The White City – Athens

21st June 2006

So now here I was alone in the great white city that was Athens, I would be here on my own for four days. So, when I left my tour group that afternoon I headed into my hotel and dropped my stuff off in my room and headed out to do some exploring. I charged out into the darkening streets and by sheer fluke I’m sure, managed to run right into the famous Athens flea markets, which I had been longing to visit. Unfortunately, they were almost about to close up so I continued on my way. I continued up the cobble stone streets in the failing light, seeing many little tavernas as I walked along and finally came out at Hadrian’s Library on the way to the Parthenon. I couldn’t believe how easy it had been to find. I decided not to continue up to it, as I had paid for a guided tour the next day. I walked back to my hotel in the dark and found a McDonalds outside Syntagma Square and ate my chicken nuggets while having a conversation with a little old lady, who knew absolutely no English. I told her about all my travels and my degree and I’m sure she was telling me about herself too, the fact that we couldn’t understand a single word the other was saying didn’t really seem to matter, it was nice.

I continued back to the hotel, on the way running right into Steve and Melissa, who asked me what I was doing out alone at such a late hour. I had a brief conversation with them before returning to my room.

All my clothes needed a wash and I had asked earlier if the hotel had a laundry service, and the lady at the counter said they didn’t. I thought that strange as they had advertised a laundry service on the internet. I was in desperate need of clean clothes, so I decided to wash them in the shower. I heaped up about six items in the bottom of the shower and covered them with shower gel and soap and turned on the tap and stomped on the clothes, like one who stomps on grapes to make wine. I then rinsed the clothes, rang them out and hung them all around the room. While at the flea market I had managed to get on the Internet for a few minutes and after getting all the We Love you, we miss you, messages from everyone, I decided I wanted to speak to Adam and bought a phone card. After about an hour of trying to use it from my room and finding out that the phones were blocked from using such cards, I went down to the restaurant and used the payphone in the corridor. I got through, but by this time he was in bed, so I called Mum and Dad and spent about an hour on the phone to them telling them about the past week. I then went back up to my room to bed.

Me at the Parthenon - the White City
Me at the Acropolis

I woke up a little later than usual the next day and got dressed and met up with my half day tour of Athens. Our first stop was the first Olympic Stadium of the modern period, it was spectacular and built entirely out of white marble. We then proceeded onto more ancient sites and next visited the temple of Olympian Zeus. A giant temple with one of its massive columns collapsed, its drums sprawled on the platform in a domino like fashion. From this site I could look down and see more excavations going on all around the temple, being in Athens was like being in a living museum.

We then proceeded up to the Parthenon, our guide, just seemed to be running through the motions and she had the loudest most annoying voice, laced with a Greek accent I had ever heard in my life. I truly wished I had taken the chance and not paid for this and done the exploring myself. So, after I had well enough of my guide, I decided, yet again to wander off on my own. I knew the way back to the hotel and much preferred exploring by myself.

I clambered up the extremely steep climb towards the Propylaea, or entrance to the Parthenon and went through it, this truly was the most crowded site in all of Greece and memories of the horror crowds of Rome flashed through my head. I came out at the temple of Athena which to my dismay was absolutely covered in scaffolding and one side was almost completely obscured by a giant crane. I looked at the magnificent temple and recalled pictures my mother had shown me of her standing here in the 1970’s, I tried to find the exact spot where she stood but to no avail, things around the temple just looked scrambled and haphazard.

I moved onto the Erechtheon temple, which thankfully was not covered in scaffolding of any kind. It was beautiful. The portico looked magnificent with its lovely maiden pillars carved from white limestone. It was roped off so I couldn’t get too close, but it was still a wonderful sight. I progressed into the museum, which was unforgivably crowded, and at that moment I was glad the Parthenon marbles were in the British Museum. It had been so pleasant to be able to view them without some one’s fat head in the way. I hurriedly went through the museum and decided to visit some of the lesser-known areas. I decided to climb to the top of Aeropagus Hill, which is really just a giant jagged chunk of rock sticking out of the site. This was the place from where the Athenians kept watch and many great men, such as Pericles gave speeches. It was a very difficult climb and my feet kept slipping down the strange grey smooth rock, that seemed really out of place in the white marble landscape, but when I got to the top it was well worth it. Sprawled before me was a sea of white. It was a beautiful clear day, and the beautiful white city certainly did not disappoint, it was one of the most amazing views I had ever seen in my life. Standing in the footsteps of great men a top the Aeropagus hill, I truly felt like I was king of the world. After a hair-raising climb down, I passed the theatre of Herodies Atticus, the first place where musical theatre was performed, it was being set up for a show that night, after all these years it was still in use. I had a few postcards lurking in my bag and thought it would be cool to post them from the Parthenon. So, I went into the post office at the site and collected some stamps and posted out quite a few postcards.

I then strolled down the Acropolis and through the Palaka and went for a better look at the flea market. I was not disappointed. There were interesting shops everywhere, it was a slightly different atmosphere to the Egyptian bazaar, people didn’t seem to harass you until you actually walked into a shop here. There was even a shop here that sold electronics, I went into it and Bingo! A power adaptor was found, much to my relief. After that a young boy came up to me and grabbed my finger and started winding wool around it, he talked to me about Greece and asked me if I had a boyfriend and where he was. I told him I had one back in Australia, which I immediately regretted after he said Ahh but now you are a lady of the world, you are beautiful and could have a man in every port, I then told him I already had another boyfriend in Egypt as well, thinking of Ramez, who of course was not my boyfriend and told him that two was enough. He was very persistent that I spend some time with him and then after he had finished his wool work he tied it around my neck and demanded 15 euros! I didn’t have 15 euros I only had 5, so that’s all he got. He said he would follow me and make sure I got back to my hotel safely. So, I wandered into the hotel across the street, which of course was not mine and watched him wander away into the distance.

The Erectheon - the White City
The Erectheon

I then went back to the flea market and looked in a few record shops and eventually bought a few Vinyl records, which are really rare and expensive in Australia but seemed to be worth peanuts here. I can’t believe I managed to get Metallica’s Ride the Lightening picture disc for twenty euros. I decided to go out again after dinner and the students of Athens had decided to riot about something and there were police everywhere. I walked up to the tomb of the unknown soldier and watched the changing of the guard, which I actually found a little funny as the soldiers changed post by something that almost looked like a dance, they were also wearing shoes with pom poms on them. I had another man come up to me and demand money for taking a picture of me covered in pigeons in Syntagma square, which I didn’t really mind as I had missed the pigeons in Trafalgar square in London, and now that I was on my own, I was not getting many pictures of myself. So, another five euros went. These pigeons were really friendly, one was even cheeky enough to attempt to pick my teeth for a minute. I then walked back to the hotel and watched a movie before going to bed.

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