More Piles of Stones
14 November 2017 | Athens - 6,606 NM
It was an uneventful but beautiful three hour bus ride from Kalamata to Athens with the highlight of the journey being the crossing over the Corinth Canal. The canal connects the Gulf of Corinith (and the Ionian) with the Saronic Gulf in the Agean Sea. The first plans for building a canal date back to the 7th century BC and despite a number of attempts over the last two thousand years, it wasn't until 1893 that the canal was finally completed. Its very impressive, a long narrow gorge carved through over 20m of rock, that is today used mainly by leisure boats, as it is to narrow for modern merchant ships.
We checked into our hotel in Plaka which was very conveniently located in the heart of Athens. Our bedroom had views of the Acropolis and Parthenon, which we visited on our first trip to Athens 8 years ago. We immediately set off to explore and only a 100m from the hotel, came across our first "pile of stones", vast remains of the ancient agora (market place). Like Rome there seems to be an ancient monument around every corner in central Athens and we joined the throng of tourists winding our way through the narrow streets and alleys filled with shops and cafes. There were a lot more tourists here than on our last visit and we think Athens has developed its "tourist offer" a lot since then.
We worked our way across town to the Lykavittos Hill and took the funicular railway to the top of the hill to enjoy the views and the sunset. We were a little disappointed when we realised the train made the whole journey in a tunnel but the views at top across the rooftops and the Acropolis were well worth it. We were planning to stay and watch the sunset, about 30 minutes away, but so it seemed were all the other tourists in town and it was getting crowded. That and the cold wind made us decide to head down and we slowly wandered back to town past the stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, found a nice (under a patio heater!) place for an al-fresco dinner and then back to our hotel.
The next morning after breakfast on the hotel's rooftop terrace (more Acropolis views) we headed to the area of Monastraki. On a Sunday morning the streets of Monastraki become a giant flea market where you can buy almost anything from tourist tat, to expensive antiques and everything in between. After a few hours of perusing the stalls we explored further afield finding some more piles of stones to look at before returning to our hotel for a siesta.
We set out later that afternoon, this time climbing to the top of the Filapappous Hill. It was very atmospheric and looking across the rooftops of Athens surrounded by hills and mountains reminded us of a similar view of La Paz in Boliva. We slowly walked back towards our hotel, around the bottom of the Acropolis, which as it was now dark gave us lots of opportunities to look at floodlit piles of stones. The evenings in Athens in November are cold, so we opted to eat inside a restaurant, the first time we'd done this in Greece since we first arrived in March.
Our flight out the next day wasn't until the afternoon, so after a leisurely breakfast we retraced our steps of Saturday afternoon to explore the Olympic Stadium and its surrounding areas in daylight, followed by a long slow lunch before catching the metro to the airport and our flight back to Bristol.
We hope to be returning to Freya to continue our travels into the Aegean next spring.
The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it