Here are some of our favorite photos from the four days in Athens and on Aegina before the motorcycle tour started:
1) We started our trip with a couple of days in Athens. One of the first things we discovered was that the food was fanstatic. We ate our first lunch at an expensive touristy spot near the Roman Agora but had delicious salads, bread, olives and, to perk up after a day of flying, this thick Greek coffee.
2) Dining outdoors, the norm in Greece, was wonderful...especially in a country where something like 94% of the adult population smokes. This is a typical outdoor cafe in Athens found just around the corner from the Roman Agora.
3) We saw this beautiful old doorway, of which there are millions, during our walk around the Monastaraki district. This one has a little friend peeking out (and there are seemingly millions of these little friends all around Greece as well).
4) We happened upon this old Byzantine church, called Panagia Kapnikarea, during one of our walks around Athens. It is amazing to think that this church, build in 1050, is one of the relatively new buildings in this city of ancient sites.
5) The view of the Acropolis at night is stunning. We got this view of the lit up Parthenon from the Roman Agora. Not only is this a beautiful sight but it makes for a great landmark for navigating Athens winding maze of streets.
6) We had our first Greek dinner at a taverna near our hotel. Spanikopita, roasted eggplant and a "sausage" of turkey meat stuffed with chili peppers. Yummy! The food ended up being one of the highlights of the trip.
Food fit for the gods.
Meal on a tilted table.
Takes us to heaven.
7) For our two nights in Athens we stayed in the Plaka district. Our hotel, The Acropolis House, is on the left at the far end of this stone paved street. It looks deceptively quiet at this moment but the sound of trucks, cars, scooters, motorcycles and talkative people reverberates off the walls making it very noisy.
In noisy Plaka stone streets
8) Just in case you thought those postcards with clear skylines and an empty Acropolis represented reality, this mob scene is what it really looks like. Evidently this happens daily.
9) Even with the massive crowds the Parthenon is impressive. It is currently being renovated and thus it is surrounded by scaffolding. Still, it is a massive structure, even in our modern world of skyscrapers and sports arenas. It must have been truly overwhelming to the ancient Athenians.
10) Even with the huge crowds Alan was able to find a empty spot around back for a photo op.
11) With a population of over 3.5 million, Athens is a large sprawling city. This is the view down onto the Plaka district, where we stayed, from the walls of the Acropolis.
12) Athens is an easy city to navigate. It has a thoroughly modern public transportation infrastructure with an extensive subway, tram and bus system. In addition to this, most of the major sites are linked by wide pedestrian walkways like this one near the Dionysis Theatre entrance on the south side of the Acropolis.
13) Despite a reputation for wild drivers and dangerous traffic we didn't find it too bad relative to some of the other large European cities we have visited like Rome and Barcelona (or even Boston or New York City).
14) To the east of the Acropolis is the Temple of Zeus. Only a fraction of it's original structure still stands but the size of the foundation and the huge columns which still stand today make a very powerful impression of how immense this temple was in it's heyday. It is also a quiet spot to visit compared to the crazy mass of tourists we'd seen at the Acropolis just an hour earlier.
15) We were originally going to hike to the top of Lykavitos Hill but a time crunch and the heat of a hot Athens day prevented it. Instead, we took a funicular railcar to the top to enjoy the view of Athens. Even more so than the view from the Acropolis, the panorama from atop Lykavitos Hill shows just how expansive the city of Athens really is. This is the view looking northwest from beside St. George's Church on the summit.
16) This panoramic photo was taken looking south from the top of Lykavitos Hill and shows the sprawl of Athens. The Acropolis is on the far right of of this photo and the Temple of Zeus is just to the right of center.
17) One of Jonna's many photos of "The hands of Greece". This one is from a bronze statue at the Archaeological Museum in Athens. The museum was incredible and is as good a reason to visit Athens as anything else in the city.
18) Schliemann's Mask...oh no...the Mask of Agamemnon...uhhh...Actually, we don't know who's mask this really is. It was found at the bronze age site of Mycenae in 1876 and at that time was claimed by archeologist Heinrich Schliemann to be the funerary mask of the great Greek historical figure King Agamemnon. The authencity and description have since been questioned but the other incredible treasure from the Mycenae burial sites that are on display are unquestionably a highlight of the museum, regardless of the controversy surrounding this mask.
19) Jonna swimming in a Minoan fresco...one of her favorite places at the Archeological Museum. This fresco, from Akrotiri (now known as Santorini), is around 3,500 years old. Wow!
20) Another one of the big surprises for us at the Archeological Museum were these marble sculptures which were found underwater while excavating ship wreaks. The salt water corroded the stone effectively deconstructing the original forms. Perhaps these were an inspiration for the nineteenth century French sculptor Rodin who made famous sculpture fragments likewise deconstructing the human form.
21) Athens is a city that is filled with grafitti. In addition to the normal gang tagging and social commentary found on nearly every wall there are also more artistic pieces like this one found on a wall in the Monastaraki district.
22) Another friend. This chameleon cat was lounging in the afternoon sun at the Roman Agora in Athens. The term agora means market and there are two ancient agoras in Athens...One Ancient Greek and this, more recent, Ancient Roman one. The older Ancient Greek sites are usually better preserved and better protected than the later Roman sites.
23) After two exciting but exhausting days in Athens we decided to visit an island for some rest and relaxation. We took this "small" ferry over to the nearby island of Aegina. This boat is positively dwarfed by the surrounding port of Pireaus.
24) Picturesque views are a dime a dozen in Greece. We saw this guy fishing off a pier in the port of Pireaus as our ferry was pulling out. Interestingly enough, we saw people fishing everywhere in Greece but never saw anyone actually catch anything.
25) The relaxation starts immediately. Here Jonna rests on the upper deck of the ferry just soaking in the sun and the water. The water really is a most amazing color of blue. We spent lots of time, and used up many bytes of digital camera memory, enjoying the views of the water in Greece.
26) It goes without saying that Aegina Town, the main port on the island of Aegina, is a fishing town. What is surprising is how small a town this is considering it is so close to sprawling Athens. Our ferry ride took less than an hour.
27) Jonna's first "frappe". This is the national drink of Greece and the financial coup of Nescafe. It is kind of like a coffee milk shake with lots of foam.
28) How can you not relax when this is the view out your hotel window? This is the tiny fishing village of Perdika on the southern tip of the island of Aegina. We spent two nights here at the Hippocampus hotel.
29) These were three of the resident friends at our hotel in Perdika. They provided breakfast entertainment every day and the alpha male that is curled up on the left attempted to adopt Jonna but didn't quite make it into her luggage for the return trip.
30) Seafood is generally expensive in Greece but grilled octopus is quite common and affordable. Jonna says it takes like calamari (squid). This one was hanging over a grill at a roadside eatery in Aegina Town.
31) One of the many nice things about the island of Aegina is that it is small enough to explore in a couple of days. One of the highlights, shown here, is the Temple of Aphia. We had this place to ourselves which is quite a contrast to our experience at the Acropolis. In 500 BCE you would have been able to see some of the major sites of the Ancient Greece World from this temple: Athens, Corinth, Epidaurus and Cape Sounion. Alan promptly tripped while walking around and hurt a rib on this left side...resulting in him remembering the Temple of Aphia for the entire trip.
Ruins without crowds.
On top of a Greek island.
32) Our rental scooters, a 50cc and an 80cc Piaggio, kept us mobile on Aegina. Neither was in particularly good condition but both were fun to ride and allowed us to explore beyond Perdika. We ended up riding about 30 miles in two days with our explorations of the island.
Greek scooter culture.
The helmets give us away.
We go just as fast.
33) Both the sunsets we viewed from Aegina were spectacular. We viewed this sunset from just outside Aegina Town and then had to hurry back to Perdika before it got too dark. Jonna's scooter didn't have a working headlight and we were both wearing big 80s style dark sunglasses, in lieu of goggles, with the open face helmets. It made for an exciting ride.
34) One of Jonna's art shots. This one of a basket covered in fish hooks. We took a little fishing boat "ferry" over to the small island of Moni for a few hours hanging out on it's beach. This basket was sitting inside the boat, covered in shiny hooks and multicolored line.
35) This is Alan's artsy shot taken over the side of the boat taking us to Moni. The island of Moni, shown ahead of the boat, is relatively barren but does have a nice cove with a beach area. Alan tried to hike to the highest point on the island while Jonna sunned on the beach but was thwarted by a fence running all the way across the island.
36) The island of Moni also has some domesticated animals living on it like this peacock. There was a flock of around 25 peacocks and peahens, a herd of probably 30 mountain goats and a small herd of maybe 10 deer. The animals are fed with food scraps collected from the restaurants in Perdika and brought over by the fishermen.
37) Jonna sampling the water at the beach on Moni. The water was a little cool but crystal clear.
38) We had the beach on Moni to ourselves for about an hour before about 10 more people showed up around noon. When we said above that the water is crystal clear...look at it in this photo. The bottom is between four and eight foot deep in this cove.
Our private island.
Moni had it all arranged.
Even the peacocks.
39) In ancient times there was an extensive temple complex in Aegina Town, with roots back in the bronze age. However, this lone column is all that is left of the original Temple of Apollo. Aegina Town is now a small fishing port but at one time Aegina was one of the most powerful of the Ancient Greek city states. It was crushed by Athens in 456 BCE and then captured by the Spartans in 404 BCE during their war against Athens. Like much of Greece, it has also been a Roman colony, a Byzantine stronghold, a Venetian market, was siezed by the Turks, recaptured by the Venetians and then used as the first capital of the country of Greece for two years after the revolution in 1828. History is everywhere in this country!
To use or destroy.
40) Our return ferry trip to Athens was on a much larger and faster ferry. The great thing about these ferries is that advanced tickets aren't required. You just walk up and pay the crew as you board. We found that multiple ferries leave for Aegina every day and we never had to wait more than 15 minutes on our two trips. This makes visiting a Greek island very easy.
41) We spent the return trip to Athens relaxing in the shade of the stern deck watching seagulls pluck stunned fish out of the wake.
Gulls are the marker.
Escort in and escort out.
We are close to shore.
42) For those who want a faster ride these hydrofoils supposedly cut the travel time in half but don't have big decks for enjoying the sun and the view.
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