It’s been a long time coming, but today was our final full day in Europe. We’ll fly out of Athens just after 1pm tomorrow, and our connecting flight to Melbourne will leave Doha late tomorrow evening. We ought to have our feet firmly planted on home soil by about 6pm on Wednesday.
With limited time in Athens, there was really only one thing to do today, and that was to see the Acropolis. Thanks to the generosity of our friend Stella, we were treated to a fantastic guided tour of the relatively new Acropolis Museum this morning, which was the ideal preparation for our afternoon visit to Greece’s most famous landmark. Stella had arranged for her friend Angeliki, a multilingual licensed tour guide with degrees in History, Archaeology and Greek and French Literature, to take us through the museum and share with us what we needed to know to get the most out of our Acropolis visit. We had a brilliant time with Angeliki. First and foremost, she was good fun to spend time with, with a great personality. Secondly, she was a natural storyteller, who was able to put everything we saw into story contexts that made even complex ideas understandable and interesting. And finally, she was one of the most knowledgeable and informative people we have met on this trip, and her passion for her subject matter was evident whenever she spoke. Angeliki spent three hours with us.
By the time we left the museum, we had learnt of the achievements of the Athenians in the 5th century BC who constructed the temples atop the Acropolis. We learnt of the construction techniques used to build the Parthenon and the Erechtheion, the importance of the statues both in terms of giving thanks to their gods and also in making the temples structurally sound, and the skilled craftsmanship of the artisans employed to make them. We also found out about the changes made to the Acropolis temples by the Romans and the Ottomans, and how the Parthenon served several different purposes over the centuries. It began as a temple to Greek gods, then became a Christian church, and then an Islamic mosque. Changes were made to its structure each time to ensure it would suit its new purpose.
So when we walked up the sloping path to the top of the Acropolis hill, we felt so much better informed than we would have been if we’d toured the museum on our own, or if we’d just turned up at the Acropolis for a look around. Although there is conservation work being conducted on the site and visitors are not to enter roped off areas for a closer look, we could still get near enough to see many of the things Angeliki had told us about – for example, where some of the Elgin marbles had been stolen from, and also where the most beautiful sculptures had sat within the pediments at each end of the Parthenon. We were able to easily distinguish what the Greeks of the 5th century BC have built and what the Romans, who arrived six centuries later, have built.
Eventually it was time to leave the Acropolis and try to find some shade. Thankfully much of the walk was now downhill. We walked back through Anafiotika Plaka, the oldest part of Athens, with its narrow streets and many cafes. We stopped at one for a cool drink, which really hit the spot. Nearby was the Roman Forum. We didn’t stay too long, although it would have been good to look around more, but it was late in the day, still very hot, and we had about a 30-minute walk back to the hotel.
Tomorrow, we’ll be up early to pack and catch a taxi to the international airport. Hopefully our plane will take off on time so that we’ll have plenty of time to make the connecting flight in Doha. We almost missed it on the original trip over here.
Thanks so much for following our travels. It’s been great to have you along for company. I don’t think I’ll be doing much with this blog again for a while. That is, until such time as we take off again on our next big adventure. Cheers.