Athens: Part 1… Armchair Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

The Acropolis with its graceful Parthenon shown above is probably the wold’s most famous historic site.

I continue to reach back into my archives today to provide more armchair adventures as the world reels under the coronavirus pandemic. Like you, Peggy and I are ‘sheltering at home’ while reliving past travel experiences and dreaming of future ones. They will come.

Athens was grumpy. Several years of extravagant spending by the Greek government and its citizens had come home to roost. The European Union had required steep austerity measures in Greece as the price of a pulling the nation back from the brink of fiscal chaos. Nothing was spared from spending cuts including social services, wages and pensions. A massive influx of impoverished immigrants and a nascent neo-Nazi movement added to the country’s woes. Everyone was expected to make sacrifices to help solve the crisis.

Since sacrifices are best made by someone else, there had been massive strikes and violence in the country.

Standing near the Temple of Zeus, we watched as yet another group of protestors hit the streets of Athens.
Standing near the Temple of Zeus, we watched as yet another group of protestors hit the streets of Athens.

We didn’t know what to expect but had decided to see Athens on our own. Tours offered by the cruise line are very expensive. They help assure a healthy profit margin. There is little encouragement for independent exploration. No handy-dandy sheets are handed out saying this is what you should do if you want to see such and such on your own.

Normally our self-guided tours worked great but Athens proved to be challenging.

From the moment we stepped off the ship, taxi drivers offering tours inundated us. Tourism had dropped with the fiscal crisis and was dropping even farther with the end of the tourist season. The air of desperation turned to rudeness when it was discovered we were planning to use public transit. Finding the right bus stop and the right bus turned out difficult, however. When we finally did find the bus, it was leaving. Out of frustration I turned to a taxi driver. We were able to hire two taxis for an all day tour for the six of us that was substantially less than the cruise tours.

Was it worth all the hassle? Absolutely.

Much of who we are in the West evolved from what happened in the City State of Athens between 500 and 350 BC. We visited the cradle of democracy and walked where Socrates and Plato had walked. We climbed up the Acropolis and admired the Parthenon and other buildings that have been a major inspiration for Western architecture for 2000 years. We watched the changing of the guard at the Prime Minister’s residence, visited the site of the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, and concluded our tour with an expensive but excellent Greek meal.

If you are a history buff, as I am, having your photo taken with the Parthenon as a backdrop is a true privilege.
If you are a history buff, as I am, having your photo taken with the Parthenon as a backdrop is a true privilege. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
This corner shot shows one of the few statues that remain of many that once decorated the Parthenon. (Many can be found in the British Museum.)
A close up of the corner  shown behind me above features one of the few statues that remain of many that once decorated the Parthenon. (Many can be found in the British Museum.)
Extensive renovation work is being done on the Parthenon, as well as other buildings on the Acropolis. ( Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
Extensive renovation work was being done on the Parthenon, as well as other buildings on the Acropolis. ( Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
A full-scale replica of the Parthenon as it would have looked like originally can be found in Nashville, Tennessee. We stopped by to check it out after our Mediterranean tour while visiting with our daughter and her family.
A full-scale replica of the Parthenon as it would have looked like originally can be found in Nashville, Tennessee. We stopped by to check it out after our Mediterranean tour while visiting with our daughter Natasha and her family.
My grandson Ethan provides an interesting perspective in this Nashville photo on the original size of the Parthenon.
My grandson Ethan provided an interesting perspective in this Nashville photo on the original size of the Parthenon.
Another impressive building on the Acropolis is the Erechtheion. An olive tree decorates the front of the building.
Another impressive building on the Acropolis is the Erechtheion. An olive tree decorates the front of the building.
Another important building on the Acropolis is the Erechtheion, which includes the Porch of the Caryatids, lovely Greek maidens who have been turned into graceful columns.
The Erechtheion  includes the Porch of the Caryatids, lovely Greek maidens who served as graceful columns. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
A close up of the Elechtheion, windows, and an olive tree representing Athena's gift to Athens.
A close up of the Erechtheion, windows, and an olive tree representing Athena’s gift to Athens.
This is a shot looking upward at the end of the Erechtheon opposite the Porch of the Caryatids.
This is a shot looking upward at the end of the Erechtheion opposite the Porch of the Caryatids.
Looking upward at the Temple of Nike on the Acropolis.
A final view: The Temple of Nike on the Acropolis.

On Friday we will return to Athens and discover what gave Zeus his horrendous headache.

17 thoughts on “Athens: Part 1… Armchair Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. Hello to you Curt and Peggy! . Great post. Boy has your wanderlust wings been clipped with this. I especially enjoyed this photo essay of yours because it displayed size and perspective so well of some truly remarkable structures.
    May you and all your loved ones stay safe, and know in your hearts that this too shall pass. Thank you.

    • Yep, we are missing our travels. We’d be in Guatemala right about now. But, as you say, it will pass. And we are thankful that we have a great place to hunker down in the meantime. Take care. And thanks. –Curt

  2. I may have mentioned this before, but in Mr. Ratcliff’s 9th grade Western Civ class, I utilized a shoebox to make a diorama of the Parthenon. That was the class where I learned to distinguish among the columns on our bank, the Methodist church, and the courthouse, and got to be part of the chorus in a Greek drama. Bedsheet togas are the best!

    • First time I heard about the diorama, Linda. Sounds like it is was quite the lesson. And topped off by participating in a Greek drama. Hopefully no one was having their eyes put out. The only diorama I created was in the fourth grade where I made a Western Fort that came with a stagecoach. 🙂 Peg’s mom took a group of high school students to Greece on a field trip. She loved it. –Curt

  3. I remember the sense of awe about the history of democracy, and just history in general when I visited back in 1980. It looked dirtier then, I think they were just getting started with cleaning up the monuments.

    • It certainly was a ‘Cradle of Civilization’ in the truest sense of the word, Dave. So few people, actually, and so much influence. And yes, there was a lot of renovation going on when we were there. –Curt

  4. Loved the Acropolis and all the buildings. Was not expecting so much repair when we were there last November, but was fascinated by the time they were taking adding more mortar (or that’s what it looked like) to stabilize the columns. I’d go back there in a heartbeat!

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