After years of failed attempts, and then months of planning, the Greek holiday I had been wanting to go on finally became a reality in May 2011. The parents and I embarked on our 10 day adventure on May 5th as we met at Heathrow airport, and headed to our first stop…
By the time we arrived at our hotel, it was early evening so we decided to just go for a walk, and get to bed early so we would be ready to start early the next day. Also, Mom and Dad had been traveling for about 21 hours at that point so they were exhausted!
On our first full day, we decided to visit the big sight to see: the Acropolis. Most of you probably don’t know this, but I have been fascinated with Greek mythology for years. I was very excited to see not only the Parthenon, but also the lesser known sights like the Temple of Zeus.
I love cities that recognize what tourists want to see, and create one ticket that gives them access to most of those places. I saw this in Verona, and then again in Athens. For 12 euros, tourists can gain access to the Acropolis, the Roman Forum, Temple of Zeus, Dionysus Theatre, The Agora, and Kerameikos. The ticket is valid for 4 days. An added bonus for students: those studying in the EU get into all these attractions for free, and outside the EU get 50% off the regular ticket (need a valid student ID, or even better, an international student ID card).
Anyway, back to the Acropolis…
On the walk up, we passed by the Herodes Atticus Theatre (below). Built in 161, this theatre is still used for the Athens Festival in the summer.
From there, we continued up the mountain towards the Temple of Nike (“Victory”) and then the Parthenon.
Completed in 438 BC, the Parthenon was a temple for the greek goddess Athena. As with many old monuments, the Parthenon was under construction, hence the scaffolding around the front of the building.
At the new Acropolis Museum, there was a fantastic video that described how the Parthenon looked when it was completed and how it has been attacked many times (it was even set on fire at one point). I think it is amazing that so much of the structure is still standing!
Also on the Acropolis mountain is the Erechtheion, where according to myth, Athena and Poseidon battled for patronage of Athens. The building design brings together separate temples for the two gods. In case you didn’t figure it out, Athena won the battle, hence the name for the city, Athens.
The statue pillars below are actually replicas. The originals have been taken inside the new Acropolis Museum for protection.
Okay, now a few more pictures before we move on to the new Acropolis Museum.
After the Acropolis, we made our way to the new Acropolis Museum. The new museum, which opened in 2009, is 10 times larger than the old museum and filled with around 4,000 artifacts. Many of the artifacts from the Acropolis were removed in 1799 by an Earl and taken to England. They were later sold to the British Museum, which now showcases them and refuses to return them. The Greek government hopes that with this new, much larger museum, they can force the British Museum to return the artifacts.
The museum is not included in the 12 euro ticket. It costs 5 euros for adults, and again, entrance is free for students.
As mentioned before, at the museum you can watch a great video depicting the history of the Parthenon. There are sculptures from the temples, the original statued pillars from the Erechtheion and a life-size recreation of the frieze around the top of the Parthenon is located on the top floor.
Outside the museum, excavations are still taking place, as more artifacts are uncovered. Visitors can watch the workers from above as they enter and exit the museum.
We decided to walk back to the hotel, and on the way, stop by some of the other sights. Unfortunately, when we got to the Temple of Zeus we found out that it, and most of the other sights to see, closed at 3pm. So, we kept walking and found ourselves in front of Kallimarmaro Stadium.
This stadium was built in the 4th century BC for the Panathenaic Games. It was later restored for the first modern Olympics in 1896, and used again during the 2004 games.
As it turned out, the stadium was not included in the ticket my parents bought at the Acropolis, nor was it free for students, so we skipped this particular sight. Clearly, you do not need to purchase a ticket to see the stadium from the outside.
And that was day 1 in Athens! Yes, it was a LONG day.
Next time, day 2 in Athens, including the Temple of Zeus, Dionysus Theatre, and Athens at night.