Goes Ashore in Europe:
to see & things to do
ancient city center of Athens is one of the world’s most
fascinating windows to the history of civilization.
By concentrating on the wondrous antiquities, the modern
city’s sprawl and urban ugliness pale in the shadow of the
Acropolis. Lingering among Greek Gods and Goddesses for a day or two
is a pre- or post-cruise highlight of Olympic proportion.
Toss in side trips to Corinth and Cape Sounion and there are
many reasons to extend your stay.
ship passengers will find their ships docked about seven miles from
Athens at Piraeus. Many
cruise lines offer a shuttle service or you can take a train or
taxi. The train is
inexpensive and close to the pier and is the best choice if no
shuttle is at hand. A taxi
can be an iffy proposition—establish the rate before you get in.
Keep an eye on your valuables in Athens as well, the city is
noted for pickpockets.
Acropolis, capped by the crown jewel, the Parthenon is what visitors
to Athens eagerly anticipate. After a steep climb over slippery
uneven stones, enter the Acropolis through the Propylaea, sacred
gates guarding the sanctuary of Athena. Built in the 5th century BC,
the Acropolis was a place of worship with the Parthenon (dedicated
to Athena, goddess of wisdom and protectoress of cities) built on
the highest point. Tiny by
comparison, the Erechtheion Temple is equally as lovely. Built on
the most sacred spot of the Acropolis, it is here you find the
Caryatid Porch, supported by columns of delicately carved maidens.
From the fringe of the Acropolis is a bird's eye view of two
of Athens' most famous theaters, the Odeon of Herod Atticus and the
17,000 seat Theater of Dionysos.
Admission charges include the interesting Acropolis Museum.
walking distance of the Acropolis is the ancient site of the Agora
or marketplace. Gradually
being uncovered, this is the site of the Hephaisteion, the
best-preserved temple in Greece. The
museum in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos is also worth a look.
Olympic Stadium is the 1896 birthplace of the modern Olympiad.
Other sites of note are the Temple of Zeus, the Tomb of the
Unknown Soldier, the University of Athens, and the National Library.
Archaeological Museum offers a fantastic historical journey through
art and artifacts. Of
particular interest are the golden artifacts from Mycenae and the
colorful and lively frescoes rescued from the walls of Akrotiri in
Santorini. Preserved for
years beneath the ash of a volcanic eruption, the frescoes are
displayed in the museum's only air-conditioned room.
Greek Orthodox Cathedral with its ornate ceiling frescoes and
religious artifacts is located on a pleasant square near the Plaka.
Respectful attire is required to enter; shorts are not
Plaka, or the Old City of Athens with its neoclassical buildings, is
the place to shop for gifts and souvenirs.
Many stores contain the usual tee shirts and tourist items,
as well as jewelry in many variations of the Greek key design,
framed prints, and hand-made rugs and pillow covers.
Ceramics, icons, leather goods, worry beads, and amulets to
ward off evil spirits are also popular.
US dollars are widely accepted and bartering for the best
prices is encouraged. Shops
do not close in the early afternoon, unlike other Mediterranean
destinations. Stores on Ermou
Street are noteworthy for women’s fashions and Kolonaki is where
you’ll find designer boutiques and shoe stores.
Ports of Call