We’re on Top O’ the Acropolis Ma!

IMG_1157While in Athens, we learned that “Acropolis” is actually a Greek word meaning the highest point in a city. In other words, there were acropolises all over the place in Greece… it’s just that this particular one became famous and known as THE one.

The same thing happened with D-Day. It was the term used for the launch of any important military operation… but the D-Day on the 6th of June, 1944 became known as THE D-Day because it was so big and important.

Trivia alert: the “D” in D-Day actually means… wait for it… “day.”

So “D-Day” means “Day Day.” There’s some military genius for you.

And that’s not a random segue: D-Day became a part of this trip, even though our itinerary was only in Greece. Oooh! There’s a big cliffhanger! Stay tuned!

As you walk around Athens, the Acropolis is viewable almost anytime there aren’t buildings in the way. Most of the restaurants have a flat rooftop so they can tout their view of the Acropolis. This is the view from a nearby restaurant where we had dinner, the view having been sufficiently touted.

IMG_1065And this was our view from the rooftop breakfast buffet at our hotel. The netting was smartly placed there to keep the birds out of the buffet, except of course the ones we were eating.

IMG_1044And here she is, the mother of all acropolises.

IMG_1150Speaking of mothers, here’s Carolyn in front of the Erechtheion, which is a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. It was built between 421 and 406 BC.

IMG_0303These are the stairs leading up to the complex. It’s hard to keep the names of all the buildings straight, but I’ll do my best as we wander around the place.

IMG_0310I think this is the Erechtheion again. If not, it’s some old Greek building.

IMG_0314The Parthenon, the most famous of the Acropolis buildings, was dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens and the goddess of war.

IMG_0319The Greek flag flies proudly over the area.

IMG_1152So of course we had to selfie-ize it.

IMG_0324This is the back side of the ruins. Which is kind of cool… like seeing the backside of a waterfall.

IMG_0300A view from atop. The theatre-looking-thingy to the right is the Theatre of Dionysus, which we’ll cover more of below.

IMG_0304There are plenty of hills and stairs you have to climb to get up there; if you walk from the base of the whole hill it’s a fair trudge. They didn’t have wheelchairs back then so you’re a bit SOL if you’re confined to one.

IMG_0308I’m pretty sure that’s the Erechtheion again on the left. That’s the world’s worst tour guide on the right.

IMG_0311But then they throw me an easy pitch to hit. The Parthenon! The Parthenon! Boy, it’s awesome being an expert.

IMG_0325Those who know me best are the least surprised to know there’s a sign there telling us not to touch anything.

IMG_0320The construction of the Parthenon began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power. It is considered one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments… just behind Trump Tower.

IMG_0321I have no idea what the one on the left was used for since it appears to be all of one piece with no lid. Come to think of it, I have no idea about any of them… why are there rocks laid out that way? This is surely one of the eternal mysteries of the Acropolis.

IMG_0322They obviously had to have ladders built into it so they could wash the windows.

IMG_0326The origin of the Parthenon’s name refers to “unmarried women’s apartments.” In other words, this was where all the single chicks hung out.

IMG_0327And this may have been the wall they threw themselves off of when their love went unrequited.

IMG_0294We ended up with about 78 pictures of the Acropolis from afar. We’ll only show you a few more before you start thinking of it as the Acrapolis.

IMG_0339No, the man in the red shorts is not taking a dump. That’s not a toilet, sheesh! Get your mind out of the gutter. As for me, I’m urinating on the stairs. But in the gutter!

IMG_0337The Theatre of Dionysus is thought to be the world’s first theatre. Dionysus was the god of grape harvesting, wine, fertility, ritual madness (whatever that is), religious ecstasy, and theatre. Whatever else he was, Dionysus was certainly a party animal.

The theatre could seat as many as 17,000 people, and with its great acoustics, everyone could hear everything, including that one time Heinieornerus let out a big fat fart during the middle of delivering a line. He’ll never live that one down.

IMG_1178I think this is where Samson first tried pulling the pillars down, except that it was right after his first haircut, which left him with a mullet, and so of course even God said, “Oh hell no.”

IMG_1182I’m really hoping this is the result of wind erosion. I’d hate to think their sculptors were that bad.

IMG_1170Today’s Greeks are such wimps. Your forebears erected that whole thing before they even invented pencil and paper! Today you wienies need an entire frickin’ crane just to fix it up a little! Oh how far have you backslid? No wonder you needed to be bailed out by the EU!

IMG_1173Yeah, we have hundreds of photos of the Parthenon, but this is one of the gooder ones.

IMG_1176They say if you kiss your mate in front of the Parthenon, you will end up in a blog. OMG, they were right! Of course, whenever I see pictures like this of me I always wonder why I still put shampoo on my head every morning in the shower.

IMG_1155The one thing Athens has going for it is an interesting view from the Acropolis. It’s just a vast sea of houses, with very few buildings poking above the rest. It sprawls just about as far as the eye can see.


IMG_1134In Rome we learned that the thinking towards restoration work has changed over the last century. Instead of replacing things to make it look new, they do everything they can to protect what’s there. It looked to us that they were working very hard to do just that, although many of the stones were obviously newer.

IMG_1136The Romans, contrary to what some believe, did not invent arches. Ray Kroc did. Ha! Actually, arches have been used since prehistoric times, but the Romans perfected their use and put them into larger structures. Prior to that they were mainly used in smaller doorways. So no McDonalds for the Greeks just yet!

IMG_1145I mean, how the heck did they get those blocks on top of the columns? What you don’t ever hear about is how many times someone knocked over one of them, sending them all tumbling like dominoes and forcing the construction to start over all over again. Probably because they were executed.

IMG_1148In addition to the Parthenon, the other various monuments which make up the Acropolis include the Temples of Athena and Nike, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea. This is one of those four.

IMG_1149In the distance is Lykavittos Hill, the highest hill in Athens. You can get to the top via Funicular. That word alone makes it sound like it would be a blast, but we didn’t get over there.

IMG_1151The crowds were pervasive, but it wasn’t too bad. We’re glad we didn’t come in the dead of summer… not only due to the larger crowds but there ain’t no shade and it can be hot  up there! In fact, Athens holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe, at a blistering 48°C (118.4°F).

IMG_1132The world’s first spreadsheet.

IMG_1135I don’t believe I will ever cease to be amazed as to how they got those stones up there, perfectly straight and aligned, without the aid of any machinery.

IMG_1138And then they were able to put even larger stones on top… and here they are still standing almost 2,500 years later. Mind blown.

IMG_1139Just follow the sea of tourists to the Parthenon. I only follow the one in front.

IMG_1142This sign is in both Greek and English (one of the things that makes me grateful for having been born into an empire… with apologies to the Indians, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Hawaiians, Eskimos, Mexicans, and everyone else the US conquered or enslaved). It describes the restoration work, some of which is noted as being that of a “rescue nature,” which is why some of the columns have white areas. When it’s either that or to have the whole thing tumbling down, I’ll take the mismatched colors any day.

IMG_1137Carolyn’s obviously fearful that the columns may come tumbling down anyway.

IMG_1141So we had to get another selfie in before it all collapsed.

IMG_1143I think this is the Old Temple of Athena. It’s surprisingly hard to figure out what’s what even with the internet. They didn’t have a whole lot of signs about, or if they did, we neglected to take pictures of them. Oh, well, a Greek ruin by any other name…

IMG_1129The guy in red was the first one to see the aliens landing.

IMG_1124Until you get up there, you don’t realize how massive the stone is leading up to the Acropolis, and how they built so expertly atop it.

IMG_1116Here you can see better how it was just one big hunk-a hunk-a… um rock. Not burnin’ love. Thangyouberrymuch.

IMG_1107I had forgotten that we’re already famous, so I quickly donned sunglasses to fool the paparazzi.

IMG_0275A last photo… but wait! Is this why everyone is calling me a dickhead?

Greece is the word-is the word-is the word-is the word…

A- Flight inAfter moving to Portugal, we realized that our bucket list had grown to the point where it is now better described as a bathtub list. There are just too many different places to visit in Europe! In Portuguese, we’ve learned to describe it thusly: “É um lugar muito diversificado.” Which means “It is a very diversified place.”

With all these choices and diversity, we decided to just start with the “A’s,” and just knock them off one by one in alphabetical order. We’d already been to Amsterdam, and so lo and behold, Athens was up next!

We were as excited as kids visiting Disneyland when we saw our first view of Greece from the plane (little did we know that would become more than a metaphor despite the fact that it was supposed to be solely a Grecian vacation). Greece! Athens! The Acropolis! Our bathtub list was about to get one more rubber ducky taken from the tub.

GreaseAfter landing in Greece, we found out that Greeks have a very hard time with spelling in the English language.

In fact, they think the 1978 film Grease was all about their country. Even after over 40 years, they still have Olivia Newton John Travolta (yeah, they’re sort of like conjoined twins) greeting tourists. Although they sure looked like the real thing. They even posed for us just like the movie poster. Awesome.

And if you don’t believe the Greeks have a hard time with English, just check out these signs:

If you ever want to move to Greece and need a job, just apply as a translator. Just remember to not parking where you’re not supposed to.

IMG_1320Speaking of translating, after seeing their alphabet there’s no wonder why the phrase, “It’s all Greek to me” was popularized. We’re just glad not to have to learn a new alphabet in Portugal. Although, I do have to say it’s pretty easy to see why this Greek word here is “men:” the second-to-the-last-letter is a pair of boobs. So I think the word translates literally to: “likes boobs.” I guess Greek is easier to learn than I thought!

In any case, we were excited to visit Athens and the Acropolis, although we were told that Athens itself isn’t that much to see. Our cab ride from the airport confirmed that. It’s a rather dreary city, with really only the Acropolis looming above giving it any semblance of interest or beauty.

IMG_1031Our initial impressions were undoubtedly affected by our cab ride. Our driver wasn’t of Greek descent, which is neither here nor there except for three things: he didn’t speak English (and probably not Greek either), he didn’t know where our hotel was, and he had no idea how to get there even after being provided with an address and a map via my phone. He also had no other electronics in his car (which was held together with duct tape) other than the taxi meter.

So the entire way I held my iPhone out so he could see the GPS guiding him to our destination. Despite that, more than once we had to shout out to him to make a turn (repeating what Siri had just said, only louder), just before he barreled down the wrong exit. We were relieved that we actually made it to the hotel. To add insult to injury, he wanted more than the stated maximum for cab fare we saw posted on big signs at the airport, claiming that it was due to the road tolls, which he went through and had paid like a regular driver. I was dubious of this, but gave him the money anyway figuring I just paid for a source of material for my blog. Plus I kind of like avoiding getting stabbed.

Our taxi adventures continued on the way back to the airport. Our flight was early in the morning, and this other driver actually had some electronics in his car, including a GPS. But that was a waste anyway because he totally ignored it. Instead, he raced down side streets like a bat out of hell, with the GPS frantically rerouting itself, looking a lot like the electronic snake in that electronic maze game. The scariest part of the drive, however, was when he hit the freeway. mirrorNot only was he driving like a madman, he could barely keep his eyes open! I spent the entire freeway part of the journey with my own eyes focused solely onto the rearview mirror, ready to bop him on the head if his actually closed. As it was, I would occasionally make a loud noise just to make sure he stayed awake; coughs, burps, farts, whatever it took. Carolyn thought I must’ve eaten something onerous, but I didn’t want to tell her why I was doing what I was doing so she wouldn’t freak out. Once in a while I wondered if he steered the cab so close to other cars’ bumpers while going over 140 km an hour just to keep himself awake, which freaked us both out plenty as it was.

When we got to Crete, we rented a car.

Our hotel, called the Jason Inn, is actually a lot nicer than the name implies. Not that there’s anything wrong with the name Jason Inn, but it does sort of sound like a two star flea bagger on the outside of Las Vegas.

But in fact it was pleasant, clean, quiet, and had a nice breakfast buffet on the roof with a view of the Acropolis. Of course, just about everyone in Athens puts chairs and tables on the roof for a view of the Acropolis, but hey.

Despite our pleasure with the Jason Inn, we did get a kick out of some of the construction issues, namely this light and power cord almost within touching distance of our small balcony, and the shower head which was mounted right over the bar holding up the glass partition. We clearly were not in Japan (because everything is made just about perfect there).

Anyway, for this first part, we’ll just show you some of the sights we saw while walking around Athens, and then the next entry we’ll get to the place that keeps Athens from being another Baku, Azerbaijan (you’ll understand that reference if you keep reading).

First we’ll check out this cool street art which was right around the corner from our hotel. When you first see it, it looks like a complete picture of a vampire-toothed purple-haired woman. But as you approach, you see the art was created on different walls. Pretty cool. It reminded me of the movie Labyrinth, which had non-CGI optical effects just like that.

IMG_0401A typical restaurant scene with lots of outdoor tables. The area around the Acropolis had no shortage of places to eat, most of them fronted by a charmer encouraging anyone and everyone to come eat the best food in the city.

We chose this one because Carolyn loves twinkle lights. That, and the waiter who encouraged us to come in was very chatty and the restaurant was not too busy, so we had a nice discussion with him about Greece and even politics. He doesn’t like the Germans.

IMG_0423Near our hotel the local Walmart displays its wares. Actually, it was a street filled with second-hand items. You name it, you surely could find it. Even a second hand, I’m sure.

IMG_1281After lunch, it was time for us to get back in the saddle.

IMG_1084Speaking of saddles, my horse-loving sister had this store named after her. I’ll give you three guesses as to what her name is.

IMG_1277This is a government building protected by two Buckingham-Palace-esque guards. They have a rather funny routine with the changing of the guard, complete with synchronized leg kicks that wouldn’t serve them well at all in any kind of real battle, unless the enemy were turned around with their backs to them, bent over.

IMG_1087We took a Hop On-Hop Off bus just to see more of Athens than we would have on foot. It was a good way to go, except that Athens really doesn’t have that much interesting to see aside from the Acropolis and grey-haired men wearing blue shirts.

IMG_1273Of course there are some ruins here and there. This is Hadrian’s Arch. Built in about 131 AD, it is one of many Roman ruins scattered throughout the city.

IMG_1267Speaking of ruins… don’t think for a minute Europeans aren’t very well versed on American politics. Someone captured one of the prevailing sentiments pretty well.

IMG_1082This may be a response to the above, I dunno. Like most European cities, graffiti is prevalent, and sometimes, like the above, even in English. We were so grateful for this one in particular being in English because otherwise we would have never understood it and wouldn’t have known what we were supposed to be doing.

IMG_1069Unfortunately, along with the graffiti there were other unsightly areas. Athens wasn’t a pigsty, but it surely doesn’t rank high on any “cleanest cities in the world” list. Which made me wonder… and yes, thanks to the internet, there is actually a cleanest cities in the world list. The top five: #1 Calgary, Canada (Woo hoo! You go Canucks!). #2: Zurich, Switzerland. #3: Luxembourg. #4 Adelaide, Australia. #5: Singapore. There is also, of course, a dirtiest cities list, led by Baku, Azerbaijan, mostly because it sits on some very rich oil fields. I guess that’s where the term “filthy rich” came from. 


IMG_1188After a long day of sightseeing, there’s nothing like a cold beer to cool you down. Mythos beer was the most common we saw, and it was good! Also, the gyros in Greece are pretty much the same as the gyros you get from the fast food restaurants in the mall, so yeah, you’re eating authentic ethnic when you pass up that Taco Bell for the gyros.

IMG_1105We came away from Athens thinking about two kinds of animals: cats and turtles. Wild cats were everywhere, and once in a while, usually near some ruins, you’d come across a turtle. This guy was crossing the road where he might have had to put the strength of his shell to a mighty test under the wheel of a car, so we put him back in the grass. Like most turtles, he didn’t even thank us.

IMG_1097This is the Panathenaic Stadium, completed in 144 AD. It is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. Back then it could hold up to 50,000 spectators: a lot less if the home team had a losing season, but a lot more during the first Olympics because the athletes were all naked. Two thousand years later, all we have close to that is beach volleyball and Speedos.

IMG_1093The world’s first running statue. We caught this freeze frame as he was bursting through the park on his way across the street.

IMG_1081Fresh fruit and produce are often artfully displayed, although I’d hate to be the one picking a cherry from the bottom, sending them tumbling in a veritable cherries jubilee.

IMG_1077This Aphrodite is artfully displayed as well. Plus she’s 50% off. What a bargain!

IMG_1073And so Aphrodite made it to the street next to the second hand stores, where she found a row of third and fourth hand stores. By the time it gets to fifth hand, we think it gets put into the small stairwells.

IMG_1072I have no idea what this sign says, but since they have a picture of Bogie and Bacall, it must be a classy joint.

IMG_1070I think the middle store is selling vitamins based on the sign, but with all the ladders it could also be a hardware store. Either way, it’s probably a good place to get some iron supplements.

IMG_0340Next up: the Acropolis.


For our Portland friends, no, not that one.