Dec 292016
 

So first there was the Acropolis, and then there was the Agora, Hadrian’s Library, and souvlaki. That sounds like a fairly full day, no? Ah, but it didn’t stop there.

We headed home for a short break, then were off again, foraging for food. We visited the tiny market we found yesterday, with its three one-butt aisles. Careful with the backpack, me! We can’t stock up, as I’m wont to do, because we fly again in a couple of days, and we have no room in our luggage for food. Plus, Mike and Barb assure me there’s food on Crete.

Upon leaving the market, we discovered a bakery right across the street. Score! Fresh crusty-chewy bread and a big brownie.

Then there was the produce shop where the proprietress tended the cash register with a lit cigarette dangling from her lips. I gave Mike and Barb some cash and let them do the rest. Can’t . . . [cough] . . . breathe! (Tired of the smoke drama? Yeah. Me, too.)

Wheel of Fortune Across the Street

At home during dinner, I noticed the TV on in a flat across the street. The show looked familiar. Hey, they’re watching Wheel of Fortune! I squinted to see if it was the American version or a Greek version. Were those letters Greek or Latin? I thought they looked Greek, but I wasn’t sure.

So I got out the binoculars.

Nothing creepy about that.

I swear I was just watching the neighbors’ TV! And I was quite entertained.

I like to think it wasn’t too awfully long before I realized we had a TV of our own. I turned it on, and Barb managed to find the right channel.

I’m sorry, Greece, but your version of Wheel of Fortune is rinky-dink by comparison.

The Greek Wheel-of-Fortune set

The Greek Wheel-of-Fortune set

Their Pat and Vanna—no idea what their names are—are young and . . . what? Casual? I think they lack a level of classiness that Vanna and Pat achieve, Pat’s silliness notwithstanding. The money on the wheel is much lower, and the prizes are of less value. The studio is small and low-budget. The overall production quality is low. It’s a knock-off.

Wheel of Fortune in Greece

The host is in the red plaid shirt

The Greek Vanna

The lovely Greek Vanna

But it’s The Wheel of Fortune, a recognizable game and show in a not-so-recognizable studio and language. It was fun and funny, like discovering “Share a Coke with Mogomotsi” in Botswana. We tried to play along, sounding out the Greek words, but we had little luck.

Areopagus After Dark

And then it was dark, time to hit the promenade and the Areopagus again.

Nightlights of Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Nightlights of Athens

Propylaia and Temple of Athena Nike at Night, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Looking up at the Propylaia and Temple of Athena Nike

The Illuminated Temple of Athena Nike - Jen Funk Weber

The Illuminated Temple of Athena Nike

I’m a fan of Areopagus Rock and would enjoy regular visits to this spot if I lived here. It’s a relatively high vantage point: Not so high that getting up there is difficult, but high enough to afford a decent view of the city. And then there is the fact that it’s positioned just below the Acropolis so we have a lovely view up at the Propylaia and the Temple of Athena Nike. It’s not developed at all—save the metal stairs on one end, an alternative to the very slippery, wonky rock stairs—so if you want to sit for a bit, you plunk your bottom down on the rock. Perhaps best of all, it’s big enough to accommodate multiple visitors, leaving enough space between them to make conversations and the experience feel private.

Temple of Hephaestus at Night - Jen Funk Weber

Temple of Hephaestus at Night

Silhouette on Areopagus Rock, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

I learned a new low-light feature on my camera

Normally, I discourage gifts of cut flowers, but I was happy to appreciate and admire an orphan rose that Mike rescued from the promenade.


Human silhouette on Areopagus Rock - Jen Funk Weber

Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus

We continued the evening with a stroll over to Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, to see them in the light of night.

Looking up at Hadrian's Arch

Looking up at Hadrian’s Arch

Illuminated Hadrian's Arch - Jen Funk Weber

Illuminated Hadrian’s Arch

Spotlights on the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Spotlights on the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Dec 282016
 

Descending from the Acropolis, we discovered remains of a tiny church. Yep, this is the same day as the previous post. Nope, I don’t know what this church was. I’m not sure any of us knew it was there. Another surprise, perhaps.

Random church ruins at the base of the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Church ruins at the base of the Acropolis. Those are some narrow arches!

The Agora

From here, we headed to the Agora, which I especially wanted to see. In the Classical time, this is where men gathered daily to socialize and philosophize, as well as take care of business, and more. Yes, men. Not women. It was a social and commercial center. Socrates roamed here, sharing his ideas whether listeners wanted to hear them or not.

Mike photographing the Agora - Jen Funk Weber

Mike photographing the Agora

Based on what I’ve gathered from our courses, I can romanticize the Agora as a place where thoughtful people gathered to explore and share important ideas. I looked forward to coming here because I’ve been pondering and trying to synthesize all sorts of ideas of my own, and maybe this would be an opportunity for clarity or maybe to learn something new or see a new perspective.

Oh, I see your rolling eyes—and I raise you an I Don’t Care.

Today I’m thinking about the following:

  • how Americans spend time
  • how the Technological Revolution—i.e. automation—has reduced the need for human labor
  • how most people view the loss of jobs to automation as a bad thing (I do not)
  • how more and more Americans embrace entrepreneurship (life coach, anyone?)
  • how there could be more time for kind and charitable acts, as well as artistic, healthful, and intellectual pursuits if people embraced a work-less culture
  • how people admire workaholics, stress monsters, greedy people, and cheaters
  • how an unprecedented wealth disparity came to be in the US, and how it not only continues but gets worse
  • what it might be like if people valued learning and intelligence more than hoarding money, shopping, the latest digital gadget, watching reality tv (which is an oxymoron), or ranting on the Internet

Perhaps you can understand my high hopes for the Agora.

The Agora with Temple of Hephaestus, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

The Agora with the Temple of Hephaestus at the top of the photo

Despite unrealistically high expectations, and not gaining much new ground on my own thoughts, the Agora delivered a good experience. In part, I credit the greenery: There were enough trees, bushes, and grassy slopes to give it—or me—an air of peacefulness. Wandering paths in nature allow for quiet thinking. I could imagine the Agora being what I want it to have been.

But, actually, I can get the same feeling in any natural habitat, so I guess more credit needs to go to the ruins or, rather, the history that led to these ruins.

An especially nice ruin here is the Temple of Hephaestus (or Hephaistos—more on Greek spelling some other time), on the west side of the Agora, built in the 440s BC, about when the Parthenon was built. It’s said to be the best-preserved Classical temple in Greece, and I can believe that. While originally devoted to Hephaestus—god of metal-working, craftsmanship, and fire—it also served as a Greek Orthodox church for 1,100 years and a museum, which explains why it was well maintained.

Temple of Hephaestus, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Temple of Hephaestus, or Hephaistos, take your pick.

The labors of Heracles (that’s Hercules to the Romans) and Theseus are sculpted in some of the metopes around the building, but I confess I don’t recognize the stories referenced here. Chime in, Barb, or anyone, if you do.

Edited to include some chiming by Barb:

If I’m interpreting my Blue Guide correctly, that charming tiny ruined early Christian church we stumbled upon was Aghios Dionysos the Areopagite (one of the Greeks to hear Paul’s address on the Areopagus and be convinced).

As for the friezes and metopes on the Temple of Hephaestus, hmm, hard to tell since they’re all so fragmentary. The one with the two centaurs messing around with what looks like a giant bolder is yet another Centauromachy, or Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, scene. But the other two? Heracles battling Antaeus maybe, for the one with one guy holding another upside down? The other? Doesn’t look like any of the Labors of Heracles. Heracles confronting the cowardly Eurystheus after completing one of the labors, maybe? I don’t know enough about Theseus’s so-called labors to attribute the scenes to him, but I would imagine they’re either both Theseus or both Heracles, since the scenes are right next to each other.

Sculptures on the Temple of Hephaestus - Jen Funk Weber

Sculptures on the Temple of Hephaestus

Sculptures on the Temple of Hephaestus - Jen Funk Weber

Sculptures on the Temple of Hephaestus

The Stoa of Attalos

The Stoa of Attalos, on the eastern side of the Agora, was originally a long row of 42 shops. Built by King Attalos II of Pergamon (159–138 B.C.), it was a gift to Athens thanking them for the time he spent there studying with the philosopher, Karneades. The Stoa was the main shopping center in Athens for a couple of centuries, until a hostile tribe burned it down in 267 AD.

In the 1950s, Athens rebuilt the Stoa, paid for, in part, by Rockefeller money. The new building uses the original foundation as well as ancient materials. Sometimes I don’t like reconstructions, but I liked this. A lot. Maybe it’s partial reconstructions I don’t care for, not being able to separate new from old in my mind.

The Agora, with the Stoa in the distance - Jen Funk Weber

The Agora with the Stoa (long building) in the distance. The Acropolis is on the hill. See it?

Strolling along the colonnade of the Stoa - Jen Funk Weber

Strolling along the colonnade of the Stoa

This modern Stoa houses a museum with artifacts from the surrounding area, and I liked this, too, probably because it was fairly small, so not overwhelming. I especially enjoyed the ancient Athenian coins.

Ancient Athenian Coins - Jen Funk Weber

Ancient Athenian Coins. Since we can see just one side, they offer photos of the back.

Check it out . . . ancient Athenian coins have a head on one side and a bird on the other. Not much has changed in coin design in 3,000 years, has it?

Hadrian’s Library

Next came Hadrian’s Library, so it’s back to Roman construction, including brickwork (remember our discussion of Opus Testaceum?) and mosaic floors, which are a favorite of mine.

Roman Brickwork at Hadrian's Library in Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Roman Brickwork at Hadrian’s Library in Athens

Mosaic floor, Hadrian's Library, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Mosaic floors are one of my favorite architectural details.

Mosaic floor, Hadrian's Library, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

I love this pattern.

The library enclosed a garden and pool, which reminded me of Hadrian’s Villa, with its similarly shaped but much larger pool and garden.

Garden and pool at Hadrian's Library, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

The pool is in front of those four columns; imagine those people in the picture are swimming

Hadrian's Library, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

This wall from Hadrian’s Library has been incorporated into modern construction

The guide book says we can see places where scrolls would have been stored, but we never figured that out.

Souvlaki

We had our first Greek food: a late lunch of take-away souvlaki. The thick fog of cigarette smoke outside the eateries made me afraid to commit to eating at a food place, but with the door closed at the souvlaki place, it would have been fine. People really weren’t smoking indoors—at that establishment. Trust me, they smoke indoors elsewhere. We opted, though, to take our food away, eating in a not-especially-nice park with a nice statue.

Souvlaki in the Park - Jen Funk Weber

Souvlaki in the Park

Our souvlakia consisted of relatively thick grilled bread wrapped around shaved pork or beef (for Mike and Barb) or grilled mushrooms (for me), with purple onions, tomatoes, French fries (on the sandwich) and sauce (tzatziki for Mike and Barb, something else for me). They were delicious!

Agora and Temple of Hephaestus from the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

From the Acropolis, looking down on the Agora and the Temple of Hephaestus

Dec 242016
 

Apparently, you’re supposed to visit the Acropolis at the same time you visit the sites around the base. The guy who took our tickets for yesterday’s sites, took our Acropolis tickets, too. We didn’t notice until today.

So we paid 10 euros twice to see the Acropolis. Gringo tax, which is part of traveling. Let it go.

Or think of it like this: We’re supporting preservation of ruins we care about in a depressed country. Yay, us!

Perspective, and the ability to change it, is a wonderful thing.

So . . . what’s the big deal about the Acropolis? Well, as the highest point in the city, it’s been in continuous use since Neolithic times, as a place for refuge, religion, and royalty. Since Neolithic times. That’s mind-boggling history!

The site opened at 8 a.m. We were out the door by 7:50 a.m., which gave us plenty of time to walk there by 8. We took a new route, too, avoiding Georgio and his competing restaurateur friend.

The Propylaia

Crowd entering the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Spying on the crowd at the Acropolis from Areopagus Rock

This is a picture of the Acropolis entrance (aka the Propylaia) taken yesterday from the Areopagus. See all the people on the stairs? That’s why we wanted to be there at 8 a.m.

As expected, few people were as eager as we were to see the Acropolis so early this morning, and we had the place largely to ourselves for most of the time we were there. Delightful!

The Propylaia of the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Walking up the stairs of the Propylaia

Those are the same stairs of the Propylaia (or entrance), where the crowd is in the previous picture. This is the grand entrance through which all visitors in that lengthy history have passed. We’re walking where people walked thousands of years ago.

Now, things have changed a little. For instance, a ramp once split the stairs and ran up the center. People led oxen and other sacrificial animals up the ramp to the temples. Cows don’t do stairs. And having an animal stumble meant disaster. Really. Or so the ancients thought.

I think we can still see bits of the ramp between stairs, but it’s all stairs now.

Temple of Athena Nike

Temple of Athena Nike, goddess of victory - Jen Funk Weber

Temple of Athena Nike, goddess of victory

From the Propylaia, we see the Temple of Athena Nike, the goddess of Victory. There has been a temple to a goddess of victory here since prehistoric times. This is the most vulnerable corner of the site—obviously, it’s how everyone gets in!

The temple was originally built between 426 and 421 BC, to commemorate Athens’ victories over Persia. It was destroyed by the Turks in 1686, rebuilt between 1834 and 1838, and then reconstructed again in 1935.

Since some of the Pentelic marble is yellowed and some is bright white, I think we can assume some of the rock is older and some is newer. Just how old, exactly, is the old stuff? Beats me. Are there any pieces from the original? No idea.

On one hand, I like the patchwork look. On the other hand, it strikes me as modern, and that kind of ruins the historical feeling.

I like that it’s a relatively tiny little temple, kind of hanging ten on the dangerous end—on the front line. I also especially like the view of the Acropolis from the Areopagus, and this is the temple we see from there.

Flag Raisers

Acropolis flag raisers - Jen Funk Weber

Acropolis flag raisers

As we emerged from the Proplylaia, we heard what sounded like frat boys hollering out some sort of chant that didn’t fit our mood. It turned out to be the military flag raisers. No idea what the noise was about. We watched them march out, brandishing their rifles in unison.

There’s a story that goes with the flag up here. Actually, there are probably lots of stories, but here’s one:

During WWII, Germany occupied Athens. A Greek guard at the Acropolis was ordered to lower the Greek flag and raise the German flag. Well, the rebel lowered the Greek flag all right, but then he wrapped it around himself and lept off the steep north end of the rock.

Where the flag-jumper would have jumped - Jen Funk Weber

Where the flag-jumper would have jumped

Take that, invader.

Understand, however, that while this story was publicized and boosted the morale of the country during a dark time, no one has ever found evidence this story is actually true.

The Erechtheion

The Erechtheion, Athena's olive tree, and Mike - Jen Funk Weber

The Erechtheion, Athena’s olive tree, and Mike

This is the Most Sacred site on the Acropolis . . . according to someone. It’s where Athena and Poseidon battled over possession of the city. In this battle, Poseidon drew a spring for the city with his trident, but it contained salt water. Athena, on the other hand, gave the city an olive tree. Athena for the win! See her olive tree? It’s in the center of the picture.

Caryatids on the Erechtheion - Jen Funk Weber

Caryatids on the Erechtheion

Posing as caryatids - Jen Funk Weber

Caryatid wannabes

Caryatids are some of my favorite architectural details. Barb and I have posed as caryatids once, twice, or a dozen time at these sites. I wonder if my ashes can be incorporated into a caryatid when I’m dead. But what building do I want that caryatid to support? Suggestions? I’ll need to think about this.

As with all the buildings on the Acropolis, the Erechtheion has been used for many things in its long history, including a harem for the wives of a Turkish commander in the middle ages.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon on the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

The Parthenon, which was painted bright gold, red, and blue.

And then there is the Parthenon, the star of the Acropolis show. Begun in 447 BC, during the “Age of Pericles,” it took nine years to complete. Famous for its perfect symmetry, it employs a number of tricks to achieve this, which, of course, we learned about in our courses.

  1. Columns bow out in the middle to make them appear straight.
  2. The base also bows in the middle to make it appear straight.
  3. Each column leans inward slightly, but honestly, I couldn’t detect this.
The Parthenon at the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

The Parthenon

Back in the day, the Parthenon housed a gigantic gold-and-ivory statue of Athena, by famed sculptor, Pheidias. None of the statue remains; although, written accounts and replicas exist. We saw a smaller, less gold Roman version at the National Archaeological Museum.

Athena statue, Roman replica - Jen Funk Weber

Roman replica of the statue of Athena from the Parthenon

Athena statue, Roman replica - Jen Funk Weber

Detail of the headpiece of the Athena statue

Every year, women of Athens wove a new purple and saffron garment for the statue and presented it during an elaborate cross-city procession and festival. The garment was a “peplos,” which is a body-length, sleeveless outer garment constructed as a tube. Take a look at the caryatids to see how this garment was draped, pinned, and cinched around the body. Images of stories and myths wove through the fabric.

A Birds-eye View

As we always do with birds-eye views, we lingered and studied the ruins and cityscape below, along with the distant view.

The Areopagos from the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

The Areopagos from the Acropolis

The Areopagos may be my favorite site: It offers some birds-eye views of its own, but it also looks up at the Acropolis. And it’s wonderfully accessible.

Hadrian's Arch and Temple of Olympian Zues, from the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Monument of Lysikrates, Hadrian’s Arch and Temple of Olympian Zues, from the Acropolis

Check out the straight road that leads from the Monument of Lysikrates at the bottom of the picture to Hadrian’s Arch. The name of that road is “Lysikratou.” I imagine it was there and well used before the arch was built.

Lykavittos Hill - Jen Funk Weber

Athens with Lykavittos Hill in the distance

Theater of Dionysus from the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Theater of Dionysus from the Acropolis

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus from the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Filopappos Monument from the Acropolis

Can you make out the Filopappos Monument? It’s on the left side of the photo on the distant hill.

I loved seeing the theaters from above.

Our Work Here is Done

As we made our way out, more and more people arrived; tours started. The line at the ticket booth was looooooooong.

Mike in the Propylaia at the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Mike in the Propylaia on the way out as more and more people walk in

Dec 222016
 

In addition to everyone (Barb, Mike, me) choosing daily favorites, we made lists of 10 Things.

Our first 10 Things list is “10 Ways Greece is Like Italy,” in no particular order. A few years ago, we visited Italy, you see.

Obviously, this is based on first impressions of Greece. So . . .

10 Ways Greece is Like Italy

1. Rooftop and balcony gardens – Wonderful oases, no? Only way to live in a city, if you ask me. I want to house/pet-sit such a place—in Venice, ideally, but I’m open to other cities and possibilities. I’ll take great care of your garden. And your house. And your pets. I have references!

Rooftop and balcony gardens in Athens - Jen Funk Weber

That’s a veritable forest!

Rooftop and balcony gardens in Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Keep in mind, this is winter. Imagine it in the summer,

2. Narrow streets, tiny cars, tricycle cars – Like rats in a maze! Driving these is best left to Barb, but walking them is great fun.

Narrow roads of Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Admittedly, this is a one-way street–except for scooters–but still.

Narrow roads of Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Eek! This is why Barb drives.

3. Hawkers – the restaurateurs here and women selling needlework blankets. Nope, I’m not a fan.
4. Cats in ruins – Kinda makes me want to be a cat: They ignore the ropes and signs. What else is down there kittycat?

Cats in ancient ruins in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Yeah, we turned the water on briefly so the cat could get a drink.

Cats in ancient ruins in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

That is a skinny edge she’s balanced on. Is that desperation or what?

5. Ruins poking out from under the city – My imagination runs wild with this reality. What worlds might exist under our feet?

Ancient ruins under cities in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

The archaeological site ends here, but only because excavators can’t disturb the city above. I believe this is the way to Plato’s Academy, but you’ll have to be a tortoise to get there.

Ancient ruins under cities in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

The edge isn’t so distinct here, but there’s more to this site under the active city around it.

6. Roman brickwork – The kind of brickwork I’m showing here is called “opus testaceum,” and, yep, we learned about it in our Ancient Engineering class. The professor even demonstrated with Lego-sized bits! It’s pretty clever.

It’s brick-faced concrete work. Triangular pieces of brick, with points inward and long sides showing, were mortared together with concrete.

Roman brickwork: Opus testaceum - Jen Funk Weber

Roman brickwork: Opus testaceum

7. Minimal water and electricity in daily living – I’m all for conservation, but showers and laundry here seem really inconvenient to me. They’re much more of a hassle than they need to be, but the Greeks and Italians don’t seem to care.

8. Architectural details – We have hundreds thousands of pictures to illustrate this. Mike, I have some ideas for our house that I’d like to discuss.

Architectural details in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Greek columns.

Architectural details in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Well, that doesn’t look comfortable. And how’d they get a horse up there?

Architectural details in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Random designs. I love that they’re all different.

9. “Walking the shit out of . . . .” That’s a phrase we use after a long day of hoofing it over a lot of ground. We wind up using it often. I’m grateful for functioning legs and feet.

Walking the shit out of Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Walking . . .

Walking the shit out of Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Walking . . .

10. Public smoking – From the DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10: Athens guide book: “Greeks smoke almost twice as many cigarettes per capita as the European average. Although smoking was officially banned in all enclosed public spaces in 2002, this was widely flouted.”

I’d say it still is widely flouted in both Greece and Italy. At the train station in Rome, people were standing under “No Smoking” signs smoking! Here, workers are stocking bins at the fruiterer with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Ew!

One problem that no one addresses is the issue of “enclosed spaces.” We need to define what these are. I maintain that narrow roads hemmed in by tall walls are enclosed spaces, despite being outdoors. Same with crowds of people. At the tree-lighting ceremony in Lakki last week, a mass of people crowded into the square to see, hear, and mingle. It’s outside, but it’s “enclosed” nonetheless, and smokers force everyone to breathe secondhand smoke under those conditions, which sucks. It’s inconsiderate, unhealthy, and rude.

Soapbox? Really? Dude, I’m just getting started.

Heads up: The book link is an affiliate link. That means I may earn a small commission if you actually click on it and purchase something.

Dec 202016
 

Jetlag will not be tolerated. None of this easing into a time zone that turns night into day and day into night. The sun was up and we were out. We tackled the sites around the base of the Acropolis. We’ll go up to the Acropolis tomorrow.

Monument of Lysikrates

Our first stop was the Monument of Lysikrates. This monument commemorates the victor of one of the annual choral and dramatic festivals held at the Theater of Dionysus in Classical times. Lysikrates was the wealthy sponsor of the winning group, which, in this case, was a chorus of boys. This is the only surviving monument of a festival winner.

Monument of Lysikrates - Jen Funk Weber

Monument of Lysikrates

We started at the Monument of Lysikrates because a course we watched—The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, by Professor John R. Hale, PhD—recommends starting here. It’s probably the only thing we’ll do precisely as suggested, but it was our nod to a course and professor that we greatly enjoyed. We’ll be looking for other sites and images from the course, recalling nuggets of info when we run into something familiar.

Hadrian’s Arch

Running into something familiar happened right away when we visited Hadrian’s Arch, which we’d also seen in the Tour course. There it was: A crazy Roman arch standing all by itself on the other side of a multi-lane highway, with cars and buses zipping past.

Hadrian's Arch - Jen Funk Weber

Hadrian’s Arch in Athens

It brought back memories of our trip to Italy, triggered thoughts about what I know of Hadrian and, of course, some of what we learned in courses we watched recently about Greek history. I knew that on one side of the arch (the west side) words spelled out “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus,” and on the other side of the arch is written “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.”

We learned the Greek alphabet and some pronunciation before coming, so I looked hard for these statements. I didn’t know if they were visible or eroded away, and I didn’t know if I’d recognize them if they were visible, but I aimed to try.

I searched the monument for letters. High? Low? No idea.

Ha! There were some letters—I certainly couldn’t see them all, but I saw some. I looked more closely. In time, I found this:

Hadrian in Greek - Jen Funk Weber

“Hadrian,” in Greek, on Hadrian’s Arch

That’s it! That’s “Hadrian.” Eureka—I found the treasure of the hunt!

It starts with an A, not an H, but that makes sense, as the H sound would be made by a diacritical mark: a little symbol above the A. We learned that in the Ancient Greek Language class we started but didn’t come anywhere close to finishing.

In Italian, I’ve seen “Hadrian” spelled “Adriana,” but this is Greek, so I think the diacritical-mark explanation seems most plausible.

And, ohmygosh, what fun it is to piece this all together!

It was harder to get a good view of the other side of the arch—what with traffic racing over the spot where I wanted to stand—but I managed to pick out Greek letters spelling “polis,” which is “city.”

"Polis" on Hadrian's Arch - Jen Funk Weber

“Polis,” in Greek, on Hadrian’s Arch

Ta-da! Another score!

Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is the largest temple on mainland Greece. We think the columns are still the largest of their kind—and they are impressive. In its heyday, the temple had 104 columns; sixteen remain. Construction began in 515 BC, but it wasn’t completed until Hadrian had it done some 700 years later. The two-story arch which we’d just seen, built in 131 AD, was a thank-you from the Athenians to Hadrian for finishing the temple.

Temple of Olympian Zeus - Jen Funk Weber

Temple of Olympian Zeus. See the Acropolis in the background?

Another course we watched prior to coming was about ancient engineering. I confess I didn’t expect to like this class as much as I did. It was fascinating! Having watched the course, we were able to discuss how the columns and temple were constructed, recalling architectural terms we learned as well as tools and techniques.

One of the columns lies in pieces where it fell, showing clearly the different segments and hinting at how they were connected and finished.

Theater of Dionysus

The Theater of Dionysus (built from 342–326 BC) seated 15,000 people and is said to be the very first theater. It was the site of Classical Greece’s drama competitions (won by Lysikrates’s boys’ chorus one year, remember), where the plays of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides were first performed.

Theater of Dionysus - Jen Funk Weber

Theater of Dionysus

In the Classical time, plays were not performed throughout the year or even, say, the summer season. They weren’t weekly or monthly events. Rather, there was that choral and dramatic festival and the competing plays were performed all in a day or perhaps in a couple of days. There was no six-month run of a show; plays were performed once. People would come and sit all day, watching performances, one after the other. On marble benches! Do you think people brought their own cushions?

Skene of the Theater of Dionysus - Jen Funk Weber

Detail from the Theater of Dionysus

The large figure here is the comic satyr, Selinus, whoever that is. I haven’t gotten around to looking him up yet. What I see is a giant dude holding up a floor or ceiling for a row of small people who have all lost their heads. Mighty nice of him, I think, to be looking out for those headless folks.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Very near the Theater of Dionysus is this modern theater, built in 161 AD, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Yeah, I’m playing fast and loose with the term “modern.” Except this theater is somewhat modern: It’s maintained and used today, June through September. Luciano Pavarotti and Elton John have performed here, and ancient plays are still performed here.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus - Jen Funk Weber

Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Look at that three-story skene (that rock wall of arches) behind the orchestra (main stage).

This is one reason to come back during the busy summer months—or September, anyway. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Antigone—or pretty much anything—here?

Filopappos Monument

The guide book says the Filopappos Monument is “partially destroyed,” but I’d say “largely destroyed.” Or perhaps I was just tired and ungenerous at this point.

Filopappos Monument - Jen Funk Weber

Filopappos Monument, mostly destroyed

However, the walk up Filopappos Hill, through trees that provide cool shade in the sweltering summer, and the view from the top of the hill, were lovely. In ancient times, it was known as the “hill of muses.” I think that’s a high-faluten excuse for well-to-do gents who fancied themselves artists and philosophers to lounge about in the shade, I do. According to the guide book, these days, on the first day of Lent, Athenians flock here to fly kites. That could be a pretty sight.

Bombardier Church

This is actually the Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris. No sign of “Bombardier” there, eh? We just happened upon this when walking down from Filopappos Hill. We weren’t looking for it and didn’t know what it was (besides a church—du-uh!) when we found it.

Bombardier Church in Athens - Jen Funk Weber

The Bombardier Church

I liked it immediately because of the piecemeal, “patchwork” construction. But I liked it more when Mike and Barb looked it up in our guidebooks. There’s a story that goes with it.

Bombardier Church detail - Jen Funk Weber

Patchwork walls on the Bombardier Church

In 1648, an Ottoman commander planned to bomb this church, but he was unable to do so because lightning struck his canon. So the church was renamed “Saint Dimitri the Bombardier.”

Pnyx

The birthplace of democracy. After Athens became a democracy in 508 BC, the first-ever democratic congress met here weekly, with great—and, I’m sure, not-so-great—thinkers engaging in thoughtful political discourse—and possibly some gossip. Speakers, including Themistokles, Perikles, and Demosthenes addressed crowds of up to 6,000 people as they hammered out vital political processes and positions.

The bema at Pnyx Hill - Jen Funk Weber

The “bema,” or speaker’s platform, at Pnyx Hill, where Perikles and others addressed citizens of the democracy.

It’s sobering to be here now, when democracy in the US is a shambles and ignorance reigns.

Aeropagos

I like saying “Aeropagos” (air-ee-OP-uh-gus). I don’t actually know this is how it’s pronounced, I guess, but that’s how I’m hearing and saying it. It’s sometimes called the Hill of Ares (Greek god of war) or Mars’ Hill (Roman god of war).

We walked up it and enjoyed nice views all around.

Acropolis from the Areopagus - Jen Funk Weber

“The Acropolis from the Areopagus” is even more fun to say!

This is where Athens’ ruling council met, and it’s also where the apostle Paul addressed the Athenians with his sermon “On an Unknown God.”

Hadrian’s Library

We didn’t go into Hadrian’s Library, just took a peek at it below the current city street level as we walked by en route to the Roman Agora.

Hadrian's Library, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Hadrian’s Library

Roman Agora and Tower of the Winds

Our last stop of the day was the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds.

Roman Agora, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Philosophizing in the Roman agora in Athens

There’s not much to the Roman Agora save some pillars around a forum. The Tower is in fairly good shape, though. It was a weather vane and water clock constructed in the 2nd century BC.

Tower of the Winds, Athens - Jen Funk Weber

Tower of the Winds

We learned about water clocks in our Ancient Engineering course. Think: sand through an hourglass. With a water clock, you’ve got water draining from a cistern over a certain, known period of time. The tower is octagonal, and each side has a frieze of one of the 8 winds. The two friezes we see best in our picture here are of the North (Boreas) and Northwest (Skiron) winds.

Phew! It was a long, full day, but as I logged the events, I made everyone pick a single favorite thing about the day.

Favorites

Barb

Happening upon the Bombardier church.

Mike

The Temple of Olympian Zeus because of the size of the columns and architraves. (Architraves are the beams that span the columns at the top. We learned that in our engineering class.)

Jen

Finding and recognizing the words on Hadrian’s Arch.

Dec 182016
 

It’s adventure time. Yippee!

Once again, the impetus for this trip is house/pet sitting. Having checked off a number of destinations on my travel wishlist, I added Greece and Croatia earlier this year, which means Mike had his specially tuned opportunity radar scanning those places along with the usual others.

Within months of adding these destinations—bing-bang-boom, abracadabra, and shaZAM!—we got a request to fill in for caretakers who had to cancel. The call came from Leros, a small Greek island a few miles off the coast of Turkey. (Check out the Dodecanese Islands map on this page if you want to see where Leros is.)

The dates worked. It sounded like fun. Let’s do it!

On board Tricia - Jen Funk Weber

Our home for a couple of months

So we are living on board a now permanently docked yacht, Tricia, with a crippled kitty named “Roo.” We also feed and tend to another five healthy, independent, and loveable cats at a house two miles away.

Roo, our crippled kitty charge - Jen Funk Weber

Roo, getting acquainted with Mike’s coat

Arriving in Greece

We made our way around the planet slowly, with some long layovers between flights. We entered the EU in Zurich, then continued on to Athens, where we caught up with Mike’s sister, who joined us for three weeks of touring before we settled down on Leros.

The first order of business was to figure out the Athens metro system. It wasn’t hard, what with the help of an English-speaking ticket agent: We needed to take the blue line to the red line, then get off at the Acropolis. We had rented an apartment around the corner from the Acropolis.

Mike had looked up the apartment’s address and studied maps, so he had a sense of where to go from the Acropolis metro station. What we lacked was an apartment number and a cell phone that works in Europe.

We found the apartment building, and Mike even snuck inside when a resident came out, but he didn’t climb quite high enough to find our apartment (not that he would have recognized it as such) nor did he recognize the initials on the buzzer outside the door, which are those of the owner’s business name rather than her name.

The three of us hemmed and hawed in a tiny circle of a park at the end of the block, wondering who would either come up with a bit of magic to blink ourselves inside or screw up the courage to ask someone for help.

Asking for help is my job, and as uncomfortable as it may make me at times, I feel obliged to step up. (My bravery and social abilities come and go, and after a long day—or two long days—they are gone.) This is my role in our traveling trio. Somehow, of the three of us, I’m best equipped to power through this kind of situation.

I approached a kind-looking, older woman who was walking her dog in the little park. She didn’t speak English, but, lucky for us, she spoke Confused Traveler. She used her own cell phone to dial the number I pointed to on my paper. She knew enough to eliminate the 0030 country code. Then she handed me her phone, trusting me to not run off with it—or maybe not even registering that possibility.

Elevator for two - Jen Funk Weber

A phone booth moonlighting as an elevator. The sign says the elevator holds one person, but Efi says two is fine if we’re willing to squish—and a squish it is with my backpack on! We’re on the fourth floor, which, in the US would be the fifth floor because we consider the ground floor the first floor. Their first floor here is the first floor above the ground floor. Got it? Just press number 4.

Efi, the apartment architect and owner, was in the apartment, waiting for us. We met her at the door. She showed us up and around, explaining—in English—all the little details we needed to know, and giving us a rundown of local attractions and eateries.

Athens neighbors - Jen Funk Weber

Neighbors across the street

Once again, I am grateful for multi-lingual people. We benefit greatly from the many people around the world who have taken the time and trouble to learn English. Ef-ka-ree-STO. (That’s my phonetic spelling of “thank you” in Greek. It seems okay to swallow the first syllable and say “ka-ree-STO.” Roll the r if you can.)

Charlie Brown and Snoopy door mat in Greece - Jen Funk Weber

A neighbor’s doormat. We trod on this every day when we circled down the narrow marble staircase to the lobby on our way out for the day.

It was early evening. Besides eating and sleeping, we were eager to get a glimpse of the Acropolis, a visual toast to the next five days when we will explore the area more thoroughly.

Before the 2004 Olympics, Athens put in a walking path around the Acropolis, and it not only makes the site more accessible, it beautifies the area and brings both tourists and locals out, day and night, enjoying the exercise, scenery, sounds, and community. It’s a wonderful promenade.

Athens promenade around the Acropolis - Jen Funk Weber

Promenade around the base of the Acropolis in Athens

We headed out on foot and did not get around the corner before being accosted by a restauranteur inviting us in to dinner—at our expense, mind you. Georgio and the neighboring restauranteur compete aggressively on the street for customers. Efi had given us a heads up about this. But we are the toughest of tough customers, impervious to their promises and pleas. The harder they try, the less likely we are to cave.

The Acropolis at Night - Jen Funk Weber

The Acropolis at night

The illuminated Acropolis. We’re here!

Outside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus - Jen Funk Weber

Outside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Outside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a grand theater.

Closer, more thorough looks tomorrow!