Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter in Athens!

Sunday, April 12, 2009 – Easter Sunday in Athens, Greece
Sunny and warm. They celebrated Palm Sunday in Greece today, while we celebrated Easter Sunday onboard the ship.
We were up for sunrise service on the ship and then heard 8:00 taps at the nearby military camp and saw them raise the Greek flag.

The port of Piraeus is about 7 miles from downtown Athens and we took the local metro/train to the city center. You can buy a day pass for 3 euros ($3.90) for metros and buses. It was a good mile to the metro from the port but it was an interesting walk. We entered two Greek Orthodox churches and observed some of their Palm Sunday services. Vendors were already out selling their wares (many are from Senegal and Bangladesh) and the road was along the harbor front so you see the various ferries which travel to all the Greek islands. MANY MANY ferry boats!

The metro was quick to Syntagma Square, where Parliament is located. Our goal was to see the changing of the guards at 11:00 as it is a special ceremony on a Sunday. There was a large marching band and a 30+-person contingent of soldiers for today’s guard ceremony. The soldiers wear a short white/beige skirt with 400 pleats in it, white/beige tights and rounded toe shoes with a huge tassel on the front and red round hat and carry rifles. The pleats signify the 400 days of rule under the Ottoman Empire.

We went to the Hotel Grand Bretagne and had a wonderful view of the Acropolis and the main city sites. It is a Starwood/Sheraton property right in the heart of the action! We headed to the cathedral and peeked in the windows of a 14th century chapel, visited a 12th century chapel and continued walking through the Plaka, the heart of the city with its cafes and shops. It was sunny and bright so the streets were full of visitors, vendors and locals; it was a very welcoming atmosphere.

We headed to the Museum of Local Instruments. You could see them through the ages and listen to them via headphones. And there was a turtle in the courtyard of the museum. We watched him wander around a bit as we relaxed under some trees. They have such incredibly pliable necks!

We decided to get on to the metro and go wherever it took us! The metro happened to stop in Attica due to maintenance repairs so we wandered around the residential district. Not many people spoke English but we found a bus to take back to the city center. At Omonia Square we found another bus, hopped on that one to take the metro back to the port and then another bus to the passenger terminal. It was a beautiful day with spring sunshine. A great day to see explore Athens wandering through the streets with the Acropolis hovering above you.

Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece, also known as the birthplace of democracy. Named after the goddess Athens, it is one of the oldest cities in the world with a recorded history of at least 3,000 years. Ancient Athens was a powerful city-state center of learning, home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. The classical era heritage is still evident in the city, portrayed through the ancient monuments and artworks, the most famous being the Parthenon on the Acropolis. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896.

“The people always have some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness…This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” Plato, The Republic, Book 8, Section 565

Back onboard, it was another formal night and we had fantastic entertainment by the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers in “Jazz Blues and Rock’n Roll”. We watched both shows!