After 2 days at sea, we docked in the port of Piraeus at 8:55 this morning. We disembarked shortly thereafter and met up with our tour mates in the port arrival hall. We located our driver outside, and were a wee bit concerned as he was not too personable. However, shortly thereafter, our guide, Voula, arrived and kicked things into gear. She was a small woman, with a huge passion for her country and it’s history. The whole drive in to Athens she narrated the history of Greece in general, and Athens in particular. It was like a whole history lesson for dummies, in just 30 minutes. Amazing!
Arriving at the Acropolis, we began our journey up the steps to 2,500 years of ruins. The view up the hill to the Parthenon was striking, the scaffolding just removed from the restored Temple of Nike. After a few photos, we entered the Acropolis, weaving our way up the numerous marble steps to enter through the Propylea, the entry gate to the famed site. Many people were already crowding the narrow walkways, making us extra thankful that we were there early, and on a “cool” day. With only 2 ships in port today, we couldn’t imagine what it would be like with 5...eek!
Voula continued to enlighten us with her knowledge as we passed the various structures at the top of the Acropolis. We listened and stood in awe as we reflected on all that had transpired on this hallowed ground. We then had some time to explore the site, taking various photos with the amazing backdrop of ancient ruins. Unless you are there, it is hard to comprehend how striking a picture the whole scene is. Of the 11 million people in Greece, 4.5 million live in the Athens area. Therefore, the area surrounding the Acropolis is covered in structure after structure, Yet, right there in the middle of it all, set apart on a plateau, is the Parthenon and other temples. Such a contrast!
A Warning to Travelers
I guess now would be a good time to tell you about Wormie. Wormie is a little worm made out of pompoms and wiggly eyes, used as a decoration for a choir dinner this year. Before I left home, my daughter decided that Wormie should come with us and have his picture taken at various points on our journey. Being the crazy people we are, we thought it would be great fun. So far, it has been great introducing our little friend to various travel experiences…looking out the window on the airplane, riding in a gondola, having a cappuccino, etc.
Why am I inserting this now, you ask? Well, today at the Acropolis, Wormie asked to have his picture taken with the Parthenon in the background. After Dave took the picture, a woman came out of nowhere and scolded him. She then watched as she made him delete the picture. Apparently, Wormie was not welcome there. My poor husband, who never gets reprimanded, faced the severe chastisement of the Parthenon guards. Note to fellow travelers: no inanimate objects may be intentionally included in photos of the Parthenon.
Walking in Paul's Footsteps
At noon we climbed down from the Acropolis, and walked over to visit Mars Hill. This is the site where the Great Council met and Paul shared the gospel with the leaders of Athens. Voula told the story beautifully, and shared why she believes Paul did not start an actual church in Athens (The population was only 35,000, while the population in nearby Corinth was 400,000..a much more logical place to church plant.) We then climbed up onto the giant limestone (e.g. slippery!) rock and enjoyed beautiful views of the ancient Agora.
Two Sides to Every Story
The next hour or so was spent in the new Acropolis Museum, exploring the treasures found in excavations, as well as learning more about ancient Athens culture. The museum is beautifully designed, built on 96 columns that lift the building up from the archaeological digs occurring beneath the structure. The top floor of the building has the exact dimensions of the actual Parthenon, and is angled exactly the same, so that while you are up looking at the reconstructed pieces you can look out the windows and see where they would go in the actual building across the way.
Voula continued to amaze us with her knowledge and enthusiasm. Of course, we had many laughs as she kept talking about the fact that the British Museum needs to return its Parthenon pieces to the rightful owners in Greece. It became a running joke, as we had a lovely couple from Scotland on our tour with us, and they were bearing the brunt of the “blame” for Lord Elgin’s questionable acquisitions. (Not to mention that, when we were in England 3 years ago, we heard all the stories of how England had preserved the artifacts, and therefore has the right to keep them.)
Refueling and Exploration
By this time, all of us were quite tired and hungry, so we took Voula’s suggestion of lunch at a Greek diner. We all chose something different from the menu, ranging from veal and pasta to spinach pie. I chose rice stuffed tomatoes, which were quite delicious. With full stomachs we set off to explore the Plaka, having an hour and a half to wander the streets and shop. It was enjoyable, but we were all hot, exhausted, and ready to get back on the bus at 4:30.
Overall, it was a fantastic day. It was amazing to actually be in Athens, and to walk among temples that were built around 500 BC. They were beautiful, and pictures will never do them justice. Voula, our tour guide with Aristotle Travel, was fun and engaging, knowledgeable beyond words. A perfect guide for this step back in time.
Lisa is the travel loving, animal adoring, Mickey Mouse hugging owner of Dreams Delivered Travel.