Monday, March 24, 2008

Athens - 16 March 2008

Acropolis from Filopapou Hill
The guidebooks all said that an early start was essential to beat the crowds of tourists at the Acropolis. The opening time was 8:30 so we had our breakfast at the earliest possible sitting, 8:00, and set off. Greek Orthodox ChurchAfter an easy 20-minute walk we arrived at the southern gates only to find that all archaeological sites were closed as the staff were on strike until noon. So much for our early tourist beating plans; although the notice did say, generously, that they apologised for any inconvenience. Imagine the inconvenience that you would feel if you were on a package tour and you only had that morning to see the Acropolis - I don't think an 'apology' would suffice.

ErechtheionClearly there was no point heading off to any other site so we climbed Filopapou Hill, opposite, and enjoyed fantastic panoramic views back across the Acropolis and out towards the coast. We descended past Pnika and the Observatory and back to the pedestrianised area to the north of the Acropolis site. This area had been deserted when we went through on our early morning dash to the Acropolis but was now buzzing with tourists and the tourist-tat and fake handbag vendors that are endemic at any tourist destination.

HephaisteionPartway along the street is the entrance to Ancient Agora and although it was only 11:30, the gates were open and the staff were not on strike. No only that, but we discovered that, being Sunday, all archaeological sites were free of charge: much better than an apology for the inconvenience!

Temple of the Four WindsFrom Ancient Agora we visited Hadrian's library, Roman Agora, The Temple of the Four Winds and then wound our way through the streets of Plaka to a northern entrance to the Acropolis complex. It was about 1 pm at this stage and in the hour that the place had been open the tourists had arrived in their hordes. One wonders what it must be like in the high-season. Evidence of the numbers is shown in the marble of the paths and rocks that has been polished smooth to the point being treacherous. Unfortunately the restoration work being undertaken at present means that much of the structures are covered in scaffolding or obscured by cranes.

Temple of the Olympian ZeusExtricating ourselves from the snaking lines of tourists, we headed for the wide open spaces of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. It is unfortunate that so little remains of these once magnificent structures and we were grateful of having had the opportunity of seeing the much more complete Grecian temples at Paestum in Italy.

Wending our way back through the pedestrianised and labyrinthine streets of Plaka we headed for the ancient cemetery at Keramikos only to find that they had closed 30 minutes earlier. This was the closing time posted on the web but the staff at Ancient Agora told us that closing time today was 5:30. This time there were no signs apologising for the inconvenience.

View through the fenceSo it was back again through Plaka again for a late lunch/early dinner at a roof-top restaurant overlooking Athens and with views up to the Acropolis, a fabulous spot to sit and review the sites we had wandered through during the day.

Many more photos here

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