Sunday, October 7, 2012

Greece: Ancient Temples, Blue Waters and Economic Woes

Welcome to Greece!  During our brief, two-day visit, we toured the ancient ruins around Athens, sailed across clear blue waters to the island of Aegina, ate delicious Greek food, and witnessed a protest march related to Greece's economic crisis.  Click the link to read more.



Any visit to Athens begins with a visit to one of the premier sights in Europe, the Acropolis.  The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and containing the remains of several ancient buildings, including the Parthenon.  In the photo above, I am gazing up at the Acropolis, with the Parthenon being the highest building, just above my head.


The Parthenon is undergoing renovation at the moment.  Considering this building was first constructed in 447 BC as a temple to the goddess Athena, it's understandable that the building might need a little renovation.

This is the view of the back side of the Parthenon.

Beth offered to take a photo for this mother and her daughter.  Take a look at the angle Beth is shooting from; the mom just wanted a photo with her daughter ... but she did not want the Parthenon in the photo!


The Parthenon is not the only ancient building on the Acropolis.  Above is a photo of the Theatre of Dionysus and a photo of the Erechtheum. 



Given its raised position in the heart of Athens, the Acropolis features beautiful views from all sides.  In the above photos, you can see other ancient buildings which were built at the base of the Acropolis during the ancient Greek and Roman empires.  In the last photo, you can also see the shadow of my hand waving as I snap the photo.

When we walked up to the Acropolis in the early morning, we were one of the first to arrive.  As you can see in the above photo, by the time we left, we were no longer alone.


We next walked to the excellent Acropolis Museum, which features artifacts recovered from ancient Greece, as well as nice views of the Acropolis and even clear floors with excavated ruins below your feet.

We toured other ancient ruins around the Acropolis, such as the pictured Temple of Zeus, which looks up to the Acropolis in the distance.

As you walk away from the Acropolis, there are some pretty public squares and pedestrian streets.




 
But if you walk a little further, graffiti is seen everywhere, and the neighborhoods can get pretty rough. 

Holy graffiti, Batman!  Someone spray-painted on your movie poster!

This is a photo of the outside of our hotel.  The hotel itself was nice, but as you can see, it's not the most beautiful neighborhood.




But at least our hotel wasn't named after a shady character like the hotel pictured above.


The shady neighborhoods and ever-present graffiti served as reminders of Greece's severe financial woes.  Since 2009, Greece has suffered from the most severe of the European sovereign debt crises, which has led to fears of a run on Greek banks, forced exit from the Euro, and, according to the Greek President, a "threat to our national existence."  There are many causes of the financial crisis, but the large immigrant population in Greece has found itself a popular scapegoat.  Above is a video taken from the balcony of our hotel showing a counter-protest by local Muslims against earlier anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant protests.

Even restaurants got in the spirit by offering "crisis menus."




Speaking of food, above are some photos from an excellent meal of Greek food, culminating in one of my favorite desserts on the trip: loukoumades (basically, donut holes drenched in honey).

On day two of our Greece visit, we hopped aboard a ferry to Aegina, one of the Greek islands.



Greece is famous for the blue waters of the Aegean Sea, and our trip on those beautiful waters did not disappoint.  





Aegina is only forty minutes away from Athens by ferry, but as we ambled along the streets of the small island town, it felt like a different country.


In the 5th Century BC, Aegina was a different country; it had a fierce rivalry with nearby Athens.  Above are photos taken from the Aegina equivalent of Athens' Acropolis.  The above-pictured temple is the Temple of Aphaea, a Greek goddess worshipped exclusively at this temple.  


Today, Aegina is best known for its pistachios, with pistachio trees and pistachio vendors visible all over the island.


Although we sampled the local pistachios, we particularly enjoyed the fresh, local fish, which we ate right next to the Aegean Sea.

After lunch, we enjoyed a dip in the warm, clear waters of the Aegean.


Our trip to Aegina was the perfect way to recharge our batteries before we hopped back on the ferry and met Shane and Nick at the Athens airport for the next phase of our journey: Turkey.  See you there!

1 comment:

Beth Hess said...

I could go for a nice warm plate of loukoumades right now!

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