It is kind of hard for me to describe how anxious I have been for our visit to Greece. Greece was always in the top of places we wanted to visit. We started to make plans for two years ago, but Covid got in the way. This has worked out really well, because June is one of Julie’s “slow” months. This means she still works a lot, but not as many hours as she will next month because it is one of the months she has a major filing for the company. This holiday is really two parts. We spent a few days in Athens (for me), and as I write this we are on the island of Santorini (for Julie). Don’t get me wrong. Julie enjoyed the history in Athens every bit as much as I, and I am enjoying the black sands on the Aegean Sea as much as her!
We got to Athens Saturday afternoon, and arrived at our hotel about 4:00 PM.
I knew I picked a good hotel because the Acropolis was only a couple of hundred yards off our balcony! We were right in the old part of the city. A block away from the hotel was Hadrian’s Gate, the Temple of Zeus, and other ancient ruins. I was in ancient history heaven! After unpacking a little, we went for a stroll just to get our bearings and to try and find a good place for dinner. One thing we learned is that we both really like Greek food. I am more partial to lamb, and Julie, chicken, but we both really like gyros and souvlaki.
We started our Sunday morning with a visit to the National Archeology Musuem, and even caught the changing of the guard at the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a great start to a fantastic day! I have a video of the changing of the guard, that I will share next week after I am home and have a computer with me to do the video processing!
About a year ago, we were in Pompeii with Kaylee. We learned at the time that finding a good guide is essential to really get the most out of touring ancient sights. We found a great one in Athens as well. Calliope (Kelly) was fantastic. If you ever find yourself wanting a guide for Greece drop me a line, and I will get you her number. (Side note: Becoming a licensed guide in Greece is really hard. Kelly has an undergraduate degree in Greek History, and then she had to study for an other three years including an internship before she could be licensed.). I will never be able to do the tour justice, but Kelly took us on a “circle of life” tour of ancient Greece. We were fascinated to learn the myths of creation. (It is eerily similar to a story christians and jews learned from Genesis.). Next we learned about how Athens came to be called Athens.
The story is that Athena and Poseidon were both vying for the citizen’s hearts. They both gave gifts to the citizens. Athena gave the olive tree. Poseidon gave the sea. The myth is they gave their gifts on the same hilltop (eventually the Acropolis). Athena gave an undying Olive Tree, and about 15 yards away from that. Poseidon threw his trident at the ground, and opened up a passage from the hilltop all the way to the sea a few kilometers away. According to Kelly this is one of the way that Greek Myths grew. There is a hint of truth to the myth. There was an Olive Tree that was all by itself on the top of the hill, and a few yards away there actually is a natural well from the very top of the hill that really does lead to the sea. The olive tree was destroyed during one of the final battles at the Acropolis, but the tree was planted in the same spot is still hundreds of years old.
Of course the citizens enjoyed Athena’s gift more than Poseidon’s so she won the battle, and the hearts of Athen’s citizens forever. The Acropolis was built as a holy site to honor many Gods, but the shining achievement was the Parthenon that was built to honor Athena. Another side note to Christianity. Athena is also a Triune God. Just like in Christianity there is God, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Athena is the God of Wisdom and Knowledge (she created the ship, chariot, and plow). She is also the God of VIctory in Athena Nike. Finally she is the God of the Arts; she created weaving and ceramics.
We ended our history tour in the Agora. This is the pretty much the birthplace of Democracy. The Agora was the central hub for all political activity in Athens. This was the area for public discourse as well as where the leaders met and made decisions. One interesting tidbit, is that the Ancient Greeks did not believe in elections for their leaders. They thought that type of election was actually anti-democratic, because the same popular people would win over and over again. Instead the city’s leaders served (I thought Kelly said two year) terms that were decided by random chance. Every citizen able to vote (Landowners or wealthy men of legal age) had their names put in a machine. This machine used colored balls and if the ball landed in your name you served in that position. They thought this was more democratic, because it gave every citizen the same opportunity to lead. Seems like a crazy idea to me, but it was successful for a few hundred years, so who am I to question. 🙂
After our tour we were pretty exhausted. Julie’s iwatch said we walked about 24000 steps. The last part of our tour was trying some original greek food. We tried some Koulori first. This is a greek pretzel. It is a ring made from bread and covered in olive oil and sesame seeds. YUMMM! Little known fact. The average person in Greece consumes over 21 liters of olive oil every year. That is over 5 gallons!!! We then stopped for some Galaktoboureko. This is pastry that is made with custard or with a cheese filling. Again another two thumbs up from us! Kelly would have kept us well fed for the rest of the evening, but we already had dinner reservations so we had to say goodbye.
We spent our last day in Athens touring some more of the ancient sites, and ended with some shopping. I actually shocked the heck out of Julie, because I bought some summer shirts made in Greece. I figured it gets hot in Zürich too, so I might as well have something made by people that really understand hot weather! I may not be that stylish when we get back to the US by US standards, but I will be rocking my new shirts. One of the other highlights was visiting the Acropolis Museum. This is a relatively new place. It only opened about five years ago. There are two things that I found fascinating. The first was the top floor of the building is a “re creation” of the Parthenon. The floor is the exact size of the Parthenon, and it has the columns etc. The museum used what was left of the original statues and carvings and these circle around the floor just like they did 1000’s of years ago on the original building. The only thing this floor is missing is a re creation of the Athena statue that was in the original building. That would have been really good. The second thing that amazed me is that the entire building is on stilts. There is an archeological site under the museum and they kept it as intact as possible when they built the museum. When you see the gallery pictures that talk about “House E” and show what they think the house looked like these are pictures of this site.
Yesterday we flew to Santorini, and it is a wonderful place. I will have more to say about Santorini, but for now. The water is fabulous. It is incredibly clear and the perfect temperature for swimming.
As usual I have more pictures than I can possibly put up; so you will get some pictures now, and more over the next week or so. If you enjoyed this, please subscribe below.