—7 May 2012—
We joined a private tour arranged by Cece Frana, a Cruise Critic from Minnesota. We were queued to leave the ship at arrival time of 8:00, but had to wait 30 minutes for the ship to be cleared by Greek customs. Still, we were the first in our group of 11 to connect with our guide, Laura (firstname.lastname@example.org). At Laura’s asking, we agreed to hit the Acropolis first. Laura provided commentary en route. She is a licensed tour guide, having completed a 3 1/2-year program of history, geography, languages, and the arts. Impressive!
We didn’t really beat the heat or the crowds at the Acropolis. Laura guided us and then we had about 25 minutes to use the “WC,” take pictures and fight the crowd back to the exit. We weren’t the last, but it took us all of our time. Heat/sun was already intense enough to take the edge off of the enjoyment. (Before the day was over, we saw it in the low 90’s.) All of the white stone creates quite a glare!
We went next to the Temple of Zeus, where the many pillars that still stand give quite a sense of how large the complete structure was. The photo also shows how omnipresent the Acropolis is. It seems to be visible when you look up from wherever you stand.
We pulled into Athens the day after the national elections – the ones where there was no clear winner. We wondered what the state of the capitol would be, and the answer was “business as usual.” Our next stop at the parliament building proved it. The only focus of interest was the traditional changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for which Laura had timed our arrival beautifully. We were early enough to take some long shots and then grouped with other tourists who had come for the same thing to watch the new guard approach and the ceremonial change take place. A moving ceremony in any uniform.
Our next stop was the Agora, the center of ancient Athens. We saw the “Great Drain,” the Temple of Hephaistos, one of the best preserved temples, and a statue of (most) of Emperor Hadrian, which provided one of my most-liked photos.
This ancient Corinthian capital, on the grounds of the Agora, side-by-side with a living Acanthus, gives an idea why the latter is said to be the inspiration for the Corinthian style.
Around 1:00, we stopped in the Plaka for lunch and a rest. (Some fit in a bit of shopping, too.) We were looking for gyros but got donor instead… a plate of pork, flat bread, tomato wedges and sliced onions. We ordered one each, which was one too many, and a Greek salad – a little different from what we are used to but good. Lots of feta! Jerry drank Greek beer and I guzzled water. Not interested in shopping, we strolled up the block to snap a photo of Starbucks and sat in the shade drinking frappucinos to the tune of 11.25€!
We reassembled in the square and boarded our bus to go to the National Archaeological Museum. Laura tried to give us a flavor for the collection in a brisk hour+ tour. It got hotter and hotter – for me, at least – and Jerry and I headed for the door and a nice bench in the shade. What a relief! We chatted with an art teacher from Australia for about 15 minutes when the rest of the group joined us. We returned to the bus and headed for the ship, arriving with over 30 minutes to spare.
My cold was in high gear and I was out of steam. We went straight to our cabin and laid down to nap. Before the ship pulled out, I roused to call Mama. Nice to be in touch, all well on both ends. We dressed and went on deck to watch islands go by and drink wine. We went to the buffet and had salad bar for dinner. Cece and Fritz Frana joined us and we had a nice visit. Close to dark, they went for a second course and we grabbed an ice cream cone and headed for our cabin. I was on empty. Wrote a few minutes while the last of War Horse was on, then lights out. Had a rocky night but slept pretty well.