Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greece 2012: Part 1 - Touring Athens with Family

John and I went to Greece!  We were away from May 27th to June 10th.  It was a great time of seeing the sites in Athens, relaxing on the beach, and meeting a lot of John's Greek family and friends.  This will be the first of 5 posts to sum up our trip.

Day 1&2 - May 27-28

This picture was actually taken several days later.  This is John in the Apartment in Holargos, and this is the best picture I've got to represent something we did on our first couple days.

The first 2 days were spent traveling.  Greece is 8 hours ahead of Texas, and it was about 13 total hours of flying with a 2 hour layover in Madrid to fly from Dallas to Athens.  With all that, we left Texas at 5:20 pm on Sunday and arrived in Athens a little after 4 pm on Monday.  I forget how long those overseas flights are in the years between when I take them.  It's definitely worth it, but exhausting.  We had no troubles on our trip over, which is good because John's parents were delayed leaving Dallas a couple weeks before us, which ended up with a diversion through London and a 2 am arrival in Athens instead of a 4 pm arrival.

John's parents met us at the airport.  (John's parents go to Greece from May to September each summer since they retired... this is their 4th summer there.)  We first went to John's parents' apartment and then we went to get some food at a Taverna around the corner from their house.  Tavernas are the traditional type of restaurant in Greece (like the concept of Pubs in England).  Before John and I crashed in bed to get some sleep, we also briefly met Thea Nitsa (actually John's Mom, Eugenia's, cousin, but they call her Thea ("Aunt") Nitsa).

Day 3 - May 29

After about 12 hours of catching up on sleep, we were ready to start day 3.  We had breakfast from a local baker and then walked around a little to see the neighborhood.  Eugenia grew up in Holargos, the neighborhood where the apartment is.  There is a shinny new Metro open station opened just 2 years ago that is literally where John's grandparents house was.  John remembers going there as a kid and playing in the yard, so it was weird for him to see it torn down and replaced by a metro station.  Having the metro station just a couple blocks from the apartment was very nice during our trip though.

Church in Holargos

We saw a church that John's great uncle designed and built on our walk.  Steve and Eugenia got married at that church and it's also where John was baptized.  Then we walked to a friend's frame shop.  Meropi has been Eugenia's friend for many years.  She's in a new frame shop, but her old frame shop was right next to John's grandparents house.  The old shop building is still there right next to the metro, but she's now in a bigger shop a couple blocks away.

After exploring Holargos, we took the metro to downtown.  We first stopped at Syntagma square to see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Changing of the Guard - Note the skirts, tassel hats, and pom shoes that are a part of the official uniform.
We also went to the Acropolis museum.  No pictures are allowed inside the museum, but I took a couple outside.  On the first floor of the museum, there is a lot of glass flooring, so you can see through the bottom where there are continuing excavations.  Some of the excavations are visible from outside the museum as well.

The top floor of the museum is neat because it's setup like the top of the Parthenon with the Pediments, Frieze, and Metopes that remain arranged as they were on the Acropolis.  It's also interesting because there are replicas of the pieces that are at the British Museum, and there is no shortage of references to those being stolen.  Not that I disagree, but you will not leave the Acropolis Museum with any doubt of how the Greeks feel about Lord Elgin.  A couple of blurbs and a movie at the museum claim that Lord Elgin did more damage to the Parthenon than the explosion that made the entire center section collapse before Lord Elgin arrived.

The museum also holds the statues found around the acropolis, and the Caryatids (the statues of women that are columns) are in the museum (well, 5 of the 6 - Lord Elgin took the 6th).  The columns actually on the acropolis are replicas.  The caryatids are currently being restored with laser technology to remove the dirt layer off the statues without damaging the marble.  One of the statues was surrounded by a large white box to protect visitors from the laser, and there was a TV setup out side the box that showed how the laser works.

Our first view of the Parthenon on this trip.  Taken from the balcony of the Acropolis Museum.

We ate lunch at the restaurant in the museum, and afterwords we walked around the base of the acropolis to the Plaka, which has tons of shops and restaurants.  In the evening, we went to Thea Sophia's house.  Thea Sophia, like Thea Nitsa, is actually Eugenia's cousin, but they call her Thea, which means aunt.  We had assorted sweets for dinner and had some nice conversation with Sophia and her husband.  Well, to be more accurate, John and his mom had nice conversation with them while Steve and I tried to keep up with what they were talking about - they did not speak any English.  I did manage to follow the topic of conversation most of the time though, so that's saying something.

Day 4 - May 30

Our 4th day started with breakfast from same bakery and then a few logistics about where John and I would need to go later in the week (John's parents left for Germany the next day).

Then we were off to Lykavitos, which is the highest point in Athens.  Naturally, pictures can say most of what needs saying.  When you go to a "highest point", you want to see great distances, and we did:
The slanty trainish car that took us up.

Athens - that's the Old Olympic Stadium on the right side

The Acropolis

My In-Laws enjoying a view of the city

John refusing to smile as always

There was a little church at the very top.

John and I with the Acropolis in the back ground

My In-Laws

All 4 of us with a tiny Acropolis in the back

We even had a nice view of the ocean.
We walked through a nice neighborhood on our way back to the metro and had sandwiches back at the apartment for lunch.  Then we had some time to make plans for later in the week, including reservations at a hotel in Tolo (story to come in a couple posts) and how to spend a couple days in Athens just me and John (see next Greece post for that).

Another view of the Acropolis as we were walking back from Lykavitos

For dinner, we met up with Meropi for a nice dinner at a place called Georges and followed up with Ice Cream at a place that's name translates to "Ice Cream Mania".  They had a Chocolate Souffle ice cream that was fabulous!

Side note: The Greeks know how to display ice cream.  At every ice cream shop we went, the ice cream behind the glass was mounded up and decorated according to flavor - way cooler than just ice cream in metal tubs like we're used to.

PS: There are a lot more pictures that you can see in my Facebook Album.  All the pictures I'll use on my blog are on Facebook, but not the other way around. :)

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