While I was laid up in the Air BnB with a busted foot, and keeping my walking to the minimum, Himself took off to explore Athens for the first time. This is his account of a city we’ll both be coming back to.
Mary already wrote about the neighbourhood we were staying in, Psyri. I had picked the location because it looked like it had some good restaurants, but I had no idea that it was the hottest part of the city. Outdoor cafés and bars line almost every street. Among the more colourful is the Peter Pan themed Captain Kook, where Athenian families bring their children for birthdays and special occasions.
Athens, of course, is steeped in history, and is home to many world-famous archaeological ruins and sites. Ruins and foundations of Greek and Roman buildings, ancient wells and walls, and temple sites are everywhere. Psyri is very near several of the most significant sites, including the Ancient (Greek) Agora, the Roman Agora, and Hadrian’s Library. Limited time meant that I didn’t enter any of these sites, but walked around and snapped some pictures.
No first visit to Athens is complete without a tour of the Acropolis. You need a ticket or a voucher to enter. Get them at https://etickets.tap.gr/. Current normal price is €20, reduced price €10 for students and seniors who are EU citizens.
I went early on a Sunday morning. There are extensive renovation works going on at the site, but when I visited, they didn’t detract from the experience. There are explanations of the various monuments and detailed explanations of the restoration work being done.
The Parthenon is the largest and most impressive of the buildings. I found it interesting to read that the building was intact with walls and roof until 1687. During the Morean War, part of a wider conflict between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire, the Venitian forces laid siege to Athens, and the Turks retreated to the Acropolis.
The Ottomans first demolished the Temple of Athena Nike to erect a cannon battery, and on 25 September, a Venetian cannonball exploded a powder magazine in the Propylaea. The most important damage caused was the destruction of the Parthenon. The Turks used the temple for ammunition storage, and when, on the evening of 26 September 1687, a mortar shell hit the building, the resulting explosion killed 300 people and led to the complete destruction of the temple’s roof and most of the walls. Despite the enormous destruction caused by the “miraculous shot”, as Morosini called it, the Turks continued to defend the fort until a relief attempt from the Ottoman army from Thebes was repulsed by Königsmarck on 28 September. The garrison then capitulated, on condition of being transported to Smyrna.
There are many other monuments on the Acropolis hill.
Over the centuries the buildings on the Acropolis saw many different uses. The Parthenon was a temple, a Christian church, a mosque, and an armory. Most of the structures were built around the fifth century BCE, but the theatre – Odeon of Herodes Atticus – was built by Romans in the second century AD. It was destroyed in 267 AD, renovated in 1950, and now hosts many musical events. My daughter saw Jethro Tull at this venue, and I can’t tell you how jealous I am of that!
My impression of Athens in the short time we had was very positive. Friendly people, colourful street life, and interesting culture. It has risen to the top of my list of favourite European cities. I was already daydreaming and planning a return visit, so I spent Sunday afternoon on a long walk through several Athenian neighbourhoods. I wanted to identify places we could stay if we came back. And we will be back.