We have now officially arrived in the First World. I have heard that Greece is dirty, inconvenient, slow, and kind of backwards for Europe. Well, it turns out if you spend 2 months in Africa before you go to Greece it seems incredibly clean---we are appreciating the trash cans on every corner, efficient, sophisticated, hassle-free, and totally put together. Everything is relative, I suppose. I wasn't expecting to like Athens so much.
We found a cheap hotel right in the center of everything which means we can walk everywhere. Yesterday we led ourselves on a walking tour of the Acropolis, the Stadium, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. After several days on buses, trains, and planes stretching our legs feels really good.
An added bonus was that yesterday was International Museum Day so all museums and historical sites were free. We spent the morning guiding ourselves around the Acropolis, one of the most important ancient monuments in the Western world, according to our trusty Lonely Planet guide book. The crowning jewel of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, situated on the edge of the cliff reigning over Athens. The Acropolis was built around 1400 BC, the first temples built to pay homage to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. It was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC after the Battle of Salamis and was ordered to be rebuilt by Pericles. All the monuments are built of gleaming white Pentelic marble. It has taken its share of beatings over years from foreign occupations, pilfering, inept restorations, an endless stream of tourists, and earthquakes. The Parthenon has been under heavy renovations since 1983, and does look like it's close to being done. But, that doesn't make it any less impressive.
We were rather pleased with ourselves to realize that we are visiting the historical sites in this region in chronological order. The Egyptian Pyramids were built 2000 BC, the Acropolis 1400 BC, then we'll head to Italy which is AD.
We've enjoyed wandering the meandering streets of Athens soaking up all the pre-Olympics hype. There's still a lot of road construction going on, scrambling to get everything ready to display it to the world. We've enjoyed our two days in the city and are looking forward to a relaxing week wandering through the Greek Islands, starting in Santorini tomorrow. Snow's 34th birthday is a week from today. We're not sure where we'll be, but have no fear, it will be well celebrated.
More after a little R&R in the islands.