Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kalos irthate stin ellada!

Welcome to Greece!

On Monday, July 20th, we arrived in Athens Greece.
Gee, I had read some interesting yet negative comments about Athens on internet blogs. But I am happy to say it was a beautiful city. Hot as all get out, but beautiful and clean, at least the parts we saw.

We arrived early in the morning to Piraeus pier. The "suite crew": Chris, Akiko, Joey and Sammy ate breakfast on their deck with this view...

Every excursion morning we headed to the big theater to await our tour. In Athens we enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Acropolis including the Parthenon, of course and then a bus tour around town and a trip south to the Cape Sounion area to see Poseidon's Temple.
Above: We have barely arrived at The Acropolis and Sammy is sitting already. The tour started quite early and yet it was hot and crowded by the time we started up the hill. If I was to venture to this area of the world again (and I hope I do), I would seriously think about going some time other than the middle of summer!
In the picture below, the tour guide is attempting to get everyone committed to using the "whisper" system. A sound system where the tour guide is able to speak in a regular voice (or perhaps a whisper) into a microphone and then everyone in the group can hear what she is saying through your provided earphone (as long as you do not stray too far away). I am here to say these things do not work very well. I quickly became frustrated with it and stopped using it and just ran around taking pictures. I'm sure I missed a lot of information, but really, that is what the internet is for :)
So, there is the old myth about Poseidon and Athena each wanting the city to be named after them and each offering the city a gift... Poseidon produced a spring of water symbolizing naval power, however, the people of Athens were not so impressed since the city is already surrounded by water. Athena created the olive tree, symbolizing peace and prosperity and, of course, the city was named for Athena. Below is an olive tree that sits on the same spot as the tree originally created by Athena, supposedly. Those silly Greeks love their mythology.
Below is the pathway leading to Athena's Temple: The Parthenon. Yes, those rocks are as slippery as they look! I CANNOT image visiting here in the rain. Apparently the Parthenon is always covered in scaffolding.
The view from the Acropolis area is quite spectacular.
Below: Michael got into this picture posing kick. Here he was trying to do a 'School of Athens' kind of pose with Michael the Philosopher and Joey and Sammy as his pupils. The boys were just not feeling it.

In the below view from the Acropolis, you can actually see our cruise ship way in the distance at Piraeus pier.
Like I said, hot and CROWDED!
Above Chris and Akiko look so cute at the Parthenon.
The architecture is incredible. Grammy keeps wondering where her little grandsons have gone. There's nothing like pictures to bring you into reality.

Above, me taking a picture of 'Sammy the Giant' at the Parthenon. Below, Sammy the Giant :) Gee, in the picture above its a good thing no one lit a match around my hair... I think I could have started a monstrous fire like the one that has been burning in Athens recently. It really was just one bad hair day after another--I guess a small price to pay though.

Below, after we left the Acropolis area we got a bus tour of the city before heading out to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. Below is a picture of a Greek Guard (Evzone) doing ritual exercise in front of the Parliament building (not changing of the guard which is every hour, but just ritual exercise which is every 15 minutes). There were actually two guards and at some point in the ritual they actually lift their legs very high and touch their little shoe pom poms together. I so wanted to get a picture of that, but we were already on the bus.
After driving around the city a bit and seeing the original Athens Olympic Stadium (done completely in marble), we headed south of Athens to the beautiful Cape Sounion area (pronounced sort of like Cape Sonia). It was gorgeous and although a bit windy, it was really lovely.

Cape Sonunion is the site of the ancient Greek Temple of Poseidon. According to legend, Cape Sounion is the spot where Aegeus, king of Athens, leapt to his death off the cliff, thus giving his name to the Aegean Sea. The story in Greek Mythology goes something like this... every year Athenians were forced to send 7 boys and 7 girls to King Minos of Crete as a tribute. The youths were then placed in a labyrinth that Minos had built for the half man, half beast creature called Minotaur to be devoured. Aegeus' son, Theseus went off to slay the dreaded Minotaur on the island of Crete. If a ship came back with a black sail, then the mission to slay the Minotaur had failed. A white sail meant success. Theseus was successful in slaying the Minotaur, however, they neglected to change the sail. When Aegeus saw the black sail coming from the sea, he was so distraught he flung himself into the ocean.

Above: The Temple of Poseidon
After a long day of sightseeing. We were happy to return to the ship.

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