During the night after Katakolon, we sailed around the Pelopponese and docked in Piraeus, the port of Athens. A long time ago, Piraeus used to be a separate town, but now it is basically part of the Athens metro area. Finally, something urban sprawl has done right.
Even though we were a ways from the Acropolis and the rest of the city center, we decided to not shell out the cash for a shore excursion and go it on our own. Turns out it was the right move; we had just about all the time we wanted at all the places we wanted to stop, instead of being hurried through to stay on tour schedule.
So we got up early in the morning and emerged from the ship, ready to look for the nearest metro stop. 25 minutes (and one taxi driver telling us, “It’s too far to walk”) later, we found it, bought day passes, and we were on our way into town. I can’t remember exactly how long it took us to get to the Acropolis stop, but I think it must have been 20-25 minutes. What I do remember is that we were climbing up the Acropolis at 9 o’clock – not the first people to get there, but still before most tour groups. There were plenty of people there, but it was not as crowded as it was becoming by the time we left.
Here are a few pictures – first, the Theater of Dionysus, where many well-known ancient Greek plays were first performed.
Me in front of the Parthenon:
The east facade of the Parthenon – they were doing a lot of restoration.
After looking around the Acropolis for a bit, we walked north (we came up the south side) toward the Areopagus and the ancient Agora. The Areopagus (also known as Mars Hill) is well-known from biblical history for being the place where Paul made his speech to the men of Athens in Acts 17. Now you can visit it, but there are no ruins on it. To all appearances, it is just a rocky hill. Here it is, with the Acropolis in the background:
There is a bronze plaque on one side of it, however, but it is easy to miss for us tourists because it is in Greek. It is the text of Acts 17:22-32, which tells the story of Paul’s speech there:
After the Areopagus, we continued down into the ancient Agora (marketplace) and saw a restored stoa (portico), the Stoa of Attalus:
We also saw the Temple of Hephaestus, which is in pretty good shape considering how old it is:
After passing through the Agora, we got back on the metro at the Monasteraki stop and went to the National Archaeological Museum. It’s an impressive museum, and I’d recommend it to anyone on a trip to Athens. I took a few pictures, but wasn’t allowed to use the flash. Here is a tour group standing in front of a famous statue of Poseidon:
An old jar:
After 2.5 hours in the museum, we got back on the metro and took a look at the Parliament building in Syntagma Square, with its guards outside dressed in national costume. We didn’t stick around for the changind of the guard at 3, though, because we had to get to the Temple of Olympian Zeus – or what is left of it:
Then we took the metro back out to Piraeus and walked (15 minutes this time, since we knew where we were going) back to the ship. In the evening we went to Michelangelo’s as usual, and then watched the movie “Enchanted” up on deck.
In the end, we were very satisfied with what we were able to accomplish in just 7 hours of sightseeing. And it was all made possible by the Athens metro.