After coming back from Italy we were looking for a week long vacation and the obvious choice was Greece but waited till Olympics 2004 to finish. We figured out from all the guidebooks and Internet that all the major historical sites are quite far from each others. As we had no plan for renting and driving we opted a guided tour for the main attractions. We were very skeptical initially but at the end it turned to be very good meeting new people and quality of service was very good. After finishing our 5-day trip we went back to Athens and from there we went to Santorini. The most famous Cycladic island in the Aegean Sea where I realized I got one more year older. We started from Paris Friday evening and reached at midnight.
We started our day early as the tour bus picked us at 7:20AM. After getting transferred to another bus we headed out of Athens on Saturday morning. The first we made was at Corinth Canal 80 KM south of Athens.
This is a manmade canal 6 kilometer long which connects Gulf of Corinth in northwest and Sardonic Gulf in the southeast. Ancient Greeks knew the importance of this location. Journey between Aegean and Adriatic was other wise longer around Peloponnese. The canal was built in 1890.
Before the canal was build the old Greeks started using a unique technique in the years of 600 BC. They made a stone road and then transferred the ships from one side to the other over a wheeled platform known as `diolkos`.
From there we went to visit the remains of Mycenae civilization. This site is one of oldest site in Greek civilization. The first was around 4000BC but the peak was around 1200 BC late Bronze Age. Next to it is Mycenaean tholos tomb, it consists of circular burial chamber with a long passage. The keystone is at the center of dome. And it used to place very delicately fearing the structure will collapse in itself if the pressure was too much.
After lunch we vised Epidaurus. Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus has the best natural accosting where the sound is heard all over the theater with same volume and clarity. The factors are the oval shape, the stones that are used and most of the air that is blowing from stage to audience.
From there we went to Nafplion we spent the evening and night there. Nafplion was the capital for Greece when it was getting out of Ottoman rules before capital was moved to Athens.
We visited the ancient site of Olympia where Olympic games used to happen 2500 years ago. In the sanctuary of Olympia principal temple is temple of Zeus. Other important buildings are, temple of Hera (wife and sister of Zeus) and the Philippeion built by Philip-II father of Alexander the Great. The stadium is still there which is around 200 meters long. In olden days only Greeks were allowed to take part in the game.
The museum also hold lots of objects in marble, bronze from this site. Greeks do complain about French that they looted artifacts to Louvre when they started the first excavation in 1829. Now it is German and Greek who looks after the current excavation.
This was a long bus journey as we cross the Peloponnese and went to? Greek main-land. On the way we crossed the recently inaugurated suspended bridge at Rio.
We stopped at one Greek shop for a small break. Then we passed by the of Port of Nafpaktos. The journey included lots of twisted turns to reach the hill top from sea level.We visited the sanctuary dedicated to Athena Pronaea. The tholos is the main building here. The Tholos circular building in Doric order, built in ca. 380 B.C. Its function remains unknown but it must have been an important building, judging from the multi-colored stone, the fine workmanship and the high-standard relief decoration. The monument was partly reconstructed in 1938.
The Gymnasium was a complex of buildings used by the youths of Delphi for their education and practice. It was constructed in two levels: on the upper was a stoa and a free open space used for running practice, and on the lower was the palaestra, the pool and the baths (thermal).
The day was cloudy and had rain in the morning. We started with the sanctuary of Apollo, on the southern tip of the mountain slope. The Doric temple was the home of the Pythia, who, seated on a tripod above a deep crevasse, would pronounce her prophecies while the priests wrote them down and translated them to the people.
Rich and powerful people of that time wanted to know the future and the answer was always never straight so it could have been interpretated "yes" or "no".
Delphi was consider as the center of the world that time as God Appalo left two eagles in opposite direction to find the center and they meet here at the foothill of Mount Parnassos.
Then we visited the mesuem of Delphi before heading to wars more north to Meteora.
Day 5 Metora Athens
It was raining a lot and the mountains were covered with cloud. We could hardly see any thing 3 meters from us. It was bit of disappointment. But could not complain in mid-October with rain. The monastery are built on big rocks. After visiting 2 monastery we started for Athens.
After checking-in a hotel at Athens we went for dinner. It was bit cold for the first time due to sudden rain and gusty winds. We went to a Italian place for dinner and the food was too good with fresh bread and pasta. On the way back to hotel we captured some prominent buildings at night light.
Day 6 Athens
In the morning the sky was clear again and it was very nice day. At first we booked our tickets to Santorini for that evening .Then we went to the Acropolis. The guards were on strike for a pay rise till noon so have to wait a bit there. But standing in the queue early paid off as we entered as soon the gate opened. This site have biggest acropolis we visited. There are so many things to see , the reconstruction work is going on and the museum is quite big.
From there we went to Temple of Olympian Zeus and then we walked back to Ancient agora. It was lot of walk between these archiological sites back and forth; thank God I took my hiking shoes.
On our second day at Athens after having a speedy lunch we rushed to Athens ferry station. The ferry ride to Santorini was around 9 hours. It is long but this was the cheapest way to get there. We reached there around 2.00am in the morning
Day 7 My birth day
It was holiday within holiday. As I planned not to visit any more archaeological sites or museum anymore. Got the laundry done, got my hair cut; relax was the mantra for that day. I rented a scooter and we went to beach. It was fabulous the water so warm and relaxing. Drove around with that little scooter to take picture of those white churches with blue dome.
Still in Santorini took more pictures and rested. After lunch we have to start back for Athens again. Wish we had few more days here. Big KIDDOS to Pamela for insisting to include Santorini in our list of place to visit in Greece.
Back to Athens watched the change of guard at 11AM infront of Parliament. Did walked in Pacca area again, picked few souvenirs. We also visited here and there to take some pictures of Byzantine Churches in particular.