After a short sail from Mykonos, we entered the port of Piraeus, the largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest in the world. It is the sea entrance to the city of Athens, capital of Greece, with a population of over 4 million people. It is also one of the world’s oldest cities and the southern most capital on the European mainland. It has been called the ‘birthplace of civilization’ and this is where democracy was born.
Touring around Athens is like being in a living museum of civilisation with so many ruins that date back to the 5th century BC. One such ruin is the Acropolis, the most famous archaelogical monument in Europe, which consists of the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea. Throughout history it has served as a military fortress and religious centre.
Plaka is the older area of the city located on the north slope of the Acropolis. We spent a couple hours here walking the narrow cobblestone streets with winding staircases and old mansions. There are many eateries and taverns here to take a break and rest from the heat of the city. The climate is one of the best in Europe with mild winters and very hot summers. The sun shines over Athens all year long. The mid-October day we were in Athens was 24 degrees Celsius with sunny skies.
The Greek Parliament Building had a changing of the guard every hour on the hour. The guards protect the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and were dressed in pom-pom laden clogs, short pleated skirts and red berets.
The Panathenaic Stadium was built from the remains of the original stadium of the 19th century. It was renovated in 1869, 1895-96 for the 1896 Olympics and again from 2000 to 2004 for the 2004 Olympics. It can accommodate up to 60,000 spectators for special events and athletics. This is where the Olympic flame hand-over ceremony takes place before every Olympic Games. It is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble. It was used recently in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
There is certainly no shortage of marble in this city. Marble is evident in many buildings, walkways, signage and even curbs.