Monday morning Peter and I set the alarm for 7:00 AM and after breakfast we set off for the Acropolis - it opens at 8 AM and our Rick Steves Athens guidebook (worth its weight in gold) recommended entering the site either early or after 4 PM - otherwise, at around 10 AM, the tour buses disgorge an incredible number of people all heading as a group to the entry gate. The wait to enter can be as long as 45 minutes at the peak time. But as we approached the ticket window at 8:10 AM we thought it was not yet open - nary a soul was there! We bought our passes and climbed up the hill and steps to the incredible entry, called the Propylaea - this is what it looks like from below, when the hoardes had ascended and we had descended:
Note the scale of the people!!! Only thing missing is the togas.
We spent almost 2 hours wandering around the ancient site - it is overwhelming. Those of you who had the chance to study some Greek history might recognize the the Erechtheum and the Caryatids' balcony (aka women with a building on their heads):
Note the Athenian city sprawl in the background...
Here are some views "up close" of the amazing monuments:
Detail of the Erechtheum
East Pediment of the Parthenon - detail (great zoom Peter!)
SE corner of the Parthenon
You just cannot appreciate just how MONUMENTAL this monument really is until you are there standing in front of it. Takes your breath away.
We spent the rest of the morning into the afternoon touring around the various sites associated with the Acropolis. We greatly enjoyed visiting the Ancient Agora (market) site just northwest of the Acropolis. There we ran into our touring buddies Nancy and Bill, who were sketching and enjoying the wonderful statuary that line the reproduction of the Stoa of Attalos, built in the 1950's and housing a small museum of site artifacts:
Nancy, June and Bill - travel buddies
There was a wonderful restored temple on the site, the Temple of Hephaestus. However, we were floored by the signs of seismic activity which is a constant threat to restorations and ruins alike:
We decided we were getting hot and tired so it was time to find food and rest - which was such fun, as we wandered right into the old market area of Athens called the Plaka - a feast for the senses!
Shop til' you drop
After finding some wonderful junk snack (think giant donuts) we visited the Roman Agora, Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus and the Odeon of Pericles (aka Yanni's Theater due to his PBS concert special...)! The walk through the old neighborhoods directly below the east end of the Acropolis were enchanting:
Charm beyond belief
We rested briefly before our 6:30 PM bike tour kickoff meeting, then as a group we went off to have an absolutely lovely and delicious dinner of savoy soup, salads, fried zucchini, potatoes, lamb, chicken and the most amazing baklava I've ever eaten. Got to get on that bike!
Tuesday - let the tour begin!
We started our last morning in Athens by meeting our guide Patricia in the lobby - we hiked up to a wonderful and underutilized park called Lycavittos Hill. The views were spectacular and it was a great farewell to a fascinating city:
Peter takes in the sprawl of Athens to the south and west
The hill also has one of the best views of the Acropolis site as it is actually higher:
Amazing view - including the Odeon below the Acropolis walls
Peter got in another nice sketching session while I prowled around the market before our 12 noon departure for the ferry (Flying Dolphin), heading for Poros where we would be fitting our bikes and taking our first ride:
Hydrofoil boat - 1 hour to Poros
By the time we got into our rooms, had our meeting to review the bike safety rules of the Experience Plus! tour guides (always a good thing) and got fitted to our bikes, it was 4 PM when we set out on our first ride - a short but very hilly 16K loop of the island. The views were spectacular and a preview of the beauty to come:
We're not in Minnesota any more!
Rick, Jeff, June and Linda look at the spectacular scene
The Pines of Poros - like a Thomas Hart Benton painting!
Got back at 5:30 PM, cleaned up and started the blog - but dinner called and now it is WAY past my bedtime with a big climbing day tomorrow - only 37 miles but lots of "terrain" - yippee, I can burn some stored calories! I will report in (hopefully) either tomorrow or Thursday with our further adventures - thanks for following along...