Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Parthenon

After our amazing Greek breakfast at The Hotel Grand Bretagne, we set our sights on the historic Acropolis (the mountain) and the world famous Parthenon (the temple).

Similar to the great ancient ruins in Rome, the Parthenon is an iconic "must see" in Athens. So we made our way back to the underground Metro to take over to the Acropolis station.

After speaking with our hotel concierge and some review websites, they strongly suggested getting there early when they open at 8AM for two reasons. First, the multiple tour groups start showing up with their crowds and flags around 10AM. Second, the Athens summer heat becomes quite uncomfortable as the morning continues. And without any trees to provide shade relief, an earlier morning visit would be much better.

Fortunately for us, all the signs were in English as well as Greek. But since my father was a math/physics nerd in high school (and let's be honest, he's still a big nerd now), he remembered a few Greek letters so he could guess words where he had to.

So from the Symtagma Station (where the Blue and Red lines intersect), we had to take the Redline just one stop to the Acropolis. The metro was only €0.80 per adult. Adorable toddlers were free. You purchase tickets from the machines and get a paper ticket. The paper ticket needs to be validated as you enter the station. No one was there to check your ticket, but I suppose you should keep the validated ticket with you until you exit at your destination just in case.

As we got out of the Acropolis station, we made sure to purchase a big bottle of ice cold water as we were told there aren't any to buy atop the Acropolis when it gets really hot. Despite it being a touristy area, we purchased a 1 liter bottle for just €1.

After securing our water supply, we saw a handful of other tourists so we just followed them to what was the Southern Entrance to the Acropolis. We were there early enough that there were only a handful of people in line ahead of us waiting in the shade of the tree.

Fortunately, we had cash to pay for the €12/person tickets as they didn't accept credit cards. The ticket was actually a package of 7 different tickets that gave you access to different historical sites around Athens. However, we only had a few hours before we needed to drive to Costa Navarino later that morning, so we weren't able to use the other 6 tickets.

So we were about to enter when the woman at the gate suggested we go to the larger Northern entrance because there was no place to secure our stroller at this gate. In the excitement, my parents forgot to leave my stroller at home because you need to navigate a bunch of stairs to make your way to the top of the Acropolis. But at the larger Northern gate, they had a bag/stroller check area.

Since we already had our tickets, we didn't have to worry about getting to the other gate quickly. Though I must say, it was a pretty long walk down the stone path to the other end of the park.

We passed by the Acropolis Museum - which was a great way to learn the historical and architectural context to appreciate the Acropolis, but we wanted to see the Parthenon before the crowds/heat became overbearing and then save the air conditioned indoor museum for when it was closer to noon (and hotter out).

After getting a bit confused (since there are no big signs anywhere), we finally found the other ticket booth and entrance. They showed us where we could go to drop off the stroller and we were on our way.

They took our tickets and ripped up the part with the picture that I had actually wanted to keep. But we made our way up the steps going higher and higher up the Acropolis. You start to get a nice view of the expansive city of Athens.

We bypassed many of the organized tour groups as they stopped to explain every little thing. My parents however went right up to the top where the bigger ruins were. You walk up the steps and through a "gate" of sorts to an open area as you approach the Parthenon temple.

If you're friends with my father on Facebook, you may have seen a photo he posted entitled "Parthenon Selfie" seen here.

First, my father jumped the gun because there was a well lit other side of the Parthenon that was actually scaffold free that would have made a much better photo. Second, to get this photo with a 3 foot tall toddler, he had to get pretty low. The things an Asian tourist will do for a photo opp.

Once you get to the other side, the photos get a lot better.


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