neither here nor there: day 7

Let's see, where were we? Ah, yes, our first full day in Athens.

With just five hours of sleep we were reluctant to wake up around 9 a.m., but especially after not making this leg of the trip had been a real possibility for a brief time, I was anxious to get started. We had energy bars for breakfast and after a quick detour to check out the rooftop view, we boarded the hotel shuttle to Syntagma Square.

We supplemented our energy bar breakfasts with coffee (a "Freddocino" for me) and donuts sold from a street vendor. We wandered around Syntagma Square a bit, and checked out the visitor's center down the street, where we received limited information about the whereabouts of ATM's and the details of the hop-on/hop-off bus tour. We noted some fancy hotels, right on the square.

I thought the Parliament building looked awfully pink until I realized that was just the effect of my slightly rose-colored glasses on the beige stone.

They even have a changing of the guard ceremony and this one is hourly, not just once daily.

We passed what we assumed were three guards headed down to begin the ceremony as we walked along the side of the Parliament building to the Benaki Museum.

This museum was on my general neo-classical list of things to see and do and I was not disappointed by the architecture and general impression of the place and particularly with the gallery devoted to Athens through the eyes of foreigners. I was only disappointed by the fact that the gift shop didn't seem to have a book or other collection of reproductions of the many, mostly 19th-century drawings and paintings of the Acropolis in that gallery.

From there we walked to Lykavitos Hill via Kolonaki Square where we passed on pricey lunch options (the nearby Chanel and Gucci stores should have warned us), still full from our breakfast of caffeine and sugar.

It's a decent walk (and a number of stairs) to the base of the hill so that by the time we got there we were easily persuaded into paying to take the funicular the rest of the way to the top.

The view from the top was indeed impressive, especially as a storm moved in from the northeast.

There's a little church devoted to St. George at the top:

The view to the southwest was a bit hazy but you could still make out the Acropolis across town and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.

Here's a close-up:

You can also see the Olympic Stadium, which we later tried to get to by way of the tour bus but failed.

We decided to pass on the 4 euro drinks being served in the little café at the top and took the funicular back down after about a half-hour, making our way back to Syntagma Square. On the walk we spotted the Parthenon between apartment buildings.

Seeing the Acropolis from various vantage points throughout our first day (we reserved Sunday for the actual visit) was surreal, as if the maquette I'd seen and photographed in Boston had been magically imposed upon the hazy skyline.

Back near Syntagma Square, we enjoyed souvlaki in the company of just a few of Athens' stray dogs.

At that point we thought we'd catch the hop-on/hop-off bus tour at the Parliament stop, thinking it'd eventually loop around to the stadium. We waited about twenty minutes and were urged to jump on when it finally arrived. On our way to the next stop, as we fiddled with our euros to try and pay the attendant, she explained to us that the bus is not so much a loop as a route that ends two stops after Parliament. The route begins at the National Archaeological Museum but by then we had missed the last bus. We walked back to where we'd just been and took the metro back to the hotel.

After confirming that our view did not include the Acropolis, we made our way to the rooftop bar, where we watched the sun set...

(...over beer and hummus...)

...and the Acropolis light up.

Wow, so that's what it's like to spend a productive, uneventful day of sightseeing.


the oakland samps said...

I'm so glad the story is back! :) Those pictures are amazing. Seriously breathtaking.

Becky G. said...

Thanks, Mer. It's good to be back! And I guess I should admit that, while I took about 99% of the digital images I've posted to this blog, Neal took a few here and there, including the Acropolis by night (and the picture of me, obviously).