Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ahhh, Greece! Home to a plethora of photographic monuments, the infamous cucumber and tomato salad and more marble than even Martha Stewart knows what to do with. Really, though, what could be better than jetting down to Athens to spend a week with old friends among ancient splendor and many, many headless statues? As it turns out, not much.

Embarrassingly, it readily became apparent that J! and I actually know very little about Greece, modern or ancient. We arrived at one in the morning and were greeted by Iosefina and Gabriel at the airport. On the car trip back to their apartment they inquired about what sights we were interested in tackling first. J! and I exchanged glances in the back seat. Having just bought a guide book the day before we had more or less no idea what to do with our week in Greece's capital city. Fortunately for us, our friends were able to direct us to all the best spots in the surrounding area.

Sounion: Cape Sounion is home to what's left of a huge temple dedicated to Poseidon. There's also the remains of a smaller temple for Athena, but we spent most of our time contemplating the view and taking silly photographs. Sounion is gorgeous. The temple sits on a high hill facing the Agean Sea and it is proof positive that the ancient Greeks, along with philosophy and political science, were pioneers in coastal real estate development.

Hydra: This island is about an hour and half by boat outside of Athens. The island itself is quite large but due to lack of water only a small bay is inhabited. Because the village is built onto relatively steeply sloped hills, there are no cars on Hydra. Instead, locals get around via donkeys and their own two feet. Hydra's entire economy seems to subsist on donkey rentals and the selling of sunscreen at exorbitant rates to sunburnt tourists. The charm of the place has made this a popular island get away among Greek literati, so it was the perfect place for two literature aficionados like me and J!.

Epidaurus: Epidaurus as a town doesn't really exist--instead, the place is home to a collection of ancient ruins that once formed a major healing center. Unless you are an archeologist, though, the big draw of Epidaurus is not the Sanctuary of Asklepios. Instead, tourists go by the busload to climb all over the Theater of Dionysus. The Theater is one the largest in Greece and can hold about 12,000 spectators. Despite the size, though, the acoustics are almost perfect, as tour guides are eager to point out repeatedly. While we wandered around three different guides dropped coins and keys on the cement disc at the center of the stage. Incredibly, even while standing at the top of the theater you can still hear the coin hit the cement.

Nafplio: This beautiful coastal town was the original capital of Greece. They switched, however, because the Acropolis was a more impressive tourist attraction than the Palamidi Fortress. The fortress drapes gracefully down the side of the large hill above the town and offers great vistas of the bay and the Bourtzi (the small fort in the middle of the bay). Nafplio is one of those towns where the whole point is to simply hang out with friends, relax along the boardwalk with some tasty drinks and then go shopping in the downtown district.

Temple of Zeus. The fallen pillar was knocked down in 1852 by wind during a bad storm.

J! at the Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora.

The real reason ancient and modern tourists visit the Stoa in the Agora--the free bathrooms and drinking fountains.

The stunning Acropolis.

A car some student protestors burned. We accidentally got pepper sprayed later.

Thanassis, Gabriel, Iosefina and Kristos serenade us with some traditional Greek songs.

The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion.

The view from the Temple.

The thing about Greece--you don't really want to touch anything that looks old, since for all you know you're wiping your sunscreened hands all over an important cultural artifact. Iosefina and Gabriel had no such qualms. They're allowed to sit on a capital of a fallen column, though, 'cause they're locals.

Hydra locals load a motor onto a donkey. I don't think the irony was lost on them.

Beautiful Hydra.

Me, standing in the middle of a "road" in Hydra.

J!, listening for the coin drop at the Theater of Dionysus.

The Bourtzi

Palamidi Fortress


Blogger WittyName32 said...

I check in to learn all about the latest doping/cycling scandals -- isn't what's his name involved -- and instead find you guys holding in hands in Greece.

Nice photos.

6:46 PM


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