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Jenny on the Areopagus, Athens, Greece

Poros 2007 -
Our September Fortnight in Greece

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Athens, Acropolis - and Alarms -
17th September 2007


  • Election Results.
  • Salamis Bay and the 'Aegeon'.
  • Athens Metro and Museum.
  • Acropolis and the Parthenon.
  • The Hill of the Areopagus.
  • A Very Nasty Experience.
  • The Wise Words of Diana.

Jenny and the writer at the Erechtheion Temple on the Acropolis
Jenny and the writer at the Erechtheion Temple on the Acropolis

Election Results :

Got up and turned on the TV, making out that Karamanlis had 172 seats, Papandreou 102, KKE 46, the rest nowhere. A sigh on the predictability of politics, left Karamanlis to his majority of 4 and went to breakfast, before a rapid walk to get tickets. Ferry, 44.40 Euros, stopping at Methana and Aegina before arriving in Piraeus. On the way I got a good pic of the Mermaid of Poros with a backdrop of rubble - good contrast, but high and dry. There was also a rather nice little yacht of Danish registry berthed at the harbourside - yes, the 'Mermaid' - so I got her as well. A visiting yacht crossed the bows of the ferry when we departed - rather foolish - and I twice tried to get good pics of Jen, but each time she stood where shadow masked her face - very frustrating. The journey also let me take a picture from seawards of the fire damage at Neorio and the immense crescent of burning shows how the locals were very nearly trapped on the beach. More pleasantly, I took a picture of the 'Poseidon of Hellas', which frequently is moored stern-first at Poros at night, decked with lights from stem to stern, but a rather better one of our favourite, the 'Artemis'. I also got my best picture yet of the lighthouse, the battlements of which are decorative rather than defensive.

Mermaid of Poros - High and Dry
Mermaid High and Dry
Yacht 'Mermaid' of Denmark. Note blonde.
Yacht 'Mermaid' of Denmark
Hellenic Seaways Ferry 'Artemis' at Poros
Hellenic Seaways Ferry 'Artemis'

Fire Mark at Megalo Neorio
Fire Mark at Megalo Neorio
Poros Lighthouse
Poros Lighthouse
Jenny aboard 'Artemis'
Jenny aboard 'Artemis'

Salamis Bay and the Hellenic Navy's 'Aegeon' :

Not a bad trip, but the Greek merchant marine anchored in the Bay of Salamis was not the same as a trireme. However, a close look had me laughing, for the bulbous bow of container ships and tankers looks like the ram of a trireme, the ancient Greek warship. We also saw two huge cruise ships, one the massive UK-registered 'Emerald Princess', a seagoing apartment block, and the as-impressive Hellenic Navy missile frigate F460 ('Aegeon'). The frigate has a three-inch gun and an eight-box Sea Sparrow launcher forward, 8 anti-ship Harpoon missile launchers, 4 torpedo tubes, and 1 Vulcan Phalanx high-speed gatling and helicopter deck aft. Go to http://www.hellenicnavy.gr/frigates_s_en.asp for more official information. Well-kept piece of naval hardware, but the class entered service 14th May 1993 after serving since 1980 with the Dutch Navy and may be due for replacement.

Greek shipping in the Gulf of Salamis
Greek shipping in the Gulf of Salamis
Cruise Liner 'Emerald Princess'
Cruise Liner 'Emerald Princess'
Hellenic Navy F460 'Aegeon' Missile Frigate
Hellenic Navy F460 'Aegeon' Missile Frigate

The Athens Metro and Akropoli Station Museum...

Off ship at Piraeus, then through Gate E8 and across past that impressive mustachioed bronze rider to opposite the Blue Star and Lane Lines buildings. The airport bus ticket kiosk clerk directed us north up the street to a pedestrian overpass (with escalators!), which we used to cross to the impressive Piraeus Metro terminus. Bought tickets from a machine, then validated them in another, before a helpful lady staffer directed us onto the right train. Took Green Line to Onomia Station (standing all the way), changing there for a Red Line Metro train to Akropoli Station.

Akropoli Station, in common with a couple of others, was built when Athens was thinking of its 2004 Olympics, the Greeks diligently excavating the site and finding a remarkable amount of material. The station concourse is literally a Museum, one of the easiest and most up to date, with various finds on display. These varied from the domestic - loom-weights, pots and amphorae - to the grandiose - statuary. I got one good picture of Jenny and messed up with the flash on another. Then we got out of the station and nearly went away from the Acropolis with a bunch of others - equally lost - until Jenny looked up and saw the Parthenon on the Acropolis above some buildings. Feeling rather embarrassed, I meekly walked left up from the station and left again at the next crossroads into the entrance to the Areopagitou, a cobbled street running along the side of the Acropolis gardens. There were lots and lots of small circular concession-stands, all closed and swathed in material. Jenny said that they reminded her of boxes of Turkish Delight and I have to admit that the similarity was close enough for a giggle. The chocolate-box view of the Parthenon on the Acropolis poised above three boxes of sweets.

Jenny by Pottery Display, Akropoli Station Museum
Pottery Display, Station Museum
Jenny by Statuary Display, Akropoli Station Museum
Statuary Display, Station Museum
Parthenon and 'Boxes of Turkish Delight'
Parthenon and Boxes of Delight

Visiting the Acropolis...

A wide stairway with shallow steps leads up to the arch-filled back of the Theatre (Odeion) of Herodes Atticus, a restored theatre with a capacity of thousands. It is a famous performance venue in Athens, the June to September Athens Festival using it as a performance venue for music, opera, drama and ballet. There is a wide area in front used for parking during perforances; we walked round to the left, then up another wide stairway (slightly worn, so be careful) up to the ticket offices and entry gates. There was also a refeewshment and gift shop, selling necessary drinks as the sun rebounds from the paving and the rocks. Shade is at a premium. You are also strictly forbidden to carry any drinks up onto the Acropolis, so it's best to drink up, to use the toilets, and to let your thirst drive you down from the Acropolis. The tickets cost us 12 Euros each, and the frozen sorbet we shared was 6 Euros.

The Acropolis is worth the journey and the cost, for at least one visit. The Odeion of Herdodes Atticus was very interesting, with seats for 5,000; there are larger ones (the Theatre of Asklepeius at Epidaurus, for example), but this is a working open-air theatre and very sympathetically restored. Up, past the remains of the little Temple of Athena Nike (Athena the Victorious) to the entrance of the Acropolis - the Propylaea. Although impressive and with monumental steps, the Propylaea sticks in my mind as the most hazardous feature of the Acropolis. The snag is that millions of feet have worn the rock to a glassy smoothness that is a potential leg (and neck) breaker. One part has been covered by wooden steps and ramps, but for the rest - BE CAREFUL!. Part of the problem is that visitors leaving and departing cannot be completely separated and move at different speeds. Best to take trhis section slowly. Matters were not helped by the fact that the Propylaea is under repair and festooned with scaffolding. We found when we left the Propylaea that the Parthenon was also roped off and under extensive repair - damaged stone was being replaced by freshly-worked stone and rusting iron clamps were being replaced by titanium ones.

The Parthenon dominates the Acropolis and is impressive even in ruins. It had survived thousands of years with minor damage up to the time when Venetian gunners bombarded it and blew up a powder magazine and a lot of Turkish men, women and children. Apparently, the Turks had believed that respect for the Parthenon - temple, cathedral, mosque and magazine - would make the building a sanctuary. The Elgin Marbles - part of the temple frieze - were removed to the British Museum at a time when the nation of Hellas had yet to be established. The Greeks have built a remarkable museum in which they would like the Marbles placed, but so far the Marbles remain in London.

Odeion of Herodes Atticus
Odeion of Herodes Atticus
The Odeion (Interior)
The Odeion (Interior)
Propylaea - Slippery Steps
Propylaea - Slippery Steps

We chose to go around the site roughly clockwise, going up beside the Parthenon and then down to the Erechtheion, a beautiful little temple with a side-porch in which the famous Caryatid statues support the roof. Jenny and myself used their camera to take pictures of two Californians at the Erechtheion portico, they doing the same for us. We then carried on to a rather nice viewpoint at the northeast corner of the Acropolis, where we joined others admiring the view across the city. I took pictures of the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, then we went back towards the Acropolis Museum - and sadly found it shut from July 2007 for re-arrangement of exhibits. However, we did get a rather nice little folder of pictures for 2 Euros and made the acquaintance of a miniature kitten and a statue of Athena's owl. From there, along the side of the expensively-sponsored workshop for repairing the Parthenon, noting broken windows casually repaired by tape; I was left wondering whether maintenance is a difficult problem for the Greek nation, or whether the delapidation of the ancient ruins does something to the mind of modern Greeks. But there was a good view over the big but fragmentary Theatre of Dionysos, over 2,500 years old, where many great Greek dramas were first performed. One unusual feature by the Parthenon was a deep triangular cleft, which may be the entrance to the passage running down to the Acropolis's water supply. This spring was lost during an earthquake 'in antiquity' and only recently re-discovered; without it, the water supply would have been restricted to cisterns of rainwater.

Parthenon (being restored)
Parthenon (being restored)
Porch of Caryatids at the Erechtheion
Porch of Caryatids
Parthenon Museum
Parthenon Museum


Jenny by the Parthenon
Erechtheion Temple
Erechtheion Temple
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Hill of the Areopagus (Areios Pagos) :

Leaving the Acropolis was initially a bit of a let-down, but there was another delight in store. Even in these Godless days, people recall that Saint Paul made a visit to Athens in 51 AD, escorted there by Saint Luke, and that Paul addressed a sermon on the theme of 'The Unknown God'. Some cynic amongst the Greeks, aware of the multiplicity of Deities, had set up an altar 'To the Unknown God' as a way of placating all known Deities. Paul's sermon made use of this and is commemorated by a massive bronze plaque set in the rock, with the text in Greek. For myself and Jenny, the moment is memorable because of several things :-

Theatre of Dionysos
Theatre of Dionysos
View of Areopagus Hill
View of Areopagus Hill
The Sermon of Paul
The Sermon of Paul

A Very Nasty Experience :

From the Areopagus we returned to the Areopagitou Street, finding the concessions still shut, but discovering a seller of salted pistachio nuts. These are a common snack in Athens, coming mainly from the island of Aegina between Piraeus and Poros. Nothing loath, I took my little wallet from its place in a pocket on the front of my short summer trousers and bought myself and Jenny some nuts. Looking back on it now, maybe it was a mistake, but at the time we were tired, thirsty and in need of the salt. We got on the train for Onomia and certainly there was nothing wrong there, but trouble occurred about three stations up the Green Line (possibly Kalithea) from Piraeus Metro terminus. I was standing near the door of the train and Jenny was in a gangway, the seats and other gangways being mostly full, holding firmly onto a steel support so the lurch of the train would not throw me over. I recall that a woman next to me said something to me in Greek, that I turned and apologised in English for not understanding her, and the train suddenly halted in the station. The next thing I knew I was jammed hard against the partition of the carriage, holding onto the support and afraid that two men pushing alongside me were going to knock me down out of the carriage onto the platform. Then they went with the woman, and I realised that they had taken my wallet. Jenny told me later that I was rather shocked and got me to a seat, but I have to say that nobody else said or did anything, even those who had been nearest at the time.

At the Piraeus Metro station I went with Jenny to the station office, where there was thankfully someone who spoke English, and who told me I was the second person to report a mugging in an hour. He was inclined to think that it was the money they were after, rather than the bank and credit cards, but I was not so certain. At his advice, we went to the Piraeus office of the Athens Police, which was on the road that leads east and north from the docks area. To get to it, we had to walk across a square beside the station and head eastwards up a street through four or five sets of traffic lights to reach the road. Jenny was worried about the ferry, but I realised that I needed to report the incident for possible insurance purposes, so along we went.

The Police station turned out to be a multistorey building with shops along its streetfront and one rather forbidding entrance, guarded by a bereted policeman who looked like an ageing Che Guevara. His colleagues in plainclothes directed us to the fourth floor, using a rather creaky lift. I have to say that we were not well-directed, eventually ending up in the wrong office, whose occupant - a senior and polite officer - took us with some kindness to the door we needed to reach. Once there and the incident explained (I nearly fell over trying to explain) I was given a form to fill in, it was stamped with an official seal, photocopied and we were sent on our way. I was still unsure whether we had done enough, but walked down to catch our ferry. I was particularly worried for I had left my bank and credit cards in my wallet, not in the Hotel room safe, so used my mobile to contact my bank branch at home. My bank stopped that card at once and said that they would contact the credit card agency in the next few minutes. The next problem was that Jenny and myself have a shared account that I never really use but which Jenny uses as her own, and the relevant cards were also in my missing wallet. After an argument (and by then well south of Piraeus) I managed to get my daughter on the phone and she got the numbers for me, to close just my bank card of the shared account and (unwillingly) both of our credit cards.

Back in Poros and at the Saga Hotel, Zefi and Frances were rather shocked and agreed that we had done the right thing. Takis wondered if it had been a gang of Albanians - I was not sure - but it was agreed by them and the hotel guests that there was an equal risk of mugging in any large city. Sadly, I have to admit it was true, and recalled that the North Wales Police had been even less helpful when my car had once been broken into and a jacket stolen. Unlike most days, I had not been wearing my little belt-pouch, which might have been a protection against some theft.

Hear Now The Wise Words of Diana :

The best advice came from our new friend Diana, who had lived in a tough part of Liverpool. Her thoughts were as follows :-

To which I would add :- The excess on my insurance was greatly in excess of the 60 Euros cash lost. My passport was back at the hotel. I lost all my bank and credit cards, but they were cancelled rapidly. The thieves tried three times to use numbers (assorted, some very old or deliberate duds) that I had in the wallet and lost the cards to the ATM machines. They did manage to use a paper-based credit card machine to get about 35 worth of jewellery, but I was not charged for it because I had notified the credit card company in time.

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