2014 Vacation in Greece
Full breakfast buffet at the Amalia Hotel
Our group at the Pan Athenian Stadium
Day 2, Thursday, July 31, 2014 (Athens)
(Written by Linda Van Tran and Bo Cung)
As a teen, I (Linda) was fascinated about Greek History, its ancient civilization, one of the oldest and most advanced in history. I read of their worship of God and Goddesses with immense power who loved to interfere in the life of us mortals, of Zeus, Athena, Posedein, Hades, Aphrodite and of their great philosophers. So I was ecstatic and looking forward to today's adventure, which was a five hour tour of the ancient ruins including the Acropolis and other famous sites in Athens.
In preparation for our long day ahead, we had a hearty complimentary breakfast buffet at the Mezzanine Restaurant in the Amalia Hotel. We enjoyed the Greek style breakfast which was really tasty and included Greek yogurt and olives, of course.
After breakfast, we boarded a shuttle to tour the city. The shuttle's first stop was at the Pan Athenian Stadium, not too far from our hotel. This is an outdoor sports venue that was built in 330 BC and became the site of the first modern Olympics.
The entire stadium was built of white marble and could seat 45,000 spectators. This is where the Olympic flame handover ceremony takes place before every Olympic Games. As we enjoyed the vastness of the stadium, we could not help but eye the alluring Acropolis in the background.
The Pan Athenian Stadium
Next, our tour bus meandered through busy Athens streets. We we could see the Temple of Zeus and the Hadrian Arch, which is the gateway between the old city and the new Athens.
At 10:30am, our bus reached a huge parking lot at the base of the Acropolis. The sun was strong but not unbearable, and with a flutter in our hearts to finally witness one of the Wonders of the World, we started our upwards ascension to the famous Acropolis, the symbol of western civilization.
High-stepping guards watching over the Parliament House and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
Martine and Lucas enjoying the spectacle
Hadrian Arch connects old city to the new Athens
Christina, Lee and Linda at the Theater of Herodes Atticus. The bottom space set up for an opera
Lee in front of the Parthenon
Tina and Lee at Temple of Erecthion
Lee at the Pan Athenian Stadium on an early summer morning
Changing of the Guards at the Parliament House
Map of the Acropolis
Heading out to see Athens
Our next stop was at the Parliament House, just in time to witness the changing of the guards. Although we saw this event the night prior, we took an opportunity again to watch it by day.
We recommend that you visit the Parliament building at night when it is cooler and the night light adds enigma to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers
A group of engineers, merchants and artists in 400 BC transformed this rocky hill into an architectural masterpiece of monuments, temples, and fortresses. Left in ruins for many years, Athenians then realized the treasure they had, and began efforts to preserve them.
On the way up, we took in breath taking views of Athens and of the Theater of Herodes Atticus. We climbed past huge marble columns consisting of multiple round pieces stacked on top of each other instead of one uniform column. This was done to absorb earthquake shocks. The grooves on the columns helped to deflect the bright constant sunlight.
On the top level of the Acropolis are three important temples: the Parthenon, Athena temple, and Erecthion . The Temples were faced East to capitalize as much morning sunlight as possible.
I stood at the top of the Acropolis admiring the temples and wondering how Athenians of historic past came here to worship their deities among such splendor.
I thought of the wonderful literature, poetry, and movies that were inspired by this very place. These enormous structures looming over us stood through times of war, persecution and prosperity, since 600 BC, over 2500 years.
Martine, Lucas and Danh at the Acropolis
Temple of Erecthion
Linda at Temple of Athena
Columns at Temple of Erecthion
Grooves in columns.
Group picture at the Acropolis
L-R: Linda, Martine, Baby Lucas, Lee, Bo, Christina, and Danh
Next, we headed to the Acropolis Museum. It has a fascinating entrance as we looked below our feet through the glass floors to see the ruins of the old town. Leaving my mark on Greek soil, I tossed a coin into the circular well structure beneath me and made a wish.
Inside the museum, we were not allowed to take pictures of the artifacts on the first floor. With no camera now to distract me, I perked up my ears and gave my tour guide my undivided attention. I was fascinated to learn the following in particular:
- The temple sculptures used to not be ivory or white as we see them today, but painted and colorful.
- The crown or halo that the goddesses wore on their heads are actually there to deter bird droppings. Yes, you heard it!
- Male sculptures are often naked because Zeus and his Gods marvel in their male 'masculinity'.
- Female sculptures were always clothed in robes except for Aphrodite, who could be exposed because she is the Goddess of love and fertility.
- Athena, the military Goddess and protector of the city of Athens named after her, was a daughter to Zeus and born a full grown woman.
- And finally, Greek tour guides must earn a four year college degree. Interesting!
We capped off the Museum tour with a gorgeous view of the Acropolis as we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the popular Acropolis Museum Cafe & Restaurant.
Christina at the Acropolis
Our second day in Greece was amazing and nothing short of our expectations
Acropolis Museum. You can see the reflection of the Acropolis on the museum glass wall
Glass floor suspended over excavation sites
Beautiful women inside a beautiful museum
Martine, Baby Lucas, and Danh at the Acropolis Museum
Since some of us work in public transportation, we enjoy testing out other cities' mass transit system. So we took the Metro red line from the Acropoli Station to Syntagma Station near our hotel. We were impressed with the modern and clean station, and the efficient train operation.
After a late afternoon rest and a short nap, we headed out again to explore new territory, get in some souvenir shopping, and fine dine.
We went to Plaka Area and Athens Flea market. The ambience, evening lights, street entertainment and crowds really livened up the town. I personally loved seeing the street musicians, food vendors, and patio restaurants. Athens is definitely a city to enjoy at night time. The flea market consisted of many small Mom and Dad shops that closed by 10pm. Our tour guide told us that Greeks prefer small shops over department stores.
Athens Metro. Syntagma Station.
Restaurants in Plaka Area packed with afternoon customers
Early evening drink at a restaurant in the Monastiraki Square
In Plaka Area
Athenians eat very late dinners, so we embraced their custom and arrived fashionably late at the fancy Electra Roof Garden Restaurant at 10pm. Rated a 5 star hotel and restaurant, the food was tasty and even better, the night view of the Acropolis and Athens were to die for. Nothing can put into words the tranquility and mesmerizing view before us.
As a continuation of our Paris trip bonding and friendship, we wrapped up our night with intimate and supportive discussions of our life happiness and concerns. I can honestly speak for our group when I say this: we genuinely enjoy being in each other's company and love providing each other pro bono advice.
Electra Roof Garden Restaurant with the Acropolis lit up in the bacground
Dinner at the Electra. We are the last ones that leave the restaurant