Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Strolling around Athens for Free

After my Marathon day, I slept blissfully late.  I was going to slough off the day, but rallied in the afternoon after a nap to make my way down to the Athens Free Walking Tour.  I have done similar tours in Brussels and Bruges, it is a fun way to see the city and get a lot of info on the place I am in.  Basically, the tour is free but it is expected that you give the guide a tip.  Usually something between 5-10 euros depending on how good the tour was.

I met the tour at 5pm next to the Acropolis Museum.  On the tour was a smattering of nationalities including people from France, Singapore, Canada and Ireland. I was the only American, generally not a surprise.

We received a lil info about the tour and Greek history before we embarked down to ruin of the Temple of Zeus, of which construction was initially begun in the 6th century BC, but was not finally completed until the Roman period by Hadrian.  It was the largest temple in Greece during the Roman period, but by the 3rd century AD was sacked by Germanic barbarians.

 In front of the fallen colossus was Hadrian's arch, which opened up from below up to the Akropolis on high
 From there, we ventured on the Panathenaic Stadium, where the Pheidippides collapsed after his sprint across the plains of Marathon.  It was once where the Olympics took place.  Now it is where the Athens marathon ends, and also where the torch ceremony for the Olympics begins. 

We continued on to the Zappaeion, which was build by the Zappas brothers to hold the headquarters of the first modern Olympics.  It also played host to the fencing competition in the first modern Olympics.

From there, we wandered through the lovely public gardens of Athens and over to the Parliament (Factory of Corruption...) to see the soldiers standing guard.  The soldiers gave us their best rendition of Monty Python's silly walk as they strutted for the changing of the guard.

We passed back through Syntagma Square, as a protest for Kurdistan passed by.  We passed down to the Athens Basilica, with its beautiful blue marble.  Unfortunately, the church has been under construction for more than a decade after an earthquake so it did not make for good photo materials.

We then continued down to Monastaraki, a main plaza in Athens.  It was fascinating because there was an old Ottoman mosque in the foreground, following by Hadrian's library in the midground and the Acropolis in the background.

We ventured a little further uphill to get the last of the tour amidst the day's fading light.  I got a nice shot of the palace of justice just near Mars Rock, where the Apostle Pavlos preached to the Athenians to lil success at the time.  In the valley below, sat an old temple of Hepaestus, the God of the Smith.

On the whole, it was a great tour.  Well worth the price of admission (and the tip).  I learned a lot about Athens, and would recommend it for anyone visiting this fair city.

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