Monday, February 8, 2010

Hooray Greece!

This is Part III of III; if you haven't read Parts I and II please scroll down to do so.

We arrived back at our hotel and settled into our new rooms, then realized that Casey and Anna's room led to a fire escape! We climbed up (and up, and up), skipped the broken step, and reached the roof of the hotel, from which we could see the Acropolis.

Then we all went to bed, because everybody except Logan and I was leaving the next day. We woke up to see them off, then went back to bed and emerged at a more reasonable hour for breakfast. I'm pretty sure we each ate two whole oranges every morning, just because they were so sweet and yummy. After breakfast, we went to the Acropolis, finally, where we got our student tickets and joined the huge crowds mobbing the place. Despite the crowds, it was really neat to see the ruins we'd been admiring from afar all week close up.

I love how you can really see the absolute perfection of these immense buildings. It's just astonishing.

We spotted another forested hill to the southwest, and, being heartily sick of the crowds of tourists, we decided to go explore that one. We ran into some creepy outbuildings and heard some loud barks, so we continued on rather quickly and saw a jogger. Figuring that he wouldn't jog around here if there was a danger of being mauled by an attack dog, we stopped worrying and continued up. We discovered that we were on the Hill of the Muses, later named Philopappos Hill because of a monument to Philopappos on the top. There were some neat remnants of buildings that had been carved into the hill.

Closer to the top, there were even more, including a Lisa-size niche!

At the top, we ate an orange we'd saved from breakfast and enjoyed a different perspective of the Acropolis. Then, as it was getting close to the fateful 3 pm closing time and we wanted to see the Temple of Zeus, we headed back down the hill.

The Temple of Zeus is HUGE.

One of the columns had fallen in the 1800s and nobody has had the money to put it back up, which is sad in a way but I found that it gave a much better idea of the colossalness (colossality?) of the structure.

After taking all our pictures, we sat down on a bench to await the inevitable yelling ladies kicking us out, which they did, but very politely for once. Then we wandered down a new street and discovered a country club with an open gate, so we walked in and tried to look like we belonged. They might have been fooled for a little bit, but then I saw a playground and all bets were off.

After our little hike, we were pretty hungry, so we found a gyro place and got delicious delicious mystery meat for €1.80 apiece. Seriously. They were fantastic, and we ate them while sitting on a marble step and watching the world go by. Making our way back to the hotel afterwards, we saw a very welcoming café with a patio and decided to stop to get some coffee. I managed to order something iced and got this, which was almost too purty to drink.

Logan had a regular coffee and we people-watched for a while, then headed back to the hotel for a brief rest before setting off for the Acropolis Museum.

The Acropolis Museum may well be one of my favorite museums in the whole world, right up there with the Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Victoria and Albert in London, and the Boston Science Museum. It's a beautiful modern building right at the foot of the Acropolis, and its subject is so precise that it can afford to have lots and lots of details, which I love. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed, so you'll all just have to go there yourselves! You start by walking up a ramp where, on both sides, daily-life artifacts from the Acropolis are displayed. There were children's toys, pots and pans, jewelry - all the things that really bring a civilization alive for me. Then you get into all the friezes and metopes of various temples, some of which are explained and some aren't. There are two floors of that, then the top floor has the metopes and friezes from the Parthenon itself. Or rather, it would, if the Brits would just give the Elgin Marbles back already. Seriously, England, everybody else has done it, the Greeks have the perfect place to display them, stop being silly.

The wonderful thing about the top floor is that the metopes are arranged exactly how they were on the Parthenon, so it's really easy to imagine what it would have looked like. Also, you can look out the floor-to-ceiling glass and see the Parthenon itself. It's the best way I can think of to display the originals inside to protect them, but still give the most authentic experience possible. We stayed upstairs until the absolute last minute, when the guards politely started herding us down the stairs. Then we watched a video in the entryway of statues being moved into position in the museum, which was really neat too. Finally, the guards gently but firmly kicked everybody out, and we got some great pictures of the museum from the outside.

Then we went back to the hotel, and we must have been tireder than we thought, because we fell into bed and were too tired to get up for dinner.

The next morning we awoke refreshed and determined to find those elusive fresh fish and meat markets. We were not disappointed. Huge warehouses crammed full of stalls, shiny fins and scales everywhere, and always, always the shouts of vendors hawking their wares. They instantly pegged us as tourists, of course, so as we walked by the shouts turned to English, but we were too busy taking in the sights to care. There were octopi of all different sizes, from palm-size to head-size; the same variety of squids (the little ones are really cute); every single kind of fish I've ever imagined, rays, shrimp, shellfish... It was overwhelming but gorgeous. We slipped through a doorway and found ourselves in the meat portion of the market, which was just as interesting, although slightly more unnerving as there were lots of heads looking at us wherever we went. Calf heads, rabbit heads, chicken heads... There were even whole calves and goats hanging upside down. I was too wimpy to take pictures, but Logan did and you can see one of them here.

We emerged, blinking, and found a supermarket to buy lunch. We made out like bandits, with fresh tzatziki, little toasts to eat it on, sour cherry juice, and granola bars. We sat down in a little square and ate, then went back to the hotel to collect our luggage and leave the country. The plane trip was uneventful, except when we took out the potato chips we'd bought and discovered that the bag was about to pop because of the pressure change!

As we were flying over France, Logan looked out the window. "That's weird," he said, "the roads and things look like little islands with bridges connecting them, but I know we're over land. What could possi-Oh. Damn. It's snow." Realizing that he was right, I immediately lamented my lack of winter coat - it had been warm when we left France, and we certainly didn't need winter clothes in Greece! After retrieving our luggage, we both put on as many layers as possible and braved the cold. A man at the bus stop, seeing us shiver and swear, even offered Logan a cigarette, which was quite sweet of him. Despite the cold, everything was running on time, and we got back to Rouen without a hitch.

More pictures on Facebook, and as we're heading to Milan and then Morocco tomorrow, there will certainly be some interesting stories from there! À plus tard!

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