Athens (Summer in Europe 2014)

“Nothing shall part us in our love till Thanatos (Death) at his appointed hour removed us from the light of day.”
– Apollonius Rhodius

The quote above pretty much sums up my love for this country.  I felt it when the plane took off in Budapest and my heart was beating excitedly when we landed in the city of Athens.  But I have to admit that Athens was not as beautiful as Prague and Budapest.  It was just like any other major city: it had terrible traffic, it was full of graffiti, and it was a bit sketchy (lol).  When I took all that in, I had a lot of doubt about forcing my family to go into Greece, knowing that they had high expectations, especially after seeing the showcase of sights the previous cities have given us.

But that doubt lasted only a short while as the city grew on me, not because of its buildings, but because of the stories.  I always knew that I loved Athens for a reason.  Maybe it’s not the modern infrastructure,  but the stories behind the old ones.  Since I loved Athens (and Santorini, which is upcoming!), I’m going to give more narrative, yay.

A little background: Athens was named after their patron saint, Athena Minerva.  She is the goddess of wisdom, crafts, strategy, courage, and just warfare.  Before being named the way it was, Poseidon and Athena had a bet.  If they could provide the citizens of this once unnamed city the thing they most need, the city would proclaim him/her as the patron saint and name the city after him/her.  I’ve always wondered why Poseidon and Athena were so significant to the city, knowing that the distance of their temples (one for Poseidon, two for Athena) formed the sacred perfect triangle when plotted and connected (and none for Zeus, bye, jk he has a temple but it’s not deemed as important).  But the tour guide explained that Poseidon protected the military fleets of Athens before, so there.  Anyway, Poseidon first provided the citizens with a saltwater spring as a symbol of naval power.  However, the citizens found that while water was an essential need, it just wasn’t potable.  Athena, on the other hand, gave them an olive tree, as a symbol of peace and prosperity.  Aside from that, what made her triumph in the end was that the olive tree was a source of livelihood and food for the citizens.

But in the end, Athens was actually not polluted (except for the cigarette butts?) and the people are super great.  Plus, they have awesome frozen yogurt.

FIRST DAY

The first site we checked out the next day was the Acropolis.  When my parents were asking why it was called the acropolis, I could never give them a straight answer.  Even I didn’t know why.  But after passing by a tour at the New Acropolis Museum, the tour guide explained that if you break down the term acropolis, you’d have “akron” which means “highest” or “topmost” and “polis” which means “city.” So basically, it meant the topmost city.  It was known before as Cecropia, named after the legendary serpent-man Cercops, who was also the first ruler of Athens.  Most of the buildings within this city are now ruins because of a war that destroyed most of the structures.

Seen here is the Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus.  Dionysus (Roman counterpart: Bacchus) is the god of wine and ecstasy.  Said to have been built by the god himself, this open-air theater usually held festivals for him.

(I’m not sure if this is the Parthenon, huhu, because they all look alike but anyway…) The Parthenon is basically Athena’s temple and main place of worship for her followers/believers.  The temple is also one of the three temples that make up the sacred perfect triangle.

Before going to the Plaka for lunch, we stopped by the Temple of the Olympian Zeus (and Emperor Hadrian’s Wall!).  Zeus was the king of the gods and the heavens, as well as one of the three “Supreme” Brothers — the other two being Poseidon and Hades.  He was married to his sister Hera (who conveniently was the goddess of marriage) but was the biggest womanizer there is, transforming into anyone and anything just to mate with any mortal/goddess/spirit.

We then stopped by the National Archaeological Museum.

We ate dinner at Papaiannou, this pretty great seafood place.  It wasn’t Greek food, per se, but the seafood here is pretty fresh because they just catch them and cook them.  The photo above was the view from where we were seated.

SECOND DAY

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We took a two-hour bus tour to Delphi, the sacred sanctuary of Apollo.  He is the god of light, poetry, music, prophecy, and the Muses.  It is said that the Ancient Greeks would come from far and wide to visit the Oracle, Apollo’s most trusted Seer.  Admittedly, though, she would never give direct predictions and forecasts, but ambiguous statements that can be interpreted in more than one way.

Also, Oedipus Rex lived here after his father, King Laius, abandoned him due to a prophecy the Oracle gave him.  The Oracle told him one visit that his son will overthrow him and that the son will sleep with his mother (aka Queen Jocasta).

THIRD DAY

The thing with Athens was we were almost always out of the city.  It is so metropolitan now that its modernity (-ish) sort of overpowers the old and most of the sites are outside the main hustle.

The gelato guy from Poros said this was the best ice cream parlour on the island.

We took the Athens One-Day Cruise to three islands: Poros, Hydra, and Aegina.

This is the Temple of Aphaea Athena in Aegina, and one of the temples that make up the perfect sacred triangle.  It was restored by German archaeologists (I think?).  Aside from that, Aegina is also known for their pistachio products.  I think it’s because this one of the sites where they grow that kind of nut.  This was also my favorite site to visit because it was about four in the afternoon (nearing five) and the sun wasn’t as hot anymore, hehe.

The view from the upper deck.

FOURTH DAY

Before I begin the last, here’s a photo of H&M.

This day concludes the first set of our stay in Athens (our second set is just a day lol after two days in Santorini) and it was capped off with a visit to the last of the three temples: the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.  Unlike the other hectic (and hot!!) tours we took the previous days, this was a pretty laidback, slightly cold (but windy as hell!!!!!) one.  Sadly, we didn’t see the sun set because it was darkly clouded and it rained even, plus there was so much wind (illustration: put your face in front of an airplane propeller. Yep, that was how windy it was.).

It’s fitting for his temple to be placed here.  After all, Poseidon is the King of the Seas.  He is also known as Earthshaker, because he tends to produce earthquakes too.  He is also the guardian of horses and one of the three Supreme Brothers, the other two being Zeus and Hades (the god of the underworld).  Sidetrack: Hades is the god of the underworld and metal (??).  I can’t talk about him separately though because his temple was destroyed, sadly.

There was also the story of King Aegeus, the father of Theseus, and the legend of the black/white sail.  It was said that King Aegeus sent his son Theseus to Crete to murder the Minotaur.  The Minotaur is a man with a bull’s head, produced from the curse put on Pasiphae to fall in love with a bull.  It’s messed up, man.  She told one of her manservants to fashion her a wooden bull so she can go inside and mate with the bull.  Anyway, Theseus was triumphant, due to Ariadne (daughter of King Minos of Crete)’s help, but ditched her at the last minute instead of his promise to marry her.

While on his way home, King Aegeus was anxiously awaiting the return of his son.  In order to know if his son survived, the sail color of the boat should be white, and black if otherwise.  Tragically, Theseus forgot to change the sails (I read that he was cursed too after being a dick to Ariadne) and so the sail remained black.  King Aegeus, thinking that his son was dead, leapt to his death.

Bonus, that’s why the sea is now called the Aegean Sea, after the super misinformed king.

Also, Lord Byron visited this place too.


ATHENS PART TWO

After our return from Santorini, we had to stay one more night in Athens because we had to fly to Rome the next day.  We didn’t do as much as we did the first set (duh), but we got to see a few more sights we missed in the city.

Sorry, the gold bathroom in our hotel just stuns me still.

This is Syntagma Square.

This is the Panathenaic Stadium, where they held the first modern Olympic games.

We finally ended our stay in Athens (and Greece) by visiting the New Acropolis Museum.  We also had a great dinner there.  At night, the Acropolis lights up too.

This was super nerve-wracking, since we could see the remains of the Acropolis under us.

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