If these impressive structures did not make the climb to the top of the Acropolis worth it, the view certainly did.  
After descending back down the hill, we also visited the Ancient Agora and the Roman Agora.
The Ancient Agora 
Roman Agora
When we thoroughly exhausted our sightseeing, we decided to do what we do best: shopping!  We headed for a small shop that I had read about called Melissinos Art.  
The current owner is the third generation Poet Sandalmaker.  After attending New York University and the Parson's School of Design, he returned to his home in Athens to make unique leather sandals for the likes of Sophia Loren, John Lennon, Jackie Kennedy, and... me!  Of course, I could not help but bring home a pair of of Grecian style sandals made especially for me.  As full as my tiny North Face backpack was that I had brought on this trip, I knew that somehow I would make room.