Athens…Opa, Opa!

Athens Restaurant along a winding path

Steve has finally redeemed himself. After 35 years of marriage, he has atoned for our honeymoon in December 1975. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will say we definitely did not have a dream destination honeymoon. At the time, it didn’t matter as long as we were together, but since then, he has assiduously worked on arranging many great trips for the kids and me to enjoy. However, his complete absolution happened over these past Christmas holidays. (Now I’ll have to find something else to hold over his head.)

On December 26, we took off from a snowy Lyon airport for Athens, Greece, via Frankfurt, Germany, on a Lufthansa flight. When we arrived, the temperature was a balmy 65 degrees. Oh, the warmth! We ate dinner at an outside table at a small taverna, and I’m still not sure of what we ate. But it was delicious, and it felt great to eat alfresco after the frigid temperatures we had been enduring in Grenoble.

The next day was our anniversary, and we decided to do it up right. Our hotel, the Athens Gate Hotel (sounds like Watergate, n’est-ce pas?) was well located close to the Metro and came with an outstanding breakfast buffet on the 8th floor and gave a spectacular view of the Acropolis. Tough way to start the day! Although it was Monday when many museums are closed in Europe, we still found an interesting place called the Museum of the City of Athens to tour. It was a good starting point for a visit to the city because it gave an overview of the city’s history with a focus on King Otto and Queen Amalia, who lived in that  building from 1836-1843 and had all the period furnishings. The best part was that we essentially had the place to ourselves.

Acropolis at Breakfast

Next, The National Archaeological Museum was the start of my “no ifs, ands, or butts collection.” As we have traveled through Europe’s museums of antiquities, it has come to our attention that derrieres are everywhere, and other body parts aren’t far “behind.” Fig leaves are noticeably absent, but from what we can tell, not much anatomically has changed over the centuries. We also started realizing that all butts are not created alike and wondered, “Did everyone run around naked or partially so at this depicted time in history?” It must have been warmer in that era, or the sculpting was done in the summer months. (See below)

We celebrated our anniversary that evening at the Rooftop Restaurant at the Athens Gate—Greek wine with Greek gustatory specialties—and it couldn’t have been better!

Acropolis at Dinner

The next day we traveled to the New Acropolis Museum, a modern structure that was built and opened in 2009. Unfortunately, no picture taking was allowed, so no butts are shown from there. They have moved most of the remaining Pantheon artifacts from the site on “the hill” to the new museum to showcase and protect them. The Greek curators are still hoping that having this suitable new museum will allow them to recover the multitudes of “stolen” Elgin marble items from London’s British Museum that Lord Elgin “appropriated” in the early 19th century, but it seems unlikely to happen.

What Lord E. left behind

For lunch,we found ourselves in the Plaka area, the old part of town with vendors in cheap souvenir shops and souvlaki “factories” aplenty. (My vegetarianism is spotty while traveling because I’ve got to eat something!) After paying for our order, we took the receipt to the counter, stepped up and watched the men prepare grilled meat on a skewer and wrap it in a pita assembly-line style so fast that it seemed like sleight of hand. Don’t forget the french fries. This old part of town has tight, twisty, narrow areas with small houses and a whole lot of cats who perch in the most unimaginable spots.

Rooftops along the path

Cat’s Perch

Close enough to peek in

Church by the wayside

Our last day in Athens we had reserved for the Acropolis. The name means high city, and it almost seems like it is in the clouds. We had been eyeing it for days at breakfast and were ready to climb the steep path to the entrance. We started toward a gate that seemed to be the entrance, but we discovered it wasn’t the one that would bring us to the top. As we were heading back to the main path, I spied a young woman with a University of North Carolina–Charlotte backpack on. Always eager to talk to some home folk, we caught up with this group of four, and I casually asked if they were from North Carolina. Yes, the two daughters had graduated from UNC schools—Wilmington and Charlotte—and one daughter now lived in our present hometown! As they were also going to the Acropolis, we walked companionably along. The husband and wife had traveled from South Korea, and their daughters had come from North Carolina to spend the holidays in Athens. As it happens, the couple had retired from the Durham County, North Carolina schools, and he had been a principal at an American school in a town outside Seoul for the past three years. His wife has been teaching science at the school. It wasn’t until we crossed paths again later in the morning at the Pantheon, that we thought to exchange names and contact information. Only when we did that, did we discover that the gentleman David had been the principal at our daughter’s high school back in 2004! I’ve always believed that it is indeed a small world, and I think that experience is all the proof one needs. Upon parting, they graciously invited us to visit them in South Korea, and we started thinking about next summer’s trip. Seoul?

The Acropolis is indeed high, and on December 29, it was also windy. Most of the area is presently under renovation. And you can imagine that it takes a lot to maintain something that is nearly 2,500 years old. The Propylea, the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, Porch of the Carytids, and the Temple of Athena Nike are a tribute to the great minds and strong, albeit slave, backs of those who built it back in 450–400 B.C. As I mentioned, the Acropolis Museum houses what’s left of most of the Parthenon sculptures, but traveling to these ruins that the Greeks are trying to preserve was inspiring. The ruins are battling the same enemies that many ancient areas in the world are facing—acid rain, weather, and time.

Just as we rounded a corner, we were in luck to catch the Evzones, the presidential guards, who were preparing for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It served as a sober monument to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Maureen & Steve @ The Parthenon

Caryatids awaiting facelift

Our trip to Athens was wonderful anniversary celebration, but it did not end there. Oh, no. My honey was on a roll and decided to bank some “points” for the future. Leaving Athens, we headed to another, and much colder, destination before returning to Grenoble. The holiday continued to…

Don’t forget to click on any picture for a closer look.

Greek Flag @ Acropolis

Collage from Antiquity

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lori Millette
    Jan 12, 2011 @ 23:29:02

    You must have had so much fun! Greece is great. When we were there my daughter asked the docent why the sculpture of the men’s ahem, thingy, was so small compared to a modern man. She was told that it was not to scale. We didn’t understand that explanation because the rest of the statue was huge!
    Happy anniversary and stay warm!
    Lori

    Reply

  2. Jenny
    Jan 16, 2011 @ 02:31:23

    Oh, I’m so jealous…my dream destination…..and you left us waiting for the rest!! Steve did good.

    Reply

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