Acropolis & Agora

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Majella and I were up and ready for breakfast before Emily was properly awake. Since we hadn’t arranged for breakfast at the hotel, we let Emily lie in while we slipped a couple of doors up the street for cappucinos and sausages in (sweetish) pastry. The latter was evidently a local dish but not one that we would seek out again. When we got back to the room Majella slipped out to buy a few things, including some breakfast for Emily, while I roused Emily.

By 9:00 we were all out and on our way up the Acropolis hill. It was already getting warm but fortunately there was shade for at least part of the walk and there was often a breeze to make us feel cooler. The walk took close to the 20 minutes estimated by the hotel desk staff. We rested as we felt the need and enjoyed the views over the Agora and across the city. At the top we purchased the package tickets that are valid for 4 days at several of the key historical attractions. We declined the offer of a guided tour on grounds of expense and the likely limited attention span of at least one member of our party.

We spent about an hour on the Acropolis but it would have been easy to spend considerably longer, especially in the museum which held some amazing pieces of ancient art work. The buildings were fenced off to protect them and there were signs requesting visitors not to touch the stone work. Most of the buildings had scaffolding over all or part of them as part of various restoration projects, at least some of which were attempting to undo damage caused by previous attempts at restoration. There was much to marvel at on a site that had been host to human activity for well over 2000 years and where some of the structures were close to 2500 years old.

From the Acropolis we walked down towards the Agora, the ancient marketplace of Athens. The first structure that we came across in that area was the Church of the Apostles, which was built over part of the ruins of the Agora a little more than 1000 years ago. We were able to go inside to view the mosaic patterns on the floor and the paintings on the domes and walls.

The Agora is extensive and must have been an amazing place in its time. It has been described as serving a similar function, at least in part, to a modern day shopping mall. In that respect it may have been not too different from the street stalls that are still clustered in the local area. It was organised in colonnades called stoas, one of which was apparently funded by Attalos after whom our hotel is named. The Stoa of Attalos was reconstructed some years ago with funding from a USA foundation and the restored building is used as the Agora Museum. It has displays of objects from the local area dating back to pre-Athenian times, almost 3000 years ago. The other major structure standing in the Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus.

We exited the Agora from the lower end and found ourselves in the flea market across from the bottom of Athinas Street. We strolled through, looking at what was on offer. Majella and Emily bought some small souvenirs before we headed back to the hotel and had a simple lunch from Majella’s morning shopping – mostly apricots and bread stick washed down with peach flavoured ice tea.

After lunch we headed out to Majella’s conference venue so that she could complete her registration and pick up any information that she needed prior to the welcome ceremony that evening. As we walked down the street from the hotel we met Tony, Majella’s colleague, and his son, Josh, who were returning from their island cruise. We chatted briefly and arranged to meet them later for a drink at the Attalos Roof Garden Bar. We picked up Metro tickets, rode two stations from Monastiraki to Evangelismos, located the Hilton hotel and waited while Majella picked up her registration package. On the way back we paused briefly to look at a sculpture constructed from broken sheets of glass before boarding the Metro to head back to Monastiraki.

We came out of the Monastiraki station via the other exit and emerged into the market square where we spent some time checking out stalls – some we had seen and others that were new to us. Majella expressed interest in some individually crafted plates, thinking that one would be a suitable souvenir. I found one that had a rooster in green and white against a purple background. I persuaded her that she really could not go past a “feminist rooster” to add to her collection of “chook” plates and bought it for her. Emily especially enjoyed looking in the shoe stores of which there were quite a few.

We made it back to the hotel in time to have a rest for an hour or so before joining Tony and Josh for drinks in the roof garden bar ahead of Majella and Tony going off to the conference welcome. We enjoyed a cold drink and the view of the Acropolis from the roof.

Emily and I waited a while in the room before going out to find dinner. She had McDonalds and I had a gyros from a place on one of the squares. We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel room waiting for Majella to arrive back from her conference function which featured several long speeches ahead of any social activity or food.