After two weeks of being tourists, studying archaeological ruins, dodging mad mopeds and twiddling our thumbs we will be attempting to depart Athens in a couple of days. The reason I say ‘attempting’ is because we have around twelve to fifteen kilometres of city to tackle before we get out of Athens. I hate cycling in cities, mainly because it’s so easy to take a wrong turn and get hopelessly lost! So we might still be cycling around Athens in a weeks time…
We visited the Acropolis site which includes the famous Parthenon. It was, unfortunately, under construction so we didn’t get to see it in all its glory, but it was still very impressive.
The Parthenon has endured a very troublesome history and it’s amazing that any of it is still standing. At the end of the 17th century, the Ottomans thought it would be a good place to hide their ammunition. A well aimed attack by the Venetians, ignited the ammunition dump and caused most of the damage that you can see there today.
Then in the 1800s, the good old British came along, liked what they saw and spent a year removing parts of it for themselves – parts, which to this day, the Greeks are still trying to repatriate from the British Museum.
There are loads of other sites dotted around Athens which you could spend weeks exploring and photographing.
But after a while everything starts to look the same and one old rock starts to look very much like the last old rock. I would, however, recommend a visit to Temple of Zeus at Olympia. It was one of the largest temples in the ancient world and it’s incredible to imagine how it was built without the use of cranes, diggers or trucks. There isn’t much left of it now, but I wonder how many things built these days will still be here in 2,000 years time…
To take a break from the old stuff, we went to the 2004 Athens Olympic Park to see some slightly not-so-old stuff.
What an eerie experience that was. It’s a massive complex with huge stadiums and sporting arenas, vast open spaces which were doubtlessly filled with thousands of people for three weeks in the summer of 2004. Now… it’s deserted, abandoned, rusting away and overgrown. All I could think while I was walking around it was: what a colossal waste of money (about €10 billion)! Surely these major sporting events should only be given to cities that can show a viable plan to use these venues after the medals have been decided and the athletes have gone home.
Now just a little note on our plans for the next month or so. Since we started our trip, we knew we would have to deal with the European winter: cold days, colder nights, unpredictable weather but worse of all (especially for camping) short days. Sitting in a tent from 4pm to 8am doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it? So we decided to use this opportunity to do some volunteer work. We will be helping a family, in the southern Greece for a few weeks in December and January, in return for food and accommodation. This way it’s mutually beneficial for both parties. We will be doing a variety of different tasks: dog walking, farm and garden work, babysitting and some building work. So that is our next port of call after we leave Athens (if we manage to find our way out!)