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Friday, June 02, 2017

Ageless Athens

Athens Airport 

Our Gulf air flight from Bahrain slowly looped its way down ,we were on our way to our second European trip this time to six most famous cities 
Does just going to a single city in a country and staying for two days make you claim you had seen the country ?
Yes it could 

We know Athens is just the capital and important city of Greece but the country itself has sunny islands great beaches and hilly enclaves 
Its culture ,dialects ,slang ,food, habits, would change with its places
All countries are so .
India should be the best example
Like if someone from outside visits Delhi and tells I know India i had gone there 

it would be absurd 
for a Delhiite may almost be a foreigner in language color looks habits food of say a Chennaiite 
But saying that the flavor of a country is there in its parts 

Yes be it in Delhi or Dimapur or Daman diu the Indianness is present 

Our pick up person had a fitting name  Dionysus 
He was waiting for us and gave a hearty hand shake telling me to call him Dione .that was better its all good to be in medieval Greece but Dionysisu well Dione sounded more of today 
It was around 40 km to Athens city and with some traffic jam we reached Hotel Polis grand where we had booked room .
When i had booked the hotel I thought it had something to do with a police station but later came to know it was well within the realm of the grand Acropolis hence was so called
After some rest we jaunted out as it was a pleasant evening 

Orthodox church in Plaka 

Greece to me is in one word History
Every person we see has behind his image if we have the imagination thousands of years of history 
 democrats philosophers orators debaters soldiers in  helmets women with flowing robes and Hellenic beauty who moved a thousand ships 
the images one conjures with Greeks
It all depends on the  travelers eyes
It depends on his imagination to put his soul into his travels
That travel always beats time 
it can be felt by the traveler
Its my kind of travel
It was a sunny Greece that welcomed us to Athens.that afternoon
The spring was slowly setting in and the chill definitely missing  when our flight parted  the clouds to reveal a sprawling Athens.
The Greek civilization as ancient as Indian Chinese and Mayan civilizations had many notables who are still being venerated 
Pythagaros.Hippocrates.Socrates.Plato.Archimedes were pioneers in maths science medicine and  philosophy 
Alexander was its most famous emperor whose sword traveled far into the east till india and then he returned a more wiser man but to never touch the shores of Greece  

Same way by being just about two days in Athens we did get a flavor of Greece 


We walked up the crowded street laden with discount sales .plenty of cafes shops restaurants the famous Plaka 
this was n area with restricted traffic though a few bikes and delivery vehicles may surprise you
the streets are lined with so many souvenuir shops boutiques tobacco corners churches restaurants many on the pavemnt and slowly rising up thr acropolis 
They are excellent places to sit with a beer or a cup of coffee and watch the world pass by .
Fashionable women in high stilletos tall and dainty .older Greek women with scarf tied and a cherising smile reminds us of grannies .men in a slouchy cap and a smouldering cigarette playing cards .shiny up market branded shops with bargain prices .kiosks selling small things with plenty of sovvenuirs .an ornate church with bright idols and icons .
Street musicians who are seen in most sqaures are happy with their music and collection .
We went up and up to view the world from Acropolis 
When the lights below were twinkling and the cold was getting into our bones we returned back as it was time to get into warm sheets of our hotel polis grand of course it means acropolis not police !
Hence Plaka is pulse of Athens
In the seventies this area was a bit seedy with loud music halls and women later the Government cleaned it up to make it a hub of fashion shopping souvenuirs and food
We slowly walked up the winding road that led to the Acropolis hill

Acropolis entrance closed in evening 

sunset from Acropolis
night view from Acropolis

ruins of the Acropolis

From the Acropolis

A mellowed sun was dipping the sky with red vermilion ,descending into the ruins that shone with a brilliance of the past 
The ruins were all over but as it was evening the main ruins were already closed ,of course we had booked for a tour the enxt morning thisevening was more of a trailer 
We went up last bit by a staircase to climb a hillock get a view of awesome Athens
The city spread on all three sides with prominent landmarks well viewed on one side rose the Acropils ruins itself close to us and above 
as the sun set the view became more ethereal and as the sun dipped the dark was punctured by  blinking lights in thousands which made Athens look magical 
We descended down lost our way for some time but hit the winding  roads and finally reached plaka again 
chef in Melliatros 

we went into the Meliorates  a very warm homely patisserie 
The windows were full of fresh fragile creamy chocolaty delights luring many into its folds .
After the exhausting climb up Acropolis ruins and gazing at the twinkle eyed vistas in front and below us  we were ravishingly hungry
The handsome Greek chef was full of smiles and his welcome was as sweet as his cakes .
Finally we settled for a plate of warm crispy soft chocolate covered cheese crispier for premila who was veg for the day (sivarathri )and a juicy lettuce tomato cheese topped crispy onion ed delicious patties multi layered burger for me brought to us with so much passion .
As we dug into our food and as the juices churned its delights the true meaning of Athens the city dawned on us .
We walked back to our hotel in the growing chill and had a fitful sleep 
the day dawned and after a hearty breakfast in our hotel we were off to reach our tour pick up 
we had a tour of Athens and so union bay that day  
breakfast in ?Acroplois hotel
break fast

After a sumptous breakfast from our hotel we started the day 
The tour was booked through viator by me online .most of the good tours for this trip was booked by us like this and we never regretted so perfect and professional were they 
Most tour guides were higly educated and knowledgable ,some were Phd in history or architecture and knew exactly what they were talking ,even thoguh a bit costlier these tours really give you the whole insight and are very slickly organised 
We started off in the Panathenaic stadium 
At first built years before Christ era it was rebuilt during the Roman reigns ,s Atheltics participated in nude several events Emperor Herodes spent a lot of money between 139 to 144 AD to refurbish it ,those day ,it was called the marble stadium as it was entierly made of marble and though in disuse for long once christianity became strong and the games were considered as pagan celebrations the marbles stolen and the vaults in disarray used by some virgins for rituals to get a good husband !
It was revieved back to host the first modern olympics in 1896 , 
2004 Athens olympics was innaugrated here several games were held and even today the olympic flame startes from here summer winter and youth olympics

Panathenum stadium
After this we went to see the Acropolis 
A hillock about 500 feet in Athens city is also its most prominent part ,obviously in the past such a spot would be a military stronghold protected by a wall till about fifth century BC
a temple to reining deity Athena Polia was constructed around 550 BC on the place where the famous Parthenon would come up 
the older Parthenon was demolished by the Persian invasion in 480 BC and it took a while to start rebuilding after the Persian crisis
in 437 BC Paoylea a colonnaded gate was constructed with massive marble Doric columns
the eastern part was built the Temple of Athena and the western part to the Poseidon Erectheus 
during the Roman period several temples were repaired newer  ones built 
in the Byzantine period the Parthenon was converted into a church but during the Ottaman period it was a military garrison and the Erectheium was the Governors harem ,the Parthenon was also used to store gunpowder and during one war was blasted away to pieces 
A mosque was also built during the Ottoman period which later on was cleared 
from 1975 a massive restoration of the Acropolis is on almost achieving fruition now 

We saw the huge pillars rising above majestically their smooth marble reflecting the weak sunlight 
coming down we saw an accordion player with lilting tunes before we got into our bus to go to the Acropolis museum 


the Acropolis museum is one of the best museums in the world with priceless antiques ,its well designed with a below ground original archaeological dig under a glass floor on which one can walk ,in short one walks on ancient Athens ,its halls are neatly lined up with computerized voice overs and in many halls photography was prohibited

Acropolis museum

With our time limited and pretty hungry and our afternoon tour in 30 minutes we asked the waitress with a quaint tattoo of a molecule formula on her forearm to get us a chicken soup as it was pretty cold and some grilled chicken
Food is wholesome healthy and in large portions in Greece
The Greek like to eat and healthy food what with
plenty of fruits vegetables and meat .olives cheese and olive oil go well with Mediterranean food .
Our soup was filling and tasty we made it a tad spicy with liberal sprinkles of pepper 
Chicken grilled tasted like our tandoori juicy hot tender and succulent
One couldnt ask for more 
It was the right start for wanderers

soup in syntagma 
waiting for Greek lumch

Though wouldn’t call it strictly Greek food the restaurant was a typical Greek one at SyntagmaThough wudnt call it strictly Greek food the restaurant was a typical Greek one at Syntagma Athens .
With our time limited and pretty hungry and our afternoon tour in 30 minutes we asked the waitress with a quaint tatoo of a molecule formula on her forearm to get us a chicken soup as it was pretty cold and some grilled chicken
Food is wholesome healthy and in large portions in Greece
The Greek like to eat and healthy food what with plenty of fruits vegetables and meat .olives cheese and olive oil go well with mediterranean food .
Our soup was filling and tasty we made it a tad spicy with liberal sprinkles of pepper

Chicken grilled tasted like our tandoor juicy hot tender and succulent
One couldnt ask for more
Best part is Greeks love yoghurt our own Amchi hamara curd which iam passionate about probably only country where they made so much fuss on curds
Some countries ask whats yoghurt ;(
The other thing Greeks have is Halva which is the wind blowing ftom Turkeys known for its succulent halwas
So a hearty lunch indeed 

The temple of Poseidon and sounion bay was the agenda for the 
Afternoon tour 
65 km away from Athens we cruised along the coast .

The weather was sunny but cool
The waves shimmered as they crashed gently into the small beaches .

All these beaches will be full of umbrellas during season said our tour guide 
Quaint resorts dotted the beach .
She pointed out to an exotic huge statehouse 
That one was given to the Government by Onassis group yes the very famous Greek shipping magnate who married Jacqueline Kennedy .
She also showed us another house up the hill belonging to same person up for sale !
Well should seriously think about that !!
The area was full of archaeological finds 
In fact whole of Greece is one huge archaeological dig 
Every side one turns one finds columns pillars balustrades and stories from the past fly in the air .
As we climbed up to reach the towering marble pillars of the Poseidon temple standing tall with its back sides and front to the sea on a clifftop we were regaled with the story of Theseus and Aeges .
King Aegeus ruled Sounion bay 

Sounion  bay

Poseidion temple 

At that time Crete island had a king who took a blood tax from Sounion in a war that seven young men and seven young women will be sent every year to feed the man bull monster in his underground labyrinth .the monster minatour which would eat them up .
Theseus son of king Aegeus of attica asked his dad to allow him to go to Crete and try to kill monster
The king finally agreed but tells his son
Dear son i will wait for you every day up the cliff 
If you come back alive please raise white flag instead of the existing black flag 

the son thesus goes tot ht labryhth kills the minator and returns from labrynth with the help of minos the daughter of king minos who had fallen in love with thesus and brings her back but in the elation of his victory he forgets to raise the white flag and king aegus wauting in the shore not seeing the white flag but only the black one jumps into thte sea thingking his son is no more ,the sea is still called Aegean sea fter him 

Thus ended our day in Athens and we were abck in our room dreaming about the Greek kings thier buildings Gods and thier wars 

1 comment:

parvathy menon said...

Fabulous travelogue sir
Really loved the photos and your journey!��

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