Athens Travel Blog

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View of Athens hiking on the back roads to the Acropolis
Athens. Stepping out of the airport is like walking into a stone wall with burning hot mortar. The air is like warm rice pudding and when you breathe it, it is almost as laborous as the journey over. Sitting in the back of Yannis' taxi, hoping the city would blur by so that I could just make it to the hotel and sleep off this jet lag, but unfortunately the city drags on and on in ever-meandering streams of identical apartment buildings and travel agencies. As we near one of the many centers of Athens, I notice the trees that line the buildings bear large orange fruit. They drop from the branches onto cars that are parked underneath. The less ripe simply roll off and away down the gutters and join pools of fruit above drains for run off.
Strange fruit
The ripe-near-fermentation, however, land with a satisfying *splat* on windshields and roofs, leaving trails of pulpy liquid as they slide down the sides of the cars. I cut one open, and to my dismay, the inside is completely rotten. Probably from the pollution.

From the window of my hotel, the city is rolled like a carpet in front of me. A carpet that desperately needs to be shaken. Above the pristene white of the city below hangs a low, grey cloud renewed everyday. Every night, the smog tucks away the city like a fleece blanket, and every morning suffocates it like a pillow. The inhabitants have gotten used to it, perhaps even to forgetfulness, but to a new inductee into Greek culture and habitation, it's jarring. The first testament to Greek perseverance - an eighth of Greece's population lives, works, and raises children here.
Sidewalk cafes, watch out for hecklers

Below the smog and into the city. The streets are small. Some kind of solidarity is found in knowing that it is impossible for the Hummer trend to catch on here, where the streets are barely large enough to fit an average size sedan. We see an SUV, most likely filled with American tourists, attempt to navigate the streets of Athens, only to cause practical havoc at every turning point with the fast-driving, damage-conscious, experienced taxi drivers. Did I mention that all the taxis are Mercedes? Along the streets are your typical sidewalk cafes, with a twist. Under the tables, hoping desperately for the drop of the slightest bit of tzatziki, olive, cucumber, pita, or feta, are raggety, scrappy little cats that weave between the legs of tables and chairs, looking at the schmorgasborg above with wide, begging eyes.
Looks benign, but just wait until you have food
When the reward finally does come, they pounce with every bit of energy they had banked away and drag their prize from the clawing of their, until wagers had been placed, accomplices. Mostly calico cats, the new traveler reccognizes the primal nature of these cats. Like bears, should you come between a mother cat and her kittens, I only have to run faster than you.

At most tourist sights, and most especially and divinely the Acropolis, prepare to be severely disappointed. Blocked from the sights by a thousand tip-toeing, camera-clicking, running and slipping, pushing and hurrying tourists, time would have been much better spent viewing the Parthenon from one of the eight neighboring hills. For example, the hill in which Socrates was kept and poisoned himself. One of the charms of the Acropolis, however, was vastly overlooked by the growing crowd gathered around the Parthenon, and that was the dual temple to Athena and Posidon.
Temple of Posidon, Acropolis. This is THE tree Athena planted for Athens. Okay, maybe not, but let a girl dream.
Having two faces and illustrating the myth of how the city got its name, the side of the temple that faces the ocean is reserved for the worship of Posidon. The other, however, behind the sea-god's metaphoric back, is the temple of Athena, and beside it the fabeled olive tree. For those of you who don't know the story, I will recount it here:

Having not yet chosen a patron god or goddess, the city until afterwards called Athens called upon the rulers of Mount Olympus for a benefactor. Rising for the occasion out of the sea, Posidon claimed the city as his. Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, would not deny her own desire for the adoration of the potential creators of democracy and challenged Posidon for the role of resident god. Stepping in, Zeus, out of whom's head Athena was born, offered a fair challenge to aviod voilence between the gods.
"Follow the white, stone road" just doesn't have the same ring.
He said that both of the gods would offer a gift to the city and the god who gave the better or more appropriate gift could claim the city. Storming out of the sea, Posidon rose a huge wave from the depths of the ocean which he held quivering over the city, ready to break at any moment. In his looming and booming voice, he declared that Athens would be given strength in war and at sea by the powerful water god, brother to Zeus and uncle of Athena. Striking the rock of the Acropolis, a spring poured down from the break in the stone and helped to signify Posidon's gift. Considering this offer, Zeus turned to Athena. Upon the tallest hill of the city, Athena dropped a seed into the soil and it immediately became an olive tree. This signified the gift of wisdom and peace endowed upon the city by the goddess of wisdom. Accepting these fruits, the Athenians adopted the name Athens for their city, and took the owl, a symbol of Athena's wisdom, as their pet. As they invented currency, the drachma, their two-sided coin showed an image of Athena on one side and an owl on the other.

Rich in culture and history, Athens is a worthwhile trip, but in moderation. I would highly discourage a stay of more than four days there, and instead reccommend island hopping with help of the many ferrys which run between the hundreds of islands.
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View of Athens hiking on the back …
View of Athens hiking on the back…
Strange fruit
Strange fruit
Sidewalk cafes, watch out for heck…
Sidewalk cafes, watch out for hec…
Looks benign, but just wait until …
Looks benign, but just wait until…
Temple of Posidon, Acropolis. This…
Temple of Posidon, Acropolis. Thi…
Follow the white, stone road jus…
"Follow the white, stone road" ju…
234 km (145 miles) traveled
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photo by: Johnpro