Athens

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The historical heart of Athens.  Continuously inhabited since the 15 century when it was the cities Turkish Quarter, and for us  the only place we considered staying

We chose the Adams Hotel.  A very clean family run budget hotel.  Kosta and Dimitrio aka the Adams Family are friendly and well intentioned if not too knowledgeable about the city

  The location is fantastic, right on the edge of all you want to see in Plaka and surrounding areas.  They have a small bar-ouzerie on the ground floor but as you can see every street has outdoor restaurants operating day and night

A self portrait, I am the one with the camera in case you are wondering.

 In the absence of any local knowledge we choose restaurants solely on the charm of the waiters stationed out front to draw us to their tables

A great area to wander, shop and dine at any time of the day. Every evening an accordionist and his nine year old daughter would wander from table to table.  The diminutive  child had the voice of a budding  Kiri Te Kanawa and her renditions of Ave Maria and O Sole Mio could reduce us to tears.  Of course the wine might have had something to do with it too

Steps from the Adams Hotel is the lovely little Agia Katerini

From the street go down a short flight of steps and you are in the picturesque courtyard.   A favourite place to sit and read or just take a break and people watch

Dome and ceiling of the typically ornate church

At the far end of the courtyard is a tiny archaeological site. where some ancient columns werebeing excavated.  Not an unusual site in Plaka

Monastiraki

Another area of narrow streets, bars, restaurants and shops, everything from high class to flea market stalls.

 

Where Monastiraki meets Plaka is the home of the Tower Of The Winds and Ancient Agora.  The political and commercial hub of the city since the 6th century BC.  At one time all roads led here.

Tower Of The Winds

Built of Pentelic marble in the 1st century BC by the Syrian astronomer Andronicos.  The octagonal tower originally housed an intricate water clock.   Remarkably each side faces the points and half points of the compass even though it would be a thousand years before that instrument was introduced to Europe.  It has also served as a church and in the 18th century as the tekke of the Whirling Dervish

The Pentelic marble Stoa of Attalos  was rebuilt in 1953-56 by The American School of Archaeology.  It is a two storey building with 45 Doric columns on the ground floor.   A similar number of Ionic columns grace the upper level, where there is a model of the Agora and many  archeological exhibits..  

Running anticlockwise around the tower are eight winged male figures representing the wind associated with that direction.

These particular 'angels' are  Euros, from the South East, bringing stormy weather  and Apeoliotes, from the East with his fruit and flowers he represents mild weather. 

The domed church on the right of the picture was built in the 11th century to commemorate St. Paul's teaching in the Agora.

In the middle of busy Ermou is the 11th century Byzantine church of Panaghia Kapnikarea.  When the street was constructed in 1834 the church was threatened with demolition.  King Ludwig of Bavaria and the Vicar of Athens fortuitously intervened and it remains in it's original location. 

The Acropolis

The Propylaia.

Directly opposite is the famous Temple of Athena Nike.  Unfortunately at this time, covered with scaffolding and ugly tarpaulins.  I wonder if the Acropolis will be free of scaffolding the Athens Olympics

Built to house the 40 foot gold covered statue of the Goddess Athena, patron of Athens.  Her hands, feet and face were made of ivory her eyes were jewels. She stood here in the Cella at the eastern  and most sacred part  of the temple, where few could enter.  She was taken to Constantinople in the 5th century and being held responsible for beckoning the crusaders to the city, was destroyed in 1204

The Parthenon 'Virgins Apartment

Is the largest completed Doric temple in Greece.'  In  order to avoid visual distortion and attain perfection in the eye of  the beholder, the base rises towards the center.  The columns lean inward and are slightly convex.  Eight Doric columns graced each end, seventeen either side. All but the roof was built of local Pentelic marble.  The ceiling was painted blue with gold stars.

Sadly this is how the magnificent Parthenon looked in May of 2001

The Erechtheion

Named for Erichthonius the mythical King of Athens. and featuring the  Porch Of The Caryatids. named for the women of Karyai on whom the larger than life figures were modeled.   An Ionic style masterpiece and my favourite building on the Acropolis.

These are all copies but the originals can be seen at the onsite museum with the exception of the one plundered by Lord Elgin which you will find (for the time being) at the British Museum!

East Pediment  

All sculptures whether statues, metopes or part of the frieze would originally have been gilded and brightly coloured

Seventy five feet of the best preserved part of the frieze along with metopes and statues are now in the British Museum.  The so called Elgin Marbles

Acropolis Museum

Group with the Water God Nerus from the West pediment of the temple of Athena 

The museum itself is not to be missed.  We could not believe that many of these exhibits were not displayed behind glass.   Unfortunately the staff had to be constantly reminding people not to touch.

I know nothing about this horse in the Acropolis museum except that he is made of marble and is exquisitely beautiful. 

The Goddess Athena

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus. 

 Built in AD 161 on the slopes of the Acropolis by this wealthy Roman in memory of his wife Regilla.

Following an 11 year restoration it is now only possible to enter the Odeon during the Athens Festival.  From June to September there are performances of music, drama and dance

On a clear day there is a wonderful panoramic view of the modern city of Athens through the arches

Syntagma Square - Changing of the Evzone Guard

Every hour on the hour two Evzone Guards and their commanding officer march down from their camp to re enact the ritual changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the former Royal Palace in Constitution (Syntagma) Square

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Parliament House

 With the tomb of the unknown soldier.   Prior to  the abolition of the monarchy in 1974, is was the Royal Palace

The relief guard arrive wearing khaki kilts, the previous day they were in much heavier aubergine kilts.  Perhaps they had just changed from winter to summer issue

The commanding officer stands in front of the tomb.  The relief guards approach with a high stepping arm swinging gait,  freezing momentarily in mid movement, It seems a slightly bizarre ceremony but I never tired of watching it.  The sculpture is of a Greek soldier and the inscriptions are excerpts from the Funeral Oration of Pericles,  430 B.C. in honour of Athenians slain in the Peloponnesian War

The changeover complete the old guard touch toes momentarily before marching back to camp.  They have stood in their positions without apparently moving a muscle for two half hour periods.  At the mid point they changed positions.  In the intense heat of an Athens summer their superior officer is constantly checking their posture and uniform and when needed wiping the sweat from their brows

They make a fine sight on the march back to barraks.  I am sure I would have been mown down had I not grabbed my shot and hurried out of their way as they came barreling along

On Sundays at 10.45 there is a full dress (literally) ceremonial changing of the guard. The dress uniform of the Evzone Guards is based on the uniform of the Greek fighters of the 1821 war of independence and is native to Central and Southern Greece

The officers are even more resplendent than their men. With amazing striped boots and dress swords.  There followed a short ceremony involving the full guard

Eventually the new guard are escorted to their position in front of the tomb and the change begins again

   The distinctive pleated white kilt,  the 'foustanela' is sewn on the bias from many triangular shaped pieces of fabric.   It has 400 pleats to represent the 400 years of Ottoman domination.  Beneath it and just visible in this photograph are   white boudouri (underpants)

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A white shirt with voluminous sleeves, elaborately complement the foustanela.    Like the guards at Buckingham Palace their enemy these days is the  hoard of tourists wanting to pose for photographs

Long knitted white stockings tied below the knee with gonatoures and wonderful hob nailed Sarouchi shoes topped  with pom poms complete the uniform

St. Nicodemus

On Saturday evening walking back from Syntagma Square we were drawn by a carillon to a small Russian Orthodox church where a sung High Mass was about to begin.   We stood with a congregation of six women for an hour, enchanted by the singing and the opulent surroundings.  The Priest constantly circled the church singing in his spine tingling basso profondo voice and showering us with clouds of incense.

Beside the church but under restoration stands the bell tower, a gift of Tsar Alexander 11 to the Russian Orthodox community

A new Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 to great acclaim and 90,000 visitors in its first week.  It modern angular space is filled with light with an awe inspiring view of the Acropolis.   Historically grouped galleries put the history of the site and its treasures into context.    The Galleries are:
 The Ancient Neighbourhood -  The Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis - The Archaic Gallery - The Gallery of Propylaia, Erectheion &Temple of the Athena Nike - The Gallery of the 5th Century BC. to 5th Century AD. and The Gallery of The Parthenon .  I hear that space is reserved for the return of the Elgin Marbles.  Time for another visit I think, maybe by then the Elgins will be back home where they belong.
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