Busy from Morning to Night

3 10 2015

I promised Nathan that I would make plans for only 1 day while we were visiting Santorini.  The rest of the time we compromised on how to spend our time: Drink beer by the pool.  Make twice daily pilgrimages for gelato.  You can guess whose choice was whose.

And so, for our first (and only planned) day on the Greek island of Santorini I had Nathan up and out the door by 8:30AM and we staggered back around 1AM.

Our morning adventures had us meeting up with Olaf Reinen of Shotz Tours for a one-on-one morning of photography and an opportunity to explore an area of Santorini that we wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

He made us realize that no one is ever going to weep at our photos and ask us if they were shot in manual mode, but that the important thing to remember is to get the shot.  Get the shot.  The point was made very clear when he asked what I would do if I was taking a photo of the water at a scenic viewpoint and all of a sudden, behind me, there was a donkey with a monkey on top, and the monkey was juggling fire sticks.  Well, it was clear that of course I would want to get a photo of this crazy sight, because, really, who would believe me otherwise.  And it was also clear, that if I was in manual mode, there was absolutely no way I could react fast enough to get that photo.

And so, with a new perspective, and the additional teachings of using the exposure compensation and histogram functions on the camera, we set off to Emborio, the traditional trade center of Santorini, and the largest village on the island, where we stopped every few steps to take photos because every few steps was something new and beautiful we wanted to capture and remember.

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Locally grown pomegranates

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Around every corner there was another brightly-coloured door, aged corridor, blue-domed church, or vibrant bougainvillea draped over bright white buildings.  We could have spent all day with Olaf taking photos, showing him our histograms like students looking for approval from their teacher, which I guess we were.  But alas…I had plans for the rest of our day.  Only 4 hours of our day were allotted for photography! 

And so we rushed back to our hotel for a quick wardrobe change before we were climbing back up the 100 steps to the main village of Oia to start our next adventure.

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We boarded a 45ft luxury catamaran with 11 other passengers and enjoyed one of the highlights of our trip!

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Six hour sailing tour with Santorini Sailing, with a fantastic crew that took us to swim at Red Beach,  the Hot Springs, cooked us a gourmet meal onboard, plied us with beer and wine, and sailed us into the perfect position to watch the sunset.

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Bronzed from the sun, happy from the wine and sleepy from the salty air, we made our way back to our hotel.  The full moon was casting a glow on the water and lighting our way.

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And then I turned and out of nowhere, a man riding a donkey comes around the corner.  Surprise! I got the shot!

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So maybe it wasn’t a monkey riding a donkey juggling fire sticks…but, I still got the shot!

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Finally…Santorini

25 09 2015

I think I fell in love with Santorini before I even set eyes on it.  I was one of the many many many girls who was caught up in the tales of friendship, love, loss and life in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books.  And after seeing the movie, I’ll admit that it was on my list of must see places.

I’m not going to say that this was one of the main reasons why Santorini made it to the top of the list of places to see when we decided on Greece as our vacation destination…but….it could have also been because its regularly listed as one of the top islands to visit in the world!

Regardless, I was pretty excited and spent a lot of time on the blogs, looking at photos and trying to decide, sunset or caldera view…where should we stay?   Ultimately I couldn’t pass up staying on the iconic cliffside of Oia.  And once again, Nathan did not want to look at photos and spoil his ‘first look’.

Here’s the thing…I looked at a lot of photos.  I looked at professional photos and I looked at other travelers’ photos.  And even though I knew what to expect, there is nothing that can compare to when you finally get your ‘first look’ at those blue domed churches and the white washed cliffside.  It’s like, you have a moment where you feel like, ‘yes! I have finally arrived!’

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My ‘first look’

This is especially the case because we took a flight to the island, arrived to a desolate airport with a locked door, while we all peered through the windows looking at the empty baggage claim spin round and round.  We took a shuttle along the east side of the island, away from the sparkling caldera views.  So I was a little confused when I didn’t see white-washed buildings, blue domes and windmills.  For whatever reason I thought the entire island would look like that.  But we were dropped off when the shuttle driver said, ‘there’s your boy’.  Come to find out that our hotel had sent someone to help us with our bags…..THANK GOODNESS.

We wound through the narrow pedestrianized streets (really more like alleys) and went up stairs, then down stairs, then down a lot of stairs.  At one point I wondered if our suitcases would hold up from being carried so far.  Our guy didn’t miss a beat when he hoisted my 45 lb suitcase onto his shoulder and started the trek down 100 stairs to get to our hotel.

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By the time we had reached our hotel, Oia Mare Villas, and checked in I was hot. So hot.  So so hot.  Sweating through my dress and all I wanted to do was strip down and jump in the pool.  But, we had to go foraging for lunch (tough life I know).  

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I may not look like I’m melting….but I totally am

We didn’t make it too far before we came across Lotsa and met our new best friend Litsa.  We loved Litsa and went back a couple more times during our trip just to see her.  And enjoy some delicious mussel saganaki and fava bean dip of course.

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Much needed beer with our view

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Now this is a view for our lunch

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Mussel Saganaki & local Fava Bean Dip

We didn’t make it too much further than the pool and the glorious A/C in our cave suite for the rest of the afternoon.

But by the time the sun was setting and the air had cooled slightly, we got ourselves together for a glass of wine by the pool and decided to make the trek down the steps to Amoudi Bay.

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And I was greeted by a sight that I have been waiting for!  The donkeys! The donkeys! The donkeys!   As soon as I read that you could ride a donkey for 5 euro, it was on my to do list.  And I had these visions of getting the cutest donkey photos.  Luckily they wear these bells, and we could hear them going up and down the steps from our hotel – so I was constantly on donkey watch.  I got my very first photo of the donkeys just steps (ok…a lot of steps) away from our hotel.

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It seemed like a really good idea to walk down to Amoudi Bay at night.  It wasn’t as hot so you didn’t feel like you were melting walking down (and then back up) the steps.  You didn’t have to worry about being too hot when we were eating down by the water (but it was still pretty warm).  And there was something fun about spending our first night eating grilled octopus that had been drying in the sun all day, right on the water that was shimmering with colours.

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The one thing that we didn’t take into account was that we were walking the same steps that the donkeys walk all day.  Up and down…up and down.  Only at night, there are very few lights to help you make sure you don’t walk in exactly the same steps the donkeys walked before you.  But, you hope for the best and wipe your sandals off before you get back to the hotel room – and it didn’t prevent us from taking those same steps down to Amoudi Bay two more times during our trip! 





Meteora: Suspended in the Air

12 09 2015

Spent a morning being amazed by the six monasteries that are built on top of natural sandstone pillars in Meteora.

We wound our way through the mountain roads and I kept craning my neck to look up….and up….and up to see the sandstone pillars.  I frantically took photos while we were on the bus, not sure if we would see these sights again.  I should have known better: 1. Of course we were going to visit viewpoints with amazing vistas.  2.  Only 1% of photos taken from a moving bus actually look good.

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Finger of God

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Cave of St. George Madilas: “Saint George with the Scarves” – the most popular cave, located in one of the steepest slopes outside of Kastraki. Every year believers hang colourful scarves near the cave’s entrance.

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Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas

Somehow our timing was perfect, and our group had many of these viewpoints all to ourselves.

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I thought we were jumping….probably smart that we didn’t jump at the same time

Originally there were over 20 monasteries built on these pillars, there are 6 remaining.  We visited 2 monasteries during our tour.  The interiors were full of detailed and intricate paintings  all over the walls and ceilings.  The courtyards were beautiful and peaceful, but the true feeling of wonder came from the fact that these monasteries were built in the 14th/15th centuries, in impossible conditions – with no roads, and all supplies and manpower hoisted up the 1200+ foot cliffs.

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Courtyard views at Holy Monastery of St. Stephen

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Private courtyard of the Monks at the Holy Monastery of Varlaam

Although there are some stairs required, the original entrances to these monasteries were deliberately difficult with access only by ladders lashed together or a net used to haul both goods and people up the cliffs.  A true act of faith.

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The pulley and winch is still used today to hoist items, although now it has a little help rather than just man power

We finished our tour around noon and eased our way back down to the village of Kalambaka.  Lunch was a unique experience at the Restaurant Meteora in Mama’s kitchen.  We entered the kitchen with dishes bubbling on the stove as Mama described what she had made for lunch: meatballs, lamb with eggplant, chicken, and many more dishes.  Mama made sure we had large portions of her delicious food as we circled around the kitchen.

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Lunch, some sticky greek honey soaked sweets, a cafe frappe and we were back on the bus for our 4+ hour ride back to Athens.

Although we did have a little detour since there was a girl on our bus who had coordinated a stop along the way to meet a long lost relative – an aunt she had never met, and who brought traditional greek sweets for all of us to enjoy!!

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Overall, just a beautiful trip through these mountains to experience a landscape like no other.

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Panoramic views of Meteora





The Sacrifices We Make

5 09 2015

I must have done something to anger the Greek Gods.

That’s the only explanation I can think of to explain the fact that not only did I fall once, but TWICE, on our trip.

Both Athena and Apollo demanded a blood sacrifice from me when we visited Greece. First Athena, Goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts and skill, got me just as we were about to call it a day at The Parthenon, a temple specifically dedicated to Athena. After this first fall, I chalked it up to being clumsy, not giving walking my full attention, wearing the wrong footwear and ultimately I brushed my scraped knee, sighed at my chipped toe nail polish and asked about the camera, which got a beating on the rocks when I fell to my left knee. Turns out, I also sacrificed a polarized filter to Athena (to which the guy at the camera store said, ‘better the filter than the lens’ – so true).

We left Athens to take a bus tour through the mountains and olive groves to upper Central Greece, to the site of Delphi.

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Delphi is a place that is believed to be determined by Zeus when he sought to find the centre of his ‘Grandmother Earth’. He sent two eagles flying from the East and the West and the eagles crossed paths over Delphi – the navel of the World.

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The Omphalos Stone: The Navel of the World

Delphi may be best known for the Oracle at the sanctuary that was dedicated to Apollo.  Apollo spoke through his oracle: the Sibyl or Priestess of the oracle who was chosen from the village.  She was kept in solitude and would sit above an opening in the earth and wait to be ‘possessed’ by Apollo.    During our tour, our guide said that there have been studies completed that suggest that a gas high in ethylene was emitted from the opening, which may have caused the oracle’s trance and raving state.

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Rock of the Sibyl

But regardless of whether or not this woman, Sibyl, was high, people would travel for miles to seek answers to their questions.  Treasuries were built to house the offerings made to Apollo.  And according to our tour guide, if someone didn’t want to bring an offering on their pilgrimage to Delphi, it was no problem, because there was the equivalent of a gift shop available to purchase offerings deemed worthy of Apollo.

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Treasury of the Athenians

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Temple of Apollo

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Temple of Apollo with a Laurel Tree (the eternal form of the nymph Daphne, pursued by Apollo until she called out to her father, the River God, for help to flee him. She was transformed into the Laurel Tree, and Apollo vowed that he would claim her has his tree and her leaves would crown the heads of leaders and champions.)

It was hot. Really HOT. We were climbing up sun-baked steps around 1PM and I felt a little reminiscent of our hot dusty accent from the bottom of the Grand Canyon from a few years back – which was not pretty. After our official tour ended at the Temple of Apollo, we were encouraged to continue walking up to see the Theatre and the Stadium, but keep an eye on the time, because we needed to be back on that bus in 45 minutes!

Up and up we walked. I kind of took in the scenery, but Nathan made a smart point that we should just get to the top first and then we knew how much time we had to take photos when we came back down – we COULD NOT miss that bus!

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Ancient Theatre of Delphi

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We made it to the top! And although the Stadium was interesting to see, I couldn’t really appreciate it, I was just too hot.

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As we turned to head back down, Nathan suggested we walk off the trail in the shade, which sounded like a great idea!  I took one or two steps down the slope of loose rock and WHAM! Down I go. Leaning hard to the left as I landed on my left knee (again) and scraped the side of my leg. It hurt.  And it was embarrassing.  I could hear other tour people saying, ‘well there’s always someone who falls…’

Apollo did not just want a drop or two, he wanted a blood sacrifice worthy of the God of music, light, healing and medicine.  But at least he didn’t require a full sacrifice of my new polarized filter – just a couple surface scratches.  And I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I fell the same way, apparently I favour my left side, because I tore up the knee that was healing from my fall at the Parthenon, but at least I wasn’t going to scar up both knees.  How convenient that I had asked Nathan if I should pack some bandaids in my bag before we left that morning (Nathan’s reply: ‘you should always have bandaids with you‘).  And so, with the help of some hand sanitizer, tissues and bandaids I did a little triage first aid, steps away from the mountain-top stadium and proceeded down the steps to catch the bus.  Only this time, as I descended from the mountain, I also descended into a little pity party.

I could not believe I had fallen…again.  What was I going to do for the second day of our tour.  And what about our trip to the islands with the many many many stairs…how was I going to survive?  I just didn’t trust myself anymore and I may have looked up at the view twice as we walked down the stairs.  I had my eyes glued to my feet, and my fingers clutched around a handrail when there was one available.  And by the time we made it down the mountain to wait for the bus, my neck was hurting from staring at my feet, my ankle was swelling up, I was bleeding through my bandaid, and I was so friggin’ hot!

Thank goodness we were going to sit down for lunch and then finish up our day on an air conditioned bus.

Perhaps I spoke too soon.  I silently patted myself on the back for packing baby powder, but baby powder was no match for a bus that had A/C issues.  So as we wound our way through mountain roads, basically cooking ourselves, I was lulled into a comatose state, too nauseous to open my eyes and look out the window and too hot to do more than rest the side of my face against the seat and take small breaths.  In our 4 hour bus ride I think I talked to Nathan once, and only to check and see if he was still alive.

So you can imagine my feeling of exhilaration and relief and a feeling that made me catch my breath, when I came across this gem at a rest stop!

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Oh my god, I have never felt so happy to have cold air blowing in my face.  I think I may have pushed a small child out of the way.  I get mean when I’m hot, apparently.

And so, after a ten hour day, seven of which was spent on a bus, I thanked Nathan for not complaining and rubbing it in my face that perhaps we are not bus tour people.  And I also may have said, that perhaps, despite our 10 year age difference, I may not outlive him after all…





Athens Treasures

26 08 2015

Part of the reason why I chose to stay at The Electra Palace Hotel in the Plaka District was the rooftop views of The Acropolis it boasted on its website.  I imagined afternoons spent frolicking in the pool, perhaps enjoying a tropical drink, and looking off to the distance to see this iconic view.

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Well, perhaps I should have planned longer than a day and a half in Athens if I wanted to make those daydreams come to life.

Instead, I found myself enjoying the rooftop terrace in an unexpected, and much more intimate way.

Jetlag had me up at 5:30AM the first morning and the excitement of a new place and all of the potential had me jumping out of bed, throwing on some clothes and taking a peek outside.  Just what I thought – The Acropolis was all lit up!

I wasn’t sure if the rooftop terrace would be accessible that early in the morning, but it turns out that it is and I had it ALL to myself.

Just me and the Acropolis, having a little photo shoot!

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After I finished up with my alone time with the Acropolis, and we marched through the city looking for a camera store to replace a polarized filter (a casualty from a fall on my BFF The Acropolis and the second replacement in less than 2 months) we finally got back to the business of exploring the city and a couple little ancient ruins.

Hadrian’s Arch was built by the Athenians, in 131 AD, in honour of Emperor Hadrian.  The monument is built of Pentelic marble and bears two inscriptions.  One inscription, facing west towards the Acropolis and the old town says, “This is Athens, the city of Theseus”.  The other inscription, facing east says “This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus”.  

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Hadrian’s Arch was built after The Olympieion, which includes the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Roman baths, classical houses as well as a section of the ancient city’s fortification wall.

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View of Hadian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus from The Acropolis

At about 11AM the heat was starting to get a little bit much and we headed indoors to explore The New Acropolis Museum.  It’s been said that construction for this museum was being protested by the ancient Greek gods.  After many protests and delays, work finally started and an ancient urban development was unearthed from the ground dug up for the foundations – construction was immediately halted.  Finally a design was created to build the museum in a way that the ancient site would be preserved and open to view.

When we approached the museum, we thought that it was the coolest thing that they had built the museum overtop of these ancient ruins and showcased them with an opening at the entrance and glass floors.  We hadn’t realized that this unique feature of the museum was not part of the original plans.

Entrance to the New Acropolis Museum is 5 euro and in my opinion, it was worth it.

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Right before we left the museum we saw this small silver cup encased in glass and a video playing.  This was the trophy won by the Greek Marathon winner, Spyros Louis, in the first modern Olympic Games.  He was the only Greek athlete to win at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens.  As he approached the stadium to win the Marathon race, people yelled, ‘He’s GREEEEK’, and the crowd went wild!

The marathon created for the 1896 Games was inspired by the legendary run of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, who ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to bring the news of victory by the ancient Greeks in their battle over the Persians.  He died moments after delivering the message of victory after running the 25 miles/40 km distance – and there you have the historical roots of the Marathon.

When the Breal’s Silver Cup was displayed at the museum in 2012, this was the first time it had been displayed in Greece.

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The Sacred Rock: The Acropolis

19 08 2015

There is a lot of pressure when you are the sole trip planner.  Sure, it’s nice to get that pat on the back if you bring your travel companions to the perfect view at sunset, or the best kept secret restaurant in the city, or if you just have THE BEST time ever.  But what happens if things don’t go according to plan, if your sources turn out to be full of shit, or perhaps you failed to notice that the site was last updated in 2012?  Well either way, I felt a lot of pressure on this trip.  I felt like we couldn’t truly ‘wing it’ to see the sights effectively, nor did I want to overfill our itinerary, and I definitely wanted to see what we could do to avoid getting caught up in a sea of cruise ship tours.  (get it ‘sea of cruise ships tours’ – HA).

I tried to ask Nathan’s opinion on a few things: do we go to the Acropolis first thing in the morning when it opens at 8AM or at the end of the day when the heat is dying down and the cruise ships are gone…. Little response.  Private tour or bus tour? what’s the price difference.  Ferry ride or flight to the islands? What’s our timeline again? I tried to show Nathan photos a couple of nights before we left, and he said ‘NO – I don’t want to see anything.  I want to be surprised.’

So there you have it.  The fate of our trip rests on my shoulders.

And so, after our 3 hour nap and a cup of mango and lemon gelato, we are off to The Acropolis.  At the end of the day.  It was still really hot.  But the light for photographs was what won me over.  First decision made.

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The Acropolis is Greece’s most emblematic monument, the sacred rock, an ancient citadel on a flat-topped rock that rises 490 feet above sea level from the heart of the city.  It is a compass that you look to to orient yourself in the city, and it may involve you walking round and round and round trying to figure out where you started and which way to go now.  But, regardless of user error – you can see it from pretty much anywhere.

After hours spent looking at the names of the different ancient sites and monuments on the computer before our trip, it all seemed a little overwhelming.  I was worried that there was a certain order to view the sites and a best view point for photos.  But once we started the trek up the dusty path, I began to realize that it really doesn’t matter.  Every ancient structure is impressive and it is mind boggling that people have been ascending this sacred rock for over 6000 years, and it just gets better and better the further you climb.

We entered at the South Slope of the Acropolis, and so our first big site was The Ancient Theatre of Dionysos.  It is the most ancient theatre in the world and saw the premiere performances of the plays from ancient Greek poets: Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, and Sophocles in 5th century BC.

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Ancient Theatre of Dionysos

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There is something to be said for sitting in seats at the world’s most ancient theatre.

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The Odeion on Herodes Atticus was built in 161 AD by Herodes Tiberius Claudius Atticus, a teacher and philosopher who inherited a fortune from his father.  To this day, this theatre is used as a venue for concerts during the Athens Festival – which would be a pretty cool experience.

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The Propylaia is the monumental gateway, and grand entrance to The Acropolis.

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Built in 437 – 432 BC, it is made almost entirely of Pentelic marble.  Now, Pentelic marble is flawless white with a uniform, faint yellow tint that makes it shine golden in the sunlight (which makes it just lovely at sunset), and comes from Mount Penteli, which according to google maps is almost 15 miles away from the Acropolis.  Considering that the monuments, including the Parthenon, are all made of Pentelic marble, can you imagine what it would have taken to harvest all of the marble and move it that distance?! Crazy!

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Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike showed its golden hue as the sun started to set during our visit.  Built in 421 BC, it commemorated the victory of the Athenians against the Persians.

As we passed through the Propylaia gateway, I could see the Parthenon up ahead to my left, but I felt like we had to delay the anticipation and leave the Grand Finale to the end, so we went ahead to the right.

The Erechtheion was built between 421 and 406 BC at the most holy site of The Acropolis.  Athena and Poseidon both wanted to be the patron of Athens and it was decided that whoever gave the city the best gift would preside over the city and surrounding lands.  Poseidon struck the earth with his trident and a spring of salt water poured out of the ground.  Although impressed, the people were not that impressed when they tasted the salt water.  Athena’s gift was the Olive Tree, which ultimately won her the prize, and naming rights, since the people found value in the food (olives), oil and wood provided by her gift.

The site of The Erechtheion is said to be build where Poseidon struck the rock with his trident and Athena planted her olive tree.  The Western section dedicated to Poseidon, and the Eastern section, with its southern balcony featuring the 6 Caryatids, is dedicated to Athena.  And the olive tree growing on its left, although not the original olive tree, is said to have sprouted miraculously after the original olive tree was destroyed by the Persians at this very same spot.

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We wandered around looking at the view.  And I was also that person that was hovering around the water fountain, taking my turn guzzling straight from the source, rather than filling up a water bottle.   I don’t know why I even questioned bringing my water bottle, much less didn’t even buy one when we were at the bottom!  But just in case that happens to you too – there is a water fountain at the top.

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We could see the flag waving to us from our hotel rooftop terrace.

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And oh look – there’s our roof top terrace!

And finally….The Parthenon! 

The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Athena, built in 447-438 BC, and the most important surviving building of Classical Greece.   It is built from an estimated 13,400 blocks of Pentelic marble that was transported from the quarries on Mount Penteli.

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During the last 2,500 years, The Parthenon has endured many different transformations.  During the Roman Period, after acquiring many new votive offerings and statues, The Parthenon became a Christian cathedral and many statues and friezes were destroyed.  It was then turned into a Mosque during the Ottoman Period.  For the majority of its life, the building remained intact – a Doric peripteral temple with 8 columns on the front and 17 columns on each side, with no straight lines in its design, so the columns appear to bulge, as if straining from the weight.  It wasn’t until 1687, when the Venetians bombarded the Acropolis, causing an explosion that created the gap in the south side of The Parthenon, that the structure began to falter.  And in 1801-1812, Britain’s Lord Elgin, removed much of the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, including 1 Caryatid, which is presently displayed in the British Museum and the Greek government has been trying to bring back to Greece to be displayed with the other 5 original Caryatids at the Acropolis Museum (which is amazing by the way).

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So there you have it.  Our tour of The Acropolis.  From 5:30PM – 7:30PM, we sweated under the setting sun, stirring up little clouds of dust under our feet.  But we didn’t have to deal with hoards of tour groups!

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Greece It Is!

19 08 2015

It took me a little while, but I finally convinced Nathan that it was time to extend our travel outside of the US and Canada.  Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting Santa Fe, Vancouver, San Diego, NYC, Arizona, Hawaii! and there are still 9 states I have left to visit, but after 6 years, it’s time to spread our wings!

So it was Greece or New Zealand.  Those were the options I was given.  And since our travel plans were going to be in July, and New Zealand is in the midst of its winter – GREECE IT IS!

After months of reading travel sites and looking at maps, reading ‘top 10 things to do’ and ‘top things to eat’ lists, researching admission prices, operating hours, and loading up on euros after checking on the financial situation in Greece, we were finally ready for our trip.  Well, I can’t say that we were ready exactly, but it was time to go!

After a 15 hour travel day/night, we touched down around 10AM in Athens; a little bleary-eyed, a little frizzy-haired and just a little bit excited to be in Greece!

We stayed at the Electra Palace Hotel in the Plaka, the oldest neighborhood in Athens, and it proved to be a fantastic home base for our adventures the next few days.  Armed with a map, 2 cameras and the anticipation of a new city to discover, we headed out to explore….that is, after a much-needed 3 hour nap.

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One of the most popular modes of transportation…especially for date night!

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Was not expecting Athens to have so much graffiti

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Streets of the Plaka with a view of Hadrian’s Arch