Athens Day 3

The photos are starting to add up, even with editing. They are useful memory joggers and hopefully show the diversity of this working city. Today, after rebuilding our bikes (a relatively smooth operation once we located them) we added some more walking miles taking in a view that put our wandering into perspective.

Aristotle’s Lyceum school ruins proudly sign themselves as one of the most important sites in the world. Some more big words to wrestle with (e.g. gymnasiarch) and a new sport (pankration). Despite its antiquity (pinned down to 648bc by what exactly?) it failed to make the cut for the modern Olympics in 1896. More lovely spring flowers: did these inspire the peripatetic wanderers as they pondered who would win the next bout?

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I can’t help but think Aristotle might be a little surprised we’re he to take in the view from Athen’s highest point. Buildings packed in as far as the eye can see and up seemingly impossible slopes too. These they pave with nice smooth stones to make for speedy descents.

Tea and coffee are the expensive offerings we indulge in: cakes are a lot cheaper.

Athens Day 2

Modern markets and antiquities was the order of today. The connection being that the Ancient Agora used to be a market and those skills transcend the ages.

The ancient ruins are mind boggling in scale and complexity: quite challenging to grasp and we ended up soaking up the atmosphere Vs trying to make sense of it all. Numerous poster boards didn’t help, written in a techno speak that will appeal to the purest. Mind you, some new words were learnt. First example why say “buried” when you can use inhumation, which makes sense of course with exhumation taking place in most of the burial sites. The boards speak with a clear certainly of who built what when and why from 500bc to today. Which makes me wonder when we argue about what when and why for contemporary history. What is clear is the sense of time as a scale to measure progress and legacy. Time to give back what Lord Elgin acquired: though they may not last as long as the latest renovation.

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The markets are great. Fish, meat and vegetables, the former two suitably chilled to suit modern hygiene. The butcher’s trade proudly showed their cleaving skills on massive wooden blocks. Vegetables compete for colour of the day: the fish are the brightest though. None compare with the intensity of the red poppy that illustrates the ruins in spring splendour.

The people are a fine mix, all welcoming and helpful and (to our shame) speak English. Their city looked great today from many angles as I suspect it has done through the ages.

Athens Day 1

There’s nothing like visiting a place to remind you how ignorant you are of both history and geography. So Greece was occupied by the Ottoman empire for 400 years, until it won independence in 1832, a fact carried in the parts of the skirts of the guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (who gets about a bit, must beam between countries). And Athens, then a small touristy town of 7000 souls, only became Capital in 1834. Of course the city is named after Athena who won a tussle with Poseidon, the irony that it was with an olive tree as a symbol of peace seems lost.

Today it is the meeting place of cultures and architecture, from Greek and Roman ruins to the explosion of buildings in the early 20c driven by mass immigration of refugees. That’s 2million refugees.

And of course Olympic investment in 1896 and 2004. The latter created a new tram system, the former the Panathenaic stadium – rebuilding on the site of original ancient sports ground.

We’ve discovered an open top bus tour is an ideal way to get your bearing and to pick up useless facts. Like in 1896 the marathon was some 21 miles, changing over future years to today’s 26.2… The definitive change to accommodate the UK Royal family’s wish for it to start in Windsor Castle to the royal box in White City Stadium (1908).

I suspect not many private cars are yellow, or if they are they are cheap. All taxis are yellow.

Motor bikes zip around, including on the pavement, though most are very observant of traffic signs and polite, not much tooting.

Smoking is all too common though not much vaping. The Jehovah Witness lot just have bought a global lot for brochure trolleys: the same design here as at home is in use. Homeless people appear fewer.

So today was orientation, setting up the next few days mooching around exploring.