When I was in Athens two years ago, I mostly took day trips out of the city, but on the final day visited the Acropolis. It was hot, very crowded, and (as still) under reconstruction. This time on my last day I decided to go to the real heart of the old city, the Agora, where people like Plato and Socrates walked and discussed philosophy while others marketed all kinds of wares.
By contrast to the Acropolis, no one was in Agora. Plus it was free, because of a bankers' holiday (kind of ironic). You enter it passing the Roman agora and the Library of Hadrian. It is now a very lush area and so quiet compared to the rest of Athens. Here are just a sample of the photos I took. One looks up toward the Acropolis. Another is of the Erechtheum, which was dedicated to Athena and Poseidon Erechtheus. Inside lived the sacred snake of the city; on the other side of the building is the famous porch of the caryatids.
The third photo shows the Temple of Hephaestus in the agora, one of the best preserved of all Greek temples (built 460-415 BC). Hephaestus was the patron of metallurgy and handicrafts and the temple is built in the simplest Doric style. Friezes show mythological scenes of battle including the labors of Herakles and the struggles of Theseus.
Finally, sunburned and tired, I walked back toward the place where the shuttle takes you back to the Ledra. On the way I stopped at the opposite side of the Acropolis to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus (begun in the 6th C BC but only finished by the Romans in the 2nd C. AD). It wasn't time that did the most damage, but the sack of the city by the Roman dictator Sulla, who took many of the columns and marble back to Rome. The city suffered further invasions that left only these pillars standing.
Just as I was leaving the park area that encloses the Temple, I saw the Marriott shuttle bus go by. All I could do was wave to the driver because I was on the wrong side of the street. Then I walked up Syngrou Avenue looking for a cab but only found a line of the official cabs as I was five blocks from the hotel, so I hiked the rest of the way before collapsing.
Again, I want to emphasize I had no problems at all during my time in Greece. The strikes and occasional violence are almost completely limited to Syntagma Square. And there are great deals to be had, as I mentioned in the Corinth post and the ones for my cruise.
I greatly enjoy your posts for two reasons: firstly, their specific content, and, second, the extent to which they epitomise what I assume this site is "all about" - i.e. sparking and sustaining a love of travel.
Apropos of the Ledra, coincidentally on my return from a recent trip to the USA I found myself sitting (on the plane) next to a gentleman called Philip P. who, it turned out, had started his professional life as a barman on the roof of the Ledra; and had subsequently worked his way up through Marriott's ranks to his cuurent position as GM of the Jordan Valley Dead Sea Resort. In many respects. his experience seemed to express much that is central to the Marriott corporate ethos. His comments on modern Greece were equally enlightening: certainly, many people were currently experiencing dramatic reductions in living standards, with no obvious signs of immediate relief, and of course corruption in "high places" was central to the problem - but at the same time the majority of Greeks believed that - to some extent - they had been their own worst enemies. Corruption is endemic, but it only flourishes where an uncritical (and envious) population is willing to turn a "blind eye".
Enjoy your summer
Thank you Arkwright, NewHilton and Bill,
Travel came late to me (nowhere except Canada till I lived in Paris in grad school in the 1980s), but it has been a journey of love as you can tell. At home, I'm rather hermitlike, but find when I travel I open up and get to meet fascinating people and see places that truly open new horizons in my life and my teaching.
The Ledra, as far as I am concerned, is one of Marriott's great (and undervalued) hotels. The associates there from concierge, to front desk, to concierge lounge, restaurants and cleaning staff go above and beyond the call of duty to be friendly and helpful. And the CL is one of the best especially for dinner hors d'oeuvres and desserts.
Thanks for your great story! I worry about Greece because I love it. To me there is only one other place in the world where I've been where the light and the water create a magical spell: Venice, but Greece even more so.