February 27, 2011
We set off back to Athens taking mostly quieter roads but still continuing my progress of learning to drive like a local. It is great being overtake when you feel like it and not actually giving a damn whether there is something coming the other way. I think also not knowing what the speed limits are is actually an advantage! I hadn’t noticed before but the car hire place was really close to one of the main roads going through the city suburbs so we were able to drop the car off really easily. The drive had taken a couple of hours and I think all the early mornings and long drives were starting to catch up with me so I was glad the metro ride and walk to the hotel were quite short and we were soon in our room. We hadn’t heard anything about the jobs for about a week but we had found out on Friday that their email servers had not been working so we re-sent a couple of emails to them before heading out for an early dinner.
Neither of us really wanted anything Greek at the moment and we both wanted something a bit different. I’d looked online for Thai or Indian restaurants but nothing sounded very good. The girl working at reception was able to find a couple of Chinese restaurants for us to try and so we headed off to see what was open on a Sunday night! The first one was closed but the second one was not only open but it was quite busy, too. The food was expensive but we were past caring and just wanted something different for dinner! We ordered two really good dishes, one with duck and one with beef and splurged on some spring rolls to start. Now, I know I said this place was expensive but the main courses were really worth it. The spring rolls, however, were nearly €8 for two tiny things and certainly didn’t seem worth the price. However, the meal was good and we both felt better for not having a big fat meat and potato dish. I think the girl at the hostel was a bit offended earlier when we said we didn’t want Greek food as we wanted something different to meat and potatoes but we were glad of the change!
Back at the hostel we grabbed a couple of beers in the bar and headed to bed, desperate for a decent, long night of sleep!
February 28, 2011
Not sure what the job situation was, we weren’t sure how long we were going to have in Athens. We were booked here until Thursday but had no idea of where we were going after that. We still had one major thing left to do here and that was to visit the sites around the Acropolis and the Parthenon atop it. We started at the Theatre of Dionysus which was closest to our hostel and wound our way up the hill from there. The theatre looked quite small and certainly not as large as it had been described in the guide book. Not wanting to skip around too much though, we got a completely different view when we got to the top of the acropolis and you could clearly see the outline of the full theatre. The first tier which has been restored is only a fraction of the total with two larger tiers above it which were clearly marked in the grassy hillside. The throne chairs we could see at the front of the theatre were interesting and it was thought that a whole row of these would have been at the front for the important people coming to see the plays.
Walking along the side of the acropolis we saw lots more ruins both on the lower and upper slopes but nothing quite as impressive as the next theatre. This had been fully restored and was used nowadays for plays and looked very grand. In Roman times this theatre had a roof over the top of it but all that was left now where the arches at the front which would have supported the covering.
At the top of the acropolis we were met by a whole load of people. It seems that most tour guides had let their groups work their own way up and had been told to gather at the entrance gate at the top. Everyone was just milling around and not paying any attention. Even more annoying was the number of people touching the marble ruins despite signs EVERYWHERE telling them not to. How thick are some people? Inside the main entrance gate we were met immediately by the amazing and imposing structure of the Parthenon. We decided to have a walk around it and give the tour groups time to disperse before taking a closer look and taking some pictures. The views of the city from up here were great, too, and it was from here you could see down to the Theatre of Dionysus. You could also see over to Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the massive Greek stadium which was used for the 1896 Olympic Games. The crowds at the top of the acropolis were getting bigger but thankfully the area is large enough that people were quite spread out and we weren’t too tightly packed in. I can’t imagine being here in summer though – the heat, the climb and the thousands of old, sweaty people? No thank you! The Parthenon itself was really impressive despite all the scaffolding and cranes around it. You could see the effect of the (constantly) ongoing preservation work and I think this made you magically imagine the cranes weren’t there. Of course, just the sheer scale and grandeur of the columns and friezes and sculptures made you forget that, too, even though you knew almost all of the sculpture were copies. I was just pleased that there wasn’t more about Lord Elgin all the way up here; I’ve had my fill of guilt! That feeling wasn’t quite over though as the smaller temple where the caryatids are was complete with a “gap” where the British Museum one should go!
Once we were finished at the top we worked our way down the other side of the acropolis towards the Ancient Agora. This ancient part of the town was supposed to be well preserved but other than the building housing the museum (which isn’t preserved but completely rebuilt) the rest of the site was quite a mess. As well as little in the way of signs to show you what you were looking at the grass was overgrown and the area just looked, well, dirty. There is a large temple here which is the largest, fully reconstructed temple in Greece and this was undoubtedly impressive but the nature of the rest of the site overshadowed this a little. This site (and most of the others we visited today) was included with the price of the Acropolis so we didn’t have to visit here as we’d seen the main thing we’d wanted to but given that we had time we thought we would work our way around all the individual sites.
The next stop, which we didn’t bother going into, was Keramikos, the city’s cemetery from the 12th Century BC up to Roman times. Once again, this site was supposed to be a quiet, peaceful place to walk around but it looked nothing of the sort from outside. Even all the ruins looked a mess and the view we had from the outside, looking down on the ruins, was probably better than we’d have got from the inside!
After the disappointing last two sites we stopped for lunch at a posh looking souvlaki restaurant. The front was being re-modelled so it looked like it wasn’t open and many people obviously thought the same. Inside it was nice and new and clean and we ordered a gyros plate to share between us. It came with a huge pile of both pork and chicken gyros and a load of pita and sauces and we left there very full. They also served the Craft beers we’d tried before so we grabbed one of the Athens lagers to wash our lunch down with!
From there we visited Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora. Hadrian’s Library wasn’t very much to see but at the Roman Agora there was an impressive byzantine church and an octagonal shaped tower called The Tower of the Winds. The tower was pretty cool and had been well preserved. The next stop was outside the main part of the tourist trap and back towards the hostel we’d stayed at on our first visit. The large Hadrian’s Arch stands along the side of one of the main roads in Athens and although you can’t walk/drive through it you can walk around it and get some great views. The arch forms the entryway to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This temple is in quite a state of disrepair but there are a number of columns that are upright and we had seen these a few times already from our hostel but more recently, just this morning from the top of the acropolis. Despite being a distance from the acropolis the site probably looked more impressive from above and that as unfortunately been the case with a few things we’ve seen today, like the Theatre of Dionysus and the temple at the Ancient Agora.
Our final stop before our trek back to the hotel was the arena used for the 1896 Olympics. We had seen only a section of it from the acropolis but even from the roadside here you got a great view of the entire stadium. We didn’t pay to go in as it didn’t appear much was in English but at least we got to see it and take some pictures. Back at the hostel we were quite tired but we had a few things to sort out for our employment although at the moment we were basically just waiting and biding our time.
For dinner we went to a nearby Italian restaurant and had some large portions of pasta before heading to the bar at the hostel for a few drinks. There we got roped in to the pub quiz and we were joined by a couple from Canada who were just stopping in Athens on their way back from Africa and a couple from Argentina who were coming towards the end of a three-month trip around Europe. We ended up coming second in the quiz and Elizabeth managed to get quite drunk and even managed to start an argument with a guy in the bar after he said something about not liking Americans and thinking she was Canadian! She completed her bad night by coming back to the room and puking in her bed and all over herself. I managed to get her into the shower and I went down to get new sheets for her and by the time I returned she was lying in my bed and had been a bit sick on that, too! I wasn’t changing another bed so I let her sleep it off and I used her bed and the new sheets (minus a pillow as she’d made that smell really bad!).
March 1, 2011
After he exploits last night, Elizabeth felt really hungover so we spent the day doing absolutely nothing until about mid afternoon when I went and got us some pizza and drinks. The food certainly helped me to feel better but I’m not sure about Elizabeth. She ended up sleeping most of the day and I had a conversation with the company looking to employ us and they told us that everything seems set to go and that we should both be prepared to start as soon as work permits are sorted. Mine looks like I can start immediately but Elizabeth will have to fly back to the US and wait almost a month for hers. That really sucks but there is nothing much we can do, especially as we are looking at this as a long term thing. We were told we’d receive contracts tomorrow and as soon as we agreed those we needed to get flights booked. We are only booked in here two more nights (tonight and tomorrow) so we need something sorted pretty soon!
March 2, 2011
We woke today feeling a lot better than yesterday but the weather was quite crappy and it was pouring with rain. We headed out to Syntagma and grabbed a very early lunch before Elizabeth went off to the Archaeological Museum and I went to a nearby bookshop to grab a guidebook for Switzerland and to waste some time. I wasn’t interested in the museum; I think I’ve had my fill of them for now and so I didn’t see the point in spending the money for me. Elizabeth was really keen to go though so it gave me a chance to scour the bookshop!
When I got back to the hostel we had our contracts and they were all OK. Once Elizabeth got back we called them to accept the offers and we then sorted out flights for me to Zurich and Elizabeth to Dallas, neither of which was a particularly easy task the day before we wanted them. Even worse was finding a suitable hotel in Zurich for me to stay at. I had no idea how long I would need it for and trying to find somewhere for a week was proving difficult. I eventually found a place and having done that we rushed out to Syntagma again to hit the shops before they closed. I needed a suit if I was going to be starting work soon and thankfully good old Marks and Spencer’s obliged although the better part of $500 was spent on a suit, 5 shirts and 4 ties! I didn’t manage to get shoes but I’ll have some time in Zurich to search for those. We stopped at the Hard Rock for dinner as a bit of treat. It still hadn’t really hit home yet that we were going to be working and certainly not that we were going to be heading in different directions tomorrow.