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Day 2: Athens

We were quite tired after yesterday's long day of travelling, so we didn't make a terribly early start to today. By the time we left the apartment, it was nearly 10am and already a bright sunny day. It felt like it was beautifully warm to us, although the some of the people of Athens seemed to disagree and we passed multiple people wearing jeans and coats as we began to make our way towards the centre!

We didn't have to go far from our apartment before we found the church of St Constantine.


We were walking towards Syntagma Square, which is the main square in Athens. As we were walking along one of the main streets in that direction, we caught sight of a very impressive-looking building on the opposite side of the road.


This is the academy of Athens; Greece's most important research centre.


Some of the buildings are very grand!


We kept walking, somehow managing to miss Syntagma Square (it was a bit confusing, because there was some sort of race going on!) and unexpectedly found ourselves outside Hadrian's Arch, which was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman emperor Hadrian in Athens around 132 AD.


When we turned around and looked up the side street we were standing beside, we got our first view of the Acropolis. It looked a long way up!


The view helped us to orientate ourselves and it didn't take long before we found the entrance to the Acropolis slopes. I'd bought our tickets in advance online (€20 each), which was great because it meant we didn't have to queue. The guidebook said that you could spend several hours queuing for tickets in the summer and although the queue didn't look that long today, it also looked like it was moving pretty slowly.

Once we were inside the grounds, the climb didn't look quite so daunting.


The tickets included a map, which numbered and labelled the different sights. The first one we came to was helpfully called "shed of exhibits" xD


Things got a bit more exciting after that, as we started walking around the grounds.


We passed piles of stones and pillars...


...before arriving at what looked like a huge amphitheatre.


This is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which was built in 161 AD and used as a venue for music concerts.


It was restored in the 1950s, so the seating is all rather new.


We'd climbed a fair way uphill by this point, so as we looked out over the theatre we started to get a sense of how big Athens is.


The Acropolis had been quite quiet up to this point, but once we passed the theatre we got caught up in a bottleneck of tour groups.  This was the Propylaea, the ancient gateway into the Acropolis.


It's a bit difficult to see because of the crowds, but there is a series of quite slippery steps leading up here. You had to be careful not to get jostled off by people! Once we got up the steps and started walking through, it was a bit more peaceful and we got a glimpse of the temple of Athena Nike.


Finally we were at the top, and we could see for miles. If you look carefully in this photo, you should be able to make out the sea!


We walked along the edge of the wall which we'd seen from a distance. All the rocks and pillars looked a very long way below us now.


After a while I realised we could see Hadrian's Arch which we'd passed earlier, and what looked like the remains of a Roman forum behind it.


The best view was when we turned around though and saw the Parthenon for the first time :)


Restoration works are still ongoing, so there is a fair amount of scaffolding and even some cranes, but it's still really beautiful.


The big hole in this side of the structure was caused by the Venetians in 1687, who were bombarding Athens as part of a war against the Ottomans and accidentally ignited a pile of Ottoman ammunition which was being stored inside the building, resulting in a huge explosion.


Most of the sculptures which survived the explosion were then removed by Elgin in the early nineteenth century.


As we walked around the Parthenon we found a stone with some Greek inscription on it, but unfortunately we have no idea what it says!


I also have no idea what I was doing in this photo, which otherwise would have been a great view xD


Luckily there was also a great view from the other side, and I managed not to do anything weird in this photo :)


At the far end of the Acropolis is a viewpoint with a huge Greek flag. There wasn't really enough wind to see it properly today.


There was also a view of Mount Lycabettus, which is the highest point in Athens.


The Parthenon isn't the only impressive building on the top of the Acropolis. This is the Erechtheion, an ancient Greek temple which was dedicated to Athena and Poseidon.


The temple is best known for the Porch of the Caryatids.


The statues which you can see today aren't the real ones; one of them was removed by Elgin, so is now in the British Museum, and the other five have been moved to the Acropolis museum for safekeeping.


The restoration has been done very well - I wouldn't have known they were replicas if I hadn't read it in the guidebook!


We just had time for a last look at the Parthenon...


...and then it was time to head back out through the gateway.


Thankfully the steps were slightly less of a crush this time around!


We soon found a sign for the exit, which is one of the few Greek words we have learned so far: Exodus.


We wandered around the slopes a little bit more, before making our way out.


As soon as we left the Acropolis, we came to a small rocky outcrop with steps carved into it. It was slightly challenging to climb up because the rock was very slippery.


Once we made it to the top, there were some great views back to where we'd been though :) 


Thankfully there was a less slippy staircase to climb back down! We were well overdue some food by this point, so we started trying to find our way towards a part of Athens where there might be restaurants. On the way we passed this beautiful little church, which reminded me of some we'd seen in Macedonia a few years ago.


Before long we found a nice place to eat, with a roof terrace from where I could see the flag on the top of the Acropolis :)


Tim opted what was described as "kebab" and turned out to be suspiciously like Croatian ćevapčići. I played it safe and had spaghetti bolognese. Can you work out which words are "kebab" and "bolognese" on this receipt?!


(Clue - in Greek, the sound "b" is represented by the letters "m" and "p" together).

When we'd finished eating we strolled back through the side streets and Tim navigated us so that we came down to Hadrian's Arch once again.


From here we were able to get a better view of the Roman forum.


As we started to walk back in the direction of the apartment, we tried to pay more attention so that we didn't miss Syntagma Square this time around. We did find it, but it turned out not to be terribly impressive. This building, which we hadn't paid much attention to when we first walked past, is actually the Greek parliament!


We were quite tired by this point, so headed back to the apartment where we enjoyed the airconditioning and I had a bit of a siesta xD If it's this warm in October, it must be unbearably hot here in July and August! We've had a great day and it was definitely worth €20 to see the Parthenon :)


Edited by Clare

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