The Acropolis and on...
We pass the Temple of Athena Nike (thankfully no corporate sponsorship!) and the Propylaia. As well as being hard to spell, the Propylaia is aligned with the Parthenon and is the earliest example of a building designed in relation to another. Walking through it, we get our first view of the Parthenon. Too breathless to even gasp. Parthenon mean’s virgin’s apartment and is the largest Doric temple ever built in Greece. Amazingly, to have perfect visual form, all the lines of columns are curved in order to counteract inharmonious optical illusions. The foundations are slightly concave, the columns slightly convex, to make both look straight.
There is massive restoration work being done and it’s fascinating to watch the manual lifting of pieces and the delicate brushing of surfaces.
The friezes that once went around the Parthenon are in the onsite museum and we can view all of those that aren’t in the British Museum. Rowena declares early archaeology as nothing short of theft and takes a pro-Greek stance for the return of the “Elgin Marbles” to Greece for the Olympics.
The Erechtheion is one of our favourites, for the larger than life maidens who are sculpted to hold the roof. The women are called Caryatids and while I am disappointed when Adrian points out they are replicas, the originals in the museum show a good resemblance.
We eventually tear ourselves away from the Acropolis, and have a drink outside on a bench. Behind us in the undergrowth is a tremendous gnashing and cumbersome movement. We exchanged perplexed looks and then spot a tortoise plodding through the growth at some haste. Adrian is quick to get his camera out but the tortoise is almost quicker!
It’s time to leave the mainland and we make our way to the Port of Piraeus. We don’t know where we are going which is obvious by the frantic way our heads are spinning at every stop and sign to make sure we don’t miss the port. A stranger tells us – unprompted – where to get off for the ships. We contemplate a Londoner guessing we want Kings Cross station and pointing us the way but it doesn’t figure.
Piraeus is busy and the streets are functional – not tourist minded. We struggle across the traffic and I sit with the bags to allow Adrian to take the lead. He has been reading Frewin Poffley’s Greek Island Hopping Guide and knows the ins and outs of where how why and how much to buy tickets from whom and how to look when buying them. I am happy to let him take the lead. We get tickets for the island of Syros and have some time to kill before boarding our boat. Kebabs and internet – what else? I freshen up in the traveller’s centre where the internet is located. The toilets are very clean with a special cubicle for people with communicable diseases, very visibly marked. Would people want to highlight themselves that way? Just in case, we’re also given a Uricon which is a cardboard funnel-like device allowing women to remain standing. Despite the very elaborate how-to-use diagrams I save mine for a more desperate toilet situation… you never know! There is a kitten in the travel centre, but Adrian catches me stuffing it in my back pack…
With much anticipation we are ready for our first ferry, to cast our lines in the Aegean and begin island hopping…
Rowena and Adrian's photos from Greece