Athens, Αθήνα

To walk where the great thinkers of history has walked, to see what I have only seen and read about in books and seen on TV and movies. I have finally been to Athens and walked up to the ancient citadel on top of Acropolis and seen whats left of buildings such as the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. If you have to choose one thing to go and see in Athens, in my oppinion This would be it.

Γεια σας, τι κάνεις

Yes, I have been to Akroplis and seen the ruins that I have only read about and seen in pictures. I studied architecture and art in my youth and the ruins on top of Akropolis was one of the many subject I had to study.

My breakfast view of Parthenon  from the hotel

I went to Athens for a 5 day trip with my class, yup, I have gone back to school. The trip was sightseeing and pleasure. The average age of the group was 24 and that was including me. Instead of sitting in my room every evening I joined the kids. The result was that I did not get to see as much as I wanted, too tired. Long nights and early mornings is not a life for a semi old gal.

greek letters

I had so many plans and I even tried to learn Greek before I went. I downloaded the app Duolingo and wrote down the words and sentences from the app. When I was finally there I only used a few words, Γεια σας, τι κάνεις, καλημέρα, καλησπέρα, καληνύχτακαι ευχαριστώ ( Hello, how are you, good morning, good evening, good night and thank you) During a taxi ride the driver asked us friendly questions and asked if we spoke greek. Thanks to Duolingo I managed to answer “Όχι, εγώ δεν μιλώ ελληνικά” without thinking much. Translation, No. I do not speak Greek. Four week on that damned app and these few words was what I dared to use. Oh well, maybe next time. As a consolation I can now read the language, but do not ask what I am reading.

Purple flowers and oranges in the streets of Athens

Our guide met us at the hotel and took us through the streets of Athens, we walked pasted the main shopping street towards Monastiraki  the market popular among tourists and the locals. One thing that caught my eye is that the main shopping street looked very worn, not old but more like not maintained, but towards the market and Acropolis it was different, neat and tidy treets, lined with shops filled with soveniers,  clothing, trinkets and food.

We continued  towards the  Athens National Archeological Museum, The guide told us that  the buildings that lined the street below Acropolis was the most exclusive properties in Athens. Yes fine, but I wanted to see the citadel, I did not care for the housing of the rich, that’s not why I came here. I waited impatiently while she  explained the significance of some of the buildings, do not ask me what she said, because I did not pay much attention. Actually I did a bit, but nothing important to repeat now.

Acropollis
Temple of Nike

Finally we walked the steep hill passing a half way restored amphitheater,  on paths lined with olive trees and trees cover in yellow and purple blossoms.  The guide told us a funny story about the Amphi theater. The theater has wonderful acoustic so it is being  used for concerts for most of the year. To protect the old structure, smoking and water in water bottles are prohibited. What do people do? They chew gum instead and stick it under the seats/stones, so every year they have to scrape off a lot of kilos of gum off the structure. Does that mean, no pride in their old usable monuments.

Propylia
In front of Propylaia the entrance building

On our way up we saw people here and there, but I did not think there were so many, as you can see in the picture above, we were not the only ones visiting that day. Imagine the place when it is high season.

Porch of maidens
Porch of caryatids

I was trying to imagine the grandeur of the place during its heydays, Where the great tinker might have stood or sat, eating and drinking while talking about philosophy. and I am in awe to what man has been able to build without modern tools and machines, it did not take too long, The  Construction of Parthenon began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power and it was completed in 438 BC. The details they put in them. Luckily some of the buildings still have some jaw dropping details like the “Porch of maidens” on the south side of the Erechtheion, six draped female figures (caryatids) as supporting columns. There were originally seven of the maidens, but one of them now reside where most of the sculptures from the citadel are.

Acropolis
Some of the original stone work displayed at Acropolis.

I would have loved to see the Parthenon with its pediment intact. Unfortunately the Parthenon was  badly damaged in 1687, it was used as an Ottoman ammunition depot and it got ignited by Venetian cannonball. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. Most of the surviving sculptures are now in the British museum and known as the Elgin Marbles or the Parthenon Marbles. Wonder how it would have looked like if it didn’t get damaged back in 1687, and would the pediment be intact or would they have ended up in the British museum anyway. I did see the statues a few years ago when my oldest daughter and I went on a shopping weekend to London.

Parthenon
Part of the east pediment still found on the Parthenon although part of it, like Dionysos, is a copy.

We went and saw the old olympic stadium, some went and saw the new one too.

Some of us took the Likavitou funicular to the top of Likavitou hill. From the top you have a 360 panoramic spectacular view of Athens. Seeing the hill from the old olympic stadium some of us mistook it for the hill in the James Bond movie Moonraker, where 007 fought metal mouth Jaws, but silly us that was in Brazil and it was a cable car and not a funicular.

Llikavitou

To get to the Olympic stadion we were told to walk towards the Parliament, stay on the left side and walk through the park.

National park Athens

We did and got lost, we went the opposite direction, but we had a nice walk and the park was not so big that you walk across in a few minutes, but it was a nice green lung in the middle of the city with a pond with turtles, and little fenced yards with small animals and birds.

Goofying around

We stayed at the Astor Hotel close to the Hellenic Parliament, so most everything we did was within walking distance. Don’t get me started on the hotel, but I guess if you only pay 430 euros for the flight, 4 nights at the hotel including breakfast and a guided tour of Acropolis you can not expect a luxury stay.

Be wary of cab drivers too. Some can seem friendly and over charge. We paid 10 euros to go to Pireaus from the Hotel and we paid 20 Euros for the drive from the old olympic stadium to Likavitou hill. The last drive was 1/4 in length compared to the previous one. With that experience, we walked back to the hotel. Not that we could not afford it, it just was very close.

Souvlaki and Greek salad

We ate at tourist traps in the middle of the city with decent food and we had a nice seafood lunch in Pireaus at a place called Portofino. We had walked most of the day and we were hungry, wanting something other than Gyros, souvlaki, greek salad and mousaka we ended up at Portofino. I had succulent grilled octopus and pasta with truffle sauce and shrimps, it was scrumptious. Posting on Instagram that I was going to Athens to enjoy food, I got a comet from an Instagram friend that she did not care for the food in Athens and prefered the food  served on the Greek islands better. I can’t say that I agree or disagree since I have not been to the any other places in Greece. That experience will have to be for another time along with trying to speak greek.

Pasta with truffle sauce with shrimps and grilled octopus

All in all it was a nice trip, except that my wallet got stolen three hours before my flight home. Such a hassle, having to call the banks to report them stolen and having to wait for new ones. So a word of caution secure your belongings.

Another thing be cautious of, night clubs, some of the older students that went clubbing got charged 1000 euros for drinks they did not drink, luckily they managed to bargain the price down. When we tried to go to another club the next evening, they stopped us at the bar and said we could not order drinks, they tried to seat us were we had to pay 600 euros for a bottle of vodka. I guess if it was an exclusive club that would be normal, but we just wanted a few drinks, dance and have a little fun.

Finally home I had to make at least one dish i ate in Athens a Greek salad, recipe HERE

Greek salad

Αντίο Αθήνα, μέχρι την επόμενη φορά

(Good bye Athens, till next time)

Hope I did not bore you too much with this post from Athens.

Athens

 

Travelogue 4, Driving back to Dubai

 

Back home of the cooler temperatures of Norway, the trip to the Emirates seems like but a distant memory. OMG it is really cold today, today April 12, 2013 it is snowing and the wind is howling outside

When we left Fujairah to go back to Dubai for shopping and sightseeing the temperature in the car showed 38 degrees Celsius and yes we had the AC on.

The landscape on the stretch between Fujairah and Dubai was quite barren, but there were a few patches of green especially along the wadis, the dried up riverbeds.

The landscape around Fujairah the eastern part of the Emitates was mountainous compared to Dubai situated on the west. The landscape got more sandy as we got closer to the eastern shore.

It was interesting to see how the color of the landscape changed from grey to reddish, then grey again and finally golden.

The golden sand of the desert telling us that we are getting close to our destination.

One of the nice thing about the climate here is that it is dry even though it get quite hot, you do not have the humidity that makes you feel that you sweat liters of fluid and makes your clothes stick to you.

Along the way we saw pipes that probably something for the oil industry.

In Norway we have signs that tell us that there might be elk crossing, here camels strolling roadside.

There wasn’t much to see on the road except for a few animals, rocks, sand and a lot of housing developments. The houses being built was huge mansions and reflecting the wealth of the area.

Fujairah is more a smaller resort town compared to Dubai with a few high risers and still many buildings under construction. As you got closer to Dubai you could see a different type of city, a metropolis. The city was huge and wast and the city was bustling with life. My aim for this trip was The Dubai Mall, a mall I have only read about, a mall with amusement park, ice rink, movie theaters, a huge indoor aquarium and much more specially shopping.

We just strolled around, visited the aquarium and did some shopping. It would take days in order to see all of the mall. I must admit it was a little overwhelming and I did not know where to start. If I had a few more days and a inexhaustible bank account I would have gone amok, but this time I just bought a few things for the kiddies.

Travelogue 3, driving around Fujairah

We took a little road trip around the area today a little break from our poolside lounging.

We hopped in the car and drove north an the first stop was the port of Khor Fakkan, where we found a small fish market. A foodie like me had to go inside and .

Even though the market was fairly small, there was quite a selection of seafood there, fish that you normally won’t see at the fish counter at the norwegian stores.

There were small sharks on display and something they call Hamour fish, which we often found on menus here. Hamour is a type of grouper and a very popular fish in Hong Kong I recall from my time there but there they called it Garupa. In the midst of the market hall, there was a sunken atrium, where shoppers could get their fish or other purchases gutted and cleaned. In the picture above some one is getting their prawns shelled and cleaned.

There was fruit and vegetable market, but not much exiting there. I got a Coca Cola light, the can designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. Did the beverage taste any better, nah and did not improve my style much either 😀

We hit the road again and drove past an odd structure, “Stop stop what is that?” and hubby had to turn around and drive back. It turned out to be an old mosque, Al Bidiyah from 1446. The mosque is unlike the typical mosques of the region, built with four vaults and a central pillar that is holding the structure up. Since we were there we had to go and look inside, but I was not properly dressed and could not enter without an abaya to see the holy place.

MiniMe had observed a man in a local attire (white robe and head dress) up by the watch towers and started running, she wanted to go and see Jesus man, not to be confused with Jesus because that is another person she has learned about in kindergarten. It is not always easy to explaine yourself when you are five.

Here is the view from the watch tower and the white robed guy was long gone by the time we got there. Phu, a god thing too, how would I explain a little girls enthusiasm to see a jesus man. Not to offend anyone but they have talked a little bit about religion in kindergarten the past few months about Christmas and Easter and Jesus is always portrayed in a white long garment

Out of the black get up and on the road again we drove past lots of road work and the roads are really nice compared to Norway and specially with all the oil being pumped in and filling up in our governments coffers.

Drove past this road sign “For family only”, strange, but someone suggested that it was ment to indicate that there was a beach area where family’s could enjoy themselves.

We drove past Wadis, dried up river beds where water has caused significant erosion due porous ground. We were tipped that it was really nice to go hiking in the wadis, but you had to watch out for flash floods, but I do not think there is any reason to worry in the dry season.

The little ones got really tired from driving around and dosed off in the back seat, but mummy had to stop one more place and it was the fruit and vegetable market in Masafi up in the mountain pass between Dibba and FujairahThe last thing I heard when I jumped out of the car was ” Don’t buy to much, remember we are leaving soon”