Sunday, November 18, 2012

Athens, Greece

Nat and I decided on a quick weekend getaway to Athens.  With 19 °C (66 °F) it was a nice little break from the 8 °C (46 °F) in Brno.  We had a really nice time but aside from the Acropolis there really isn't that much to see. You can check out pretty much everything in a day.  Whilst I still want to go back to Greece to visit Iraklion, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini and Thessaloniki, I don't have any burning desire to go back to Athens anytime soon.  I was there in 1993 and now in 2012; so perhaps in another 20 years.

 
Athens, Αθήνα, is the capital city and the largest city in Greece.  With around 3,400 years of recorded history it is one of the oldest cities in the world.  Today, the metro Athens area has around 4 million people which makes it the EU's 4th largest capital city and the 7th largest city overall.

In 1896, Athens hosted the first modern Olympics.  The Panathenaic Stadium, Παναθηναϊκό στάδιο, was rebuilt from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium.  It is one of the oldest stadiums in the world and it is the only one in the world that is built entirely out of white marble. 


Omonoia Square, Πλατεία Ομονοίας, is Athens' oldest square.  It's in the northern corner of downtown.  The "Five Circles" was erected in 2001.  It is a 15-meter (49 feet) tall stainless steel mobile that runs with water.


The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation, Καθεδρικός Ναός Ευαγγελισμού της Θεοτόκου, is simply known as the Mētrópolis.  It is the archbishop's church of Athens.  Construction began in 1842 and it was completed in 1862.  Marble from 72 demolished churches was used to build the church walls.  The church is home to the tombs of two different saints who were killed by Turks during the Ottoman Empire.  The church is currently undergoing renovation. 

Syntagma (Constitution) Square, Πλατεία Συντάγματος, is the city's largest square.  The square was built from 1836 to 1840.  It is home to the Greek Parliament which used to be the Royal Palace.  With everything going on in Greece right now, this is a main spot for protests.  Every hour on the hour you can see the changing of the presidential guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


The Zappeion, Ζάππειον Μέγαρο, is located at the National Gardens.  It was the first building that was constructed specifically for the modern Olympic Games.  At the 1896 Summer Olympics it was the site of the fencing competition.  It was the press center during the 2004 Summer Olympics.  Today it is a meeting center used for official ceremonies.

Hadrian's Arch, Αψίς του Ανδριανού, is a gateway that was built in honor of Roman Emperor Hadrian.  It dates back to 131 or 132 AD.  It is solid marble; no cement or mortar was used.  It is 18 meters (59 feet) high.

The arch is near the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ναός του Ολυμπίου Διός.  The temple was dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Greek gods.  Construction on the temple began in the 6th century BC but wasn't completed until the 2nd century AD around 638 years.  It was once the largest temple in Greece.  The column on the ground collapsed in 1852.

Hadrian's Library is on the north side of the Acropolis.  It was built in 132 AD.

The Theater of Dionysus is one of the earliest preserved open-air theaters in Athens.  It was dedicated to Dionysus who was the Greek god of wine and the patron of drama.  Excavation of the theater began in 1838 and lasted over 100 years.  Local area remains around the theater date back to the 6th century BC.  A partial restoration is underway and the $9 million project is scheduled to finish in 2015.

The Tower of the Winds is located in the Roman Agora.  It is an octagonal marble clock tower.  It is a combination sundial, water clock and wind vane.  The tower is 12 meters (39 feet) tall and has a diameter of about 8 meters (26.25 feet).  It was excavated in the 19th century.

The Temple of Hephaestus, Ναός Ηφαίστου, was inaugurated in 416-415 BC.  It was built for Hephaestus who was the Greek god of metal working and craftsmanship.  From the 7th century to 1834 it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George Akamates.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Ωδείο Ηρώδου του Αττικού, is a stone theater on the side of the Acropolis that was used for music concerts.  The 5,000 seat theater was built in 161 AD.  It was renovated in 1950.

The new Acropolis Museum, Μουσείο Ακρόπολης, is really well done.  It was built in order to house every artifact found on and around the Acropolis.  It opened in June 2009.  It is 14,000 sq meters (~150,700 sq ft) and is currently home to around 4,000 objects.  Admission is only €5 and everything is in Greek and English – Yeah!

The Acropolis, Ακρόπολις, is the most famous landmark in Athens.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Many people seem to use the words "Acropolis" and "Parthenon" interchangeably.  The Acropolis is the big flat hill that overlooks the city.  The Parthenon sits on top of the Acropolis.

The Parthenon is a temple that was built from 447 to 438 BC to honor Athena, the patron goddess of the city.  It is quite large at 30.9 meters by 69.5 meters (111 feet by 228 feet) and is considered to be the world's finest example of Doric-style architecture.


Hotel room view of the Acropolis
Over the centuries it was also a church and then a mosque.  During the Turkish Occupation of Greece it was used as a munitions depot.  In 1867, there was an explosion that occurred during a battle with the Venetians which caused most of the damage seen today.  There is a lot of work being done on the Parthenon but estimates are that it will take another 20 years and €70 million to complete the restoration.  So again, perhaps I'll head back in another 20 years.

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