Travel: Vibrancy of Athens

 

2013-06-05 05.37.43Departing from the shadow of the Parthenon,  we climbed higher up the outcropping, where the Greek Flag proudly waved high above the city.

From here, we caught a great view  of the Temple of Zeus in the distance.

 

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Despite its current ruined state, this structure was once magnificent. As chief architect, Libon was charged with the intricate carving of the metopes and triglyph friezes. These were then  topped by pediments filled with sculptures in the Severe Style (now attributed to the “Olympia Master” and his studio).

This temple was the resting place of the Statue of Zeus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Chryselephantine sculpture was made by the sculptor Phidias and approximately 13 m (43 ft) high It took him 12 years to complete it. On Zeus’s head was a sculpted wreath of olive sprays. He held a figure of Nike, the goddess of victory, made from ivory and gold in his right hand, and in his left hand, a scepter made with many kinds of metal, with an eagle perched on the top. His sandals were made of gold and so was his robe. His garments were carved with animals and with lilies. The throne was decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory.

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The Erechtheum was encountered on our way down the slope.The current temple was built between 421 and 406 BC; It is surmised that the architect may have been Mnesicles, but it is known that the sculptor/mason was Phidias.

The namesake for this temple is derived from the theory that it was built in honor of the legendary king Erechtheus, who is referenced in Homer’s Iliad as a ruler of Athens during the Archaic Period.

An iconic view is the Porch of the Caryatids, more commonly known as the “Porch of Maidens” wherein six draped females are the supporting columns. This building is associated with some of the most holy relics of the Athenians, the  xoanon of Athena Poliasthe marks of Poseidon‘s trident and the salt water well, the sacred olive tree, and the burial places of the mythical kings Cecrops and Erechtheus, to name a few.

According to the myth, Athena’s sacred snake resided here. It was fed honey-cakes by Canephorae and when it refused to eat the cakes it was considered a disastrous omen.

Travel: Acropolis of Athens

Cherishing the shut-eye, we rose late in the morning. Despite the  beautiful weather and the sun shining bright in the sky, and knowing that quite a bit of uphill hiking would be involved, we decided to hop a metro to the base of the Acropolis, grabbing some coffee and croissants on the way. At the foot of the hill, we were fortunate to get into the region for free as it was a celebration day for the country.

Some aimless meandering around the hill occurred while we searched for the appropriate path toward the top. On the way, we bypassed the Tower of the Winds.

2013-06-05 04.06.14It is an octagonal marble clock tower that resides in the Roman Agora whose primary function was to function as a “timepiece” or horologion.  The structure is 12-metres tall, has a diameter of 8-metres, and was topped in antiquity by a weathervane-like Triton indicating the wind direction. There is a frieze that depicts eight wind deities corresponding to the eight cardinal directionsBoreas (N), Kaikias (NE), Eurus (SE), Apeliotes (E), Notus (S), Livas (SW), Zephyrus (W), and Skiron (NW) – and below it, eight sundials.

 

Continuing up the Agora, we observed the ruins of the Temple Of Zeus from a distance, and a view of vibrant Athens.

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Not too long later, we ascended the steps of the Propylaea, a symbolic gateway that serves as the entrance to the Acropolis. (The Brandenburg Gate was inspired by this). Immediately beyond this window, one comes across the awe-inspiring Parthenon.

 

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Constructed from 447 to 438 BC, the temple was dedicated to the goddess Athena at the height of the Athenian Empire‘s power. It is recognized as the most important surviving building of  Classical Greece, and considered the culmination of the development of the Doric order. The decorative sculptures are the epitome of Ancient Grecian Culture, and this structure is an enduring symbol the continues to inspire future generations. It represents Ancient Greece, the prosperity of the  Athenian democracy, and the evolution of Western Civilization.

One of my favorite mythological stories, is of about how Athena beat Poseidon to become the patron of this great city.

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The citizens offered a competition to the greek gods in which each deity had to present a gift to the city, with the people serving as the judges. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident, and from it a salt water spring arose, providing a means of trade and water. However, due to it’s saltiness, it was not potable.

In turn, Athena presented them with the first domesticated olive tree. With this, Athena won the competition, for the olive tree provided wood to build and carve from, oil to light fires and cook, and olives as food.

Do you enjoy mythology? What is your favorite story? Why does it strike a chord in you?

 

Travel: Together at Last

I arrived in Athens just in time to rendezvous with my two friends for dinner.

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After, we walked through the streets and gazed upon the Acropolis in its nighttime splendor while relaxing on the square. Not too long after, a couch-surfing individual that one of my friends had been in contact with, arrived to socialize. (We were being hosted at another couch-hotel by a generous student).

Honestly, we were pretty skeptical.

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He took us down a questionable alleyway that was very close to abandoned in terms of human presence. My other friend and I were lagging behind and looking at each other with concerned faces. However, one friend courageously (or blindly) surged forward, and after swinging open an ominous wooden door, we were greeted by a lively, yet eclectic open atmosphere.

An upstairs level was accessed via stairs and an external porch, the open rooms play host to changing art exhibitions; unfortunately, I can’t recall what the gallery was exhibiting at the time. I remember it being dark and creepy, it may have centered around some context of violence.

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The ground floor had your standard bar and the individual associated with it. The four of us settled into a couple of chairs at a table, and the ladies ordered some sangria while the man ordered a beer.

To describe the couch-surfer as a “character” is to term it lightly. He was amongst the unemployed population of the suffering Greek population, and freelances in electronics repair. If you imagine a conspiracy theorist and an anarchist in one body, this fellow would be pretty close. He was also an avid smoker (as are most Europeans).

Calling it a night, we bid αντίο to our strange friend and strolled back to our couch-host’s apartment to rest and strategize for the next day. (This is when I found out that none of us are adept at falling asleep before midnight).