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Athens - Day 4 - Exploring Syntagma Area

GREECE | Monday, 23 July 2012 | Views [555]

The real thing

The real thing

It's the fourth day in a row of temperatures in the mid 30s. My plan revolves around doing as much as I can to justify being in Athens. Then as little as I can to justify leaving the lovely cool air condition piece of heaven that is my hotel room.

I start early and take the metro to Monastiraki to see Kerameikos, the cemetery of ancient Athens. It doesn't feel like a cemetery, more like a lot of regularly laid out blocks in a very grassy area. Kind of like looking at a farm from far away. In the past, there used to be a road into the city, the Sacred Way, lined sepulchral monuments belonging to the rich families of Athens, such as this monument to Dexileos, who died fighting the Spartans:

Panoramic view of Kerameikos:

There's also a small museum next to the entrance, mainly focused on funerary stuff and also give a bit of history concerning Kerameikos. Just outside the cemetery is a Holocaust memorial:

Which leads nicely to Syntagma to visit the Jewish Museum of Athens. Tucked away in a side street south of Syntagma Squre, the museum traces the 2000 year history of Jewish communities in Greece. It frightening to learn of the percentage of Jewish Greeks that were killed in the Holocaust, but also inspiring to learn of the spirit of brotherhood Greeks extended to the Jews being persecuted by the Germans and Bulgarians in their occupation zones. Especially the bravery of the Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou, who stood up to the German occupiers and preacher solidarity to the Jewish Greeks. Please visit this museum.

Then at last, on the walk back to Syntagma Square, there's a vegetarian restaurant called Avocado where I had this delicious Quinoa dish:

Back in Syntagma Square, the parliament. I don't get to see the changing of the guards and there's no shade around Syntagma Square to wait:

Then a walk through the National Gardens. Doesn't seem to be frequented much by tourists, but it's nice. Kind of like a garden oasis in the Athenian concrete desert. It's a surprisingly clean public park, beautifully kept, with many paths to wander round, and round, and round. More like a tropical rainforest than a public park. It's possible to spend hours of relaxation here if it wasn't for all the plant seeming to add humidity to the heat.

When I finally make it out of the eastern end of the park, it's another 5 minute walk to see Panathinaikos Stadium. The stadium is the site of the first modern Olympics. Reconstructed from what was once an ancient Greek sports stadium, it's also made entirely of white marble:

By now, the heat is too much and the rest of the evening is spent around the Plaka, where there's plenty of shops, places to sit to eat and drink.

In the end, I managed to spend 6 days in Athens. The majority of travel guides suggest 3 days.3 days??? Pericles would be choking on his moussaka to hear anyone say it's possible to see his great city in 3 days. It's impossible to fully appreciate the museums and archaeological by rushing through with a tour groups. Only the heat stopped me from visiting some of the lower priority sites of Pireaus, Psiri and many of the smaller.

Tags: athens, greece, kerameilkos, panathinaikos, parliament


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