Athens (Athina), Greece
Athens needs no introduction. It is the capital and largest metropolis in Greece, home to some 4+ million people (about 40% of Greece's population). Unfortunately, I had only one day to explore the city, but I did manage to see most of the important historical sights. Thanks to my friend Kostas, who met me there and showed me the Athens as the locals see it.
Athens was named after Athena, goddess of wisdom. And aptly so, since Athens brought forth some of the earliest philosophers and ancient Greek society. The Acropolis (high city) sits on top of a hill overlooking modern-day Athens and reminds us of the greatness of the ancient civilization that once lived there. Many wars and conquerors have come and gone, leaving the high city in ruins, but the greatness of its architecture, culture, society, and government can still be felt today as you walk through this place.
This is the Odeum of Herodes Atticus below the Acropolis, a 2500-year old theater that is still in use today.
The famous Parthenon, centerpiece of the Acropolis. It's definitely one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It's an eternal symbol of beauty, symmetry, and perfection that marks the golden age of Greek history.
The six muses (caryatides) holding up the back porch of the Erechtheion across from the Parthenon.
A scene in the National Garden in Athens.
A garden-variety cat. Apparently visitors must be careful when feeding the park cats so as not to give them anything that would be unhealthy for them. (According to a sign posted at all entrances to the National Garden.) Yet dogs are not allowed in the gardens. YES!
Garden variety statue with turtle pond.
A view of Mount Lycabettus, near the center of Athens. It's the highest point in the city and has a panoramic view.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus was completed by Hadrian. These columns are HUGE! To get an idea of their size, look at the tiny speck on the lower left by the steps. That's a person.
Hadrian's Arch, which separates the old center of Athens and the newer part. It was built to commemorate Roman Conqueror Hadrian.
The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. This is the site of the first modern Olympics held in 1896. The entire stadium is made of marble. Pretty amazing place. THE annual marathon finishes here. Legend has it that a soldier named Pheidippides ran nonstop from the town of Marathon, where the Athenians were doing battle, back to Athens in 490 BC to deliver the message "nike" (victory). Exhausted from the 24+ mile run, he died after delivering the message. His body is buried in a tomb next to the upper row of seats on the left side of this photo.
The church of St. George (Ayios Yioryios) at the top of Mount Lycabettus. Shortly after taking this photo, it started pouring for about an hour. I had to hide in the church and the adjacent restaurant to escape the weather.
Panorama of Athens from the top of Mount Lycabettus. You can see the National Garden (big green park), the Temple of Olympian Zeus (open area at the top right corner of the garden), the Acropolis (on the hill at the right of the photo), and the sea (in the background).
Scenic shot on the way down from Mount Lycabettus. Interesting to see desert plants in Athens.
My friend Kostas, who is from Athens, and I having a toast after dinner. The black part outside the awning is the sea. Way cool restaurant with awesome seafood.