Athens, Greece - Days 1 & 2

It's Monday morning, April 9th, 2:30am. We arrive in Athens at 6am. Below is one photo from our Arabian Formal Night this past Saturday, and several photos from our Easter brunch yesterday, which was brilliantly assembled by Holland America. They had food carvings representing all the places we've been, including Christ the Redeemer, Komodo dragons, penguins, buddahs, etc. It was truly exceptional...and yet another reason to eat!

 

On a side note, I've noticed a "discussion closed" in our guestbook - I have no idea what the reason is unless the website provider has some sort of program error. 

Arabian Formal Night...yes, kids, I'm wearing a dress!

Easter Sunday Brunch

Our Cruise Director, Bruce - his 12th World Voyage

Athens - Day 1

What a dramatic change in the weather – from the dry, 100 degrees in Egypt to a crisp, very chilly morning in Athens. We docked promptly at 6am, and by 7:30 we were well on our way to Corinth – approximately 60 miles out of the city. Our tour buddies for the day…the Captain & his lovely wife along with my doctor & her hubby – GREAT company! We started at the Corinth Canal, which is 4 miles long, 70 feet wide and has sloping sides 170 feet in height – it connects the Ionian & Aegean Seas to provide a short cut. Very dramatic – we immediately thought of son Bryan – he’d want to parachute from this bridge! We then proceeded to Ancient Corinth. The ruins in that area are a surprising mix of an ancient 6th-century BC Greek city and a 44 BC Roman City – the latter was built after Julius Caesar placed a colony on the desolate site. We saw the ruins and excavations of both, including a Christian Basilica, the starting lines of a Greek racetrack, a sacred spring with its bronze lion’s-head spouts and the very elaborate fountain of Peirene. A storm front moved in about that time, so we decided to have lunch at a local café – lamb, potatoes, & of course, wine! It was still raining, but we went on to the ruins of Mycenae, vestiges of a kingdom, which for 400 years was the most powerful in Greece. We then entered the Citadel of Mycenae on foot, approaching it through the famous Lion Gate. Inside were the shaft graves discovered by Schliemann. We also visited the Beehive Tomb, known sometimes as the Tomb of Agamemnon – the Greek Commander-in-Chief during the Trojan War. We decided to call it a day – a long drive back to the ship ahead of us – arrived back around 5:00pm – still raining quite hard! Very beautiful countryside – rolling green hills filled with vineyards, pistachios, olive & orange trees – not at all what I expected here. Very interested to see Athens proper tomorrow!

Athens - Day 2

Temps in the low 50’s this morning, so we once again bundled-up! We took a guided tour today with about a dozen folks – small group on a large bus so it was very comfortable. As you’ll see in some of the photos, Athens is a sprawling city – from higher vantage points as you span the landscape, it’s a maze of white, gray & cream buildings – none higher than 8 stories because of the ever-present threat of earthquakes. People are sandwiched like sardines in apartment buildings – very narrow streets – no garage parking – cars bumper-to-bumper in every direction. We enjoyed the city very much – we found the residents very friendly and while we would come back, we wouldn’t want to live here. This is another “must see” city – quite dramatic, very interesting, relatively clean – though the kids enjoy adorning the buildings with graffiti. On our way to lunch in city center, we came upon a demonstration – there have been several in Athens recently because the government has really tightened the purse strings. It was a large gathering of protestors and we walked directly past a group of policemen (probably 40-50) who had there riot gear on complete with large plastic shields. Had we been alone we would’ve headed a different direction but our tour guide was comfortable & assured us everything would be OK, so we continued - & without incident. The city is so rich with ancient history – it’s amazing! We visited the Acropolis of Athens – a symbol of the glory of ancient Greece. It’s quite a climb to reach the top, but we all walked slow and made it in about 25 minutes. History just seems to open before you as you reach the Propylaea, one of the masterpieces of classical architecture which serves as the entrance to the complex of buildings. We saw the Temple of Athena Nike (Wingless Victory) and the Erechtheum, with its classical Porch of the Caryatids. We absolutely just stood in awe of what is considered the most perfect example of classical architecture in the world – the Parthenon, designed as a shrine to Athena and at one time housing a massive gold & ivory statue of the warrior goddess. We spent a couple hours at the National Archaeological Museum, which was advertised as having the world’s finest collection of Greek antiquities - & rightfully so – it was an amazing place! Unlike Cheryl, I’m easily bored with museums but this place was awesome – they had everything you could imagine. We went on to yet another museum, opened about 3 years ago. It’s called the New Acropolis Museum – a definite must see! It was actually built over the top of some of the ruins, and many of the floors are made of plexiglass to you can look down and see the actual ancient dwellings – right before your feet! Works previously held in storage, in other Athenian museums, and museums abroad were all brought together in one museum very close to the original location. We had to stop by the Olympic Stadium – the marble complex where the Olympic Games were revived in 1896 – just an incredible structure! Again, an incredible city & countryside – put it on your list to visit if you enjoy ancient history! The local wine, though said to be very good, did nothing for me… and I tried 3 of what they said were their best. I was complimentary, but all (reds) were very shallow & fruity – almost like Kool-Aid. We were back to the ship by 4:30 – exhausted! Two wonderful days – nearly 16 hours of touring! Still full from lunch, we skipped dinner, went to the sailaway party (which was held indoors because of the weather) and were in bed by 9pm. Next stop – Katakolon (Olympia) Greece – just 300 miles up the coast, so we’ll be there by 8am Wednesday (tomorrow) morning.