We were up at 5.00 am on Sunday May 18th for an 8.55 am flight from Rome to Athens. We had said goodbye to everyone on our first tour over dinner on the previous night. They had another day before the tour finished, but we had to be in Athens to begin our connecting tour of Greece & Turkey. May 18th was my 60th birthday and everyone gave me a card and a gift at dinner. It was really nice of them.
We arrived in Athens and eventually found our transfer to our hotel. When we arrived, no one seemed to know anything about our tour, but eventually we found some other Australians and learned what was going on from them. Our tour began with a half day tour of Athens and most of this focused on the Acropolis. Our guide Nick (What other name could a Greek have?) took a long time to explain the history of the Greek gods but I have to admit that I didn’t understand very much. The study of the classics is not my strong suit at all.It has been warm here – an average of 26 degrees on both days and we were standing in the sun for a long time listening to Nick’s history lesson.
There is an incredible length of history here. The Acropolis and Parthenon were built under the sponsorship of Periclise by 430 BC. They have been under renovation for some years and will be for many more year. It is interesting to contrast the scaffolding that now surrounds the buildings with the openness that I remember from my first visit to Athens on a business trip nearly 30 years ago. At that time, it was possible to wander through the buildings unencumbered. Not only are there Greek ruins,but also the remains of a Roman Temple from the days when Athens was occupied by the Romans in the time of Hadrian.
There are, of course, some new things in Athens. The airport and connecting road to the city were built for the 2004 Olympic Games. The airport is a long way from the old one that I remembered near the port.
Another part of Athenian history is that this is the place where the apostle Paul preached to the Athenians (on the rock pictured below)
In the evening, the six of us from our original tour got together for a birthday drink from a little bottle of Lemoncilla that I had bought for the occasion in Cinque Terra.I will always remember Athens as the place where I became eligible for my senior’s card.
The guards at the tomb of the unknown soldiers were very impressive with their discipline and stature.
Today, we began a tour of regional Greece with a stop at the Corinth Canal about 70 kms from Athens. This is a a deep canal that links the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea. You can see both ends from the road bridge. It is 6 kilometres in length and 21 metres wide. The water is 80 metres below the road level. Quite an engineering feat!
Our major stop today was at the site of Mycenae. The Mycenaens lived in, and around, a walled citadel on a hill top from as early as 1800 BC. Some burial sites have been identified and a museum houses artifacts including bowls, jugs and figurine. We walked to the top of the hill to survey the archeological diggings and watched a couple of men working on a wall with a trowel and a brush. It was really something to be able to walk amongst the remains of a civilisation that ended over 3000 years ago!
Nearly as old, was an old lady near the Corinth Canal selling grass woven into interesting shapes. I though that she would have either been Periclise’ Widow, or at least the grand daughter of a Mycaen!
Our hotel tonight is very nice and new. It has a large lobby with a marble floor and could easily be the site for a ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’. We’ll have to wait and see if there is one tonight. I suggested to Ruth that we should look out for a nice Greek boy for her. I thought that a change of name from MInahan to Papadopoulos might be something that she could consider. Every person here seems to have at least three cousins in Melbourne, so she should be able to increase the number of people in her family very easily. It would also give us an excuse to throw some plates. Surprisingly, she was not at all interested.