Today we took in the highlight of every tourists trip to Athens the Acropolis. There are historical sites, but besides the Pyramids and Machu Pichu none match the Acropolis in significance in my opinion. We woke up early, had our breakfast and were in the grounds by 8:30.
We were happy that we arrived early because the Acropolis was pretty quiet. The walk up the hill to the top is full of very interesting relics and sites of temples, but does not prepare you for the experience at the top of the hill where the actual Acropolis site is.
There are 4 ancient buildings standing today The Propylea which is the entry gate to the Acropolis, the Temple of Nike, the Erectheum, and of course the most famous building the Parthenon.
Once you are up there you cannot help to be awed by the history of this site. There have buildings here since around 500 AD, and some of the great figures of ancient history such as Socrates and Aristotle walked the same ground.
The two other temples at the site are also impressive and quite beautiful. We were particularly taken with the Erectheum and the six female figurines that hold up the Porch of the Maidens. Most ancient Greek buildings are symmetrical, but the Erectheum is not, besides the Porch of the Maidens there is another wing on the other wall of the building.
The building that is the center piece of the Acropolis is the Parthenon. It is strikingly large and impressive despite the damage that has occurred due to man made and natural causes. There is an extensive repair project going on to preserve the building hopefully for another 2500 years.
After a couple of hours on top of the Acropolis we noticed the crowds were building and decided to head to the museum to look at the collection of artifacts from the Acropolis.
The museum is massive and has an incredible display of different types of relics that have been recovered from excavations in the Acropolis. There was an interesting display showing statues that had been damaged when the Acropolis was pillaged by the Persians around 400 AD. Apparently a lot of the statues that had been wrecked were piled into a garbage heap and buried. They were discovered in the 1800’s and allowed modern archaeologists to learn more about that period of Athenian history. Five of the original maidens from the Erectheum were on display in the museum also.
Today is the Athens Marathon, which the Athenians like to point out is the original Marathon. As we were walking to the Acropolis, we saw a lot of people heading out to the marathon course in their running gear. As we were walking around the Acropolis we could hear the music and the hype guy at the marathon site the entire time. After we finished with the museum we decided to head over to the stadium to see the end of the marathon.
The finish was in the Olympic Stadium from the first modern Olympics which were held in 1896. The stadium is said to be the largest marble stadium in the world. When we got to the stadium the time since the start was 3 hours 15 minutes so the good non-professional runners were finishing and there was a steady stream of them.
We hung around for about an hour and it was fun to watch the reaction of the runners as they crossed the finish line. Finishing a marathon is quite an accomplishment and to be able to do it at the site of an Olympic Stadium must be extra special.
At this point we were getting hungry and decided to go for lunch. We didn’t have anywhere in particular in mind but thought we would find something that looked interesting and give it a shot. As we wandered thru Athens looking for the perfect interesting restaurant we found a couple that we thought about but always decided it wasn’t quite perfect. Finally we got into the section of town that was packed with post race crowds and suddenly nothing was close to perfect, so in the end we headed back to the hotel and had some snacks.