Piraeus is the port for Athens, with many ships of all different sizes and styles heading in and out of Greece’s busiest port when our ship arrived at around 7:00am. Our excursion through Athens was to leave at 8:30am, so we had time to eat breakfast at the Ocean Cafe once in port. The tour took us through Piraeus through to the adjacent Athens, it almost seemed as though the two were just one city.
Our first stop was at the Panathenian Stadium, with the original stadium dating back as far as 330 BC - rebuilt to house the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and renovated for Olympic use once again in 2004. From outside the stadium we could see the Acropolis easily. From there our tour took us through the Plaka to as close as the bus could get to the Acropolis. The Propyla - the stairs, ramps and walkways leading to the Acropolis were quite worn and very slippery - quite dangerous. Maybe not so bad if you consider that construction on the Propyla began in 437 BC. Our first impressions once inside the Acropolis was that this was a construction site.
There is a lot of restoration currently underway, some of which our guide told us was to repair the damage done by an earthquake in 1981 and by poorly planned restorations since then. On the south side of the Propyla, the Temple of Athena Nike was missing entirely - completely removed for restoration. There was scaffolding around most of the buildings and a large crane towering over the Parthenon with some smaller cranes around it. It took some creativity to get some photographs without the construction equipment. The building least affected by the current restoration efforts was the Erechtheion, built somewhere between 421 and 406 BC to replace an older Temple of Athena that now is just an outline of the foundation in the foreground of the Erechtheion.
We walked around the Acropolis and enjoyed the views from the elevated rock in the heart of Athens. We were even able to spot our ship docked in Piraeus - the distinctive white X on the blue stack being how we noticed it. Before leaving the Acropolis we spent some time in the Acropolis Museum. It was a short bus ride back to the Plaka, where we had a few hours before the bus would collect us to return to the ship. We walked around some for the shops in the Plaka and found a place to have lunch, we ate outside in a covered area - it was an okay lunch, nothing special.
We stopped at another outdoor cafe for some cappuccinos and espressos then went to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction on this temple began in 515 BC but it took until 131 AD to complete. In its day it would have been the largest temple in Greece - even larger than the Parthenon. We found it very interesting. If you take a look at the pictures of it, consider that only 15 of the original 104 columns are currently standing. There is a 16th column in the temple, but it has fallen - blown down in a windstorm in 1852. It has been left as fallen since. Close to the temple is Hadrian’s Arch, a Roman triumphal arch also built in 131 AD. Standing near the temple ruins it is easy to see the Parthenon through the arch.
It was near Hadrian’s Arch that we would meet back up with our bus to head back to the ship. It was a bit of a dash for us to get on the bus - we had all been warned that the bus would not wait long because of the traffic congestion in Athens. We had 5 minutes to spare when we reached the bus - that had been moving until we ran across the street to get to it. We were the last two back on board the bus.
Once back on the ship we relaxed for a while outside at the Ocean Cafe Bar on Deck 10 aft. Departure from Piraeus was about 7:00pm, so we watched as the ship left the port prior to getting ready for dinner. We decided not to take in the pre-dinner show, but rather take things easy. Dinner attire for this evening was informal, and we both enjoyed the excellent meal and service onboard Millennium. After dinner we went to the internet cafe to send some more emails back home.
Final comments on Athens - it is a dirty dusty city. We had overheard someone who had obviously been to Athens before mentioning that it had “really been cleaned-up for the 2004 Olympics” - yikes! what was it like before that? The other thing is it is such a shame that so much of the Acropolis is obscured by scaffolding and reduced to a construction site. It will go on for many years - so you'd think they could find a way to make it less obtrusive. The highlight? we’d have to say the Temple of Olympian Zeus - it was fascinating.
WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.