Our ship’s first stop after a relaxing day-at-sea was Athens, Greece. We were due to spend the entire day there, and had booked a two-part tour with a local taxi driver, Dimitris Vakirtzis, whom we had read great reviews of online. Unfortunately the ship had some engine problems en-route and we arrived to Athens at 11am instead of the planned 6am time. This meant there wouldn’t be enough time for our drive down the coast to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon, but we’d still have plenty of time in Athens itself.
Our first stop was Hadrian’s Arch and the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest temple in antiquity, both seeming out-of-place in the middle of the bustling city. There is some speculation that Hadrian’s Arch is a “toll booth” for those entering Athens. The ruins were quite impressive! The original temple consisted of 104 Corinthian columns, each 55 feet high and weighing 800,000 pounds.
Next we stopped at the old Olympic Stadium — the site of the first modern Olympic games 1896. The all-marble stadium was built atop the foundations of the original Athens stadium from the 4th century B.C, and hosted 80,000 people for the 1896 games.
We made a quick stop at the Presidential Mansion, guarded by the ceremonial guard, the Evzones, where Kathie was brave enough to pose for a photo. Another person posing got too close or touched the guard, who loudly banged his rifle on the ground in protest. If we hadn’t witness that, we might have thought he was a statue.
We then drove through the Plaka, a large shopping district, on our way to the Ancient Agora. Over 2,000 years ago the Agora was a city center Greek citizens would go to to publicly speak their minds about politics, and which eventually turned into a large marketplace for the ancient Greeks. At the top of a small hill was the Temple of Hephaistos, an impressive, still-intact temple built from 460-415 B.C.