How could we come to this city and not succumb to some degree to the consumer spirit? The kids are interested in some of the kitschy memorabilia, and we've had to be mean and stingy parents as we constantly tell them that they can't have rubber balls with the Greek flag on them or snow globes with the Parthenon in them. It doesn't snow here... actually, that's not true. I learned on this trip that it actually does snow in Athens, and for that matter, much of Greece, but don't tell that to the kids.
The hotel we are at includes breakfast with the room, which I know I've mentioned is a quality that I love in a hotel. You just can't beat it. In Turkey I developed a routine where I make it obvious that I'm from the States by pigging out at the breakfast buffet, while all of the Europeans simply have a croissant and cup of coffee. I don't know how they do it, but with a big breakfast, I can make it until supper, and have been surviving well on two meals a day. It's the way to go, plus you save money. Anyway, I love breakfast buffets, I can't help myself.
After breakfast, we went up to the roof again to see our goal for the day, the Acropolis. The plan was to hike up hill, see the Parthenon, and take a picture of it with our Grateful Dumpling sign to show why we worked so hard all Summer. The culmination of our hard work, so to speak. We packed our stuff and went on our way. To get to the Acropolis, we had to walk through the heavy tourist section, and I couldn't help, once again, but wonder how these guys make a living. They all sell the same stuff. Why go to one over the other? How do they compete, and how do they survive? They are all desperate to sell you their t-shirts and trinkets, and their shops are all in a row, literally dozens of them. I will say this, they are all very friendly, and when you let them down easy, they are very nice about it. If anything, it makes me feel guilty for not buying anything... hey, now it all makes sense.
We hiked up to the Acropolis, and it's pretty impressive, especially in light of the fact that they built the thing without a single machine. Those slabs of marble weigh tons, and some poor worker, or slave, pushed it up some ramp to get it here. Simply amazing. We had plenty of chances to get a good pic, and the place up there was packed with people. There were actually a lot of school groups, probably Greek school kids learning about their heritage and how it literally created Western civilization. Not a bad way to make your mark on the world. They should be proud.
We also got busted by the Parthenon hall monitor. There was this lady walking around doing who knows what, and when she saw us taking a picture with the sign unfurled, she flipped out. She started blowing this whistle and screaming at us, "NO SIGNS!" How embarrassing! We apologized and got out of their fast, but not before we got our pic. It was all so James Bond of us.
We headed down the hill to see other important ruins, most of which I was not familiar with, but of course R knew all about because of her interest in art history. Really cool artifacts, and still in such good shape. There are ruins all around the city, and they've done a fairly good job building the city around them. In that way, it's not unlike Rome, where all these fabulous old buildings are amongst the rest of the modern, functioning city. Somehow, however, Rome does a nicer job of mixing things in together. Maybe it's because the historic buildings in Rome are from the Renaissance era, and are thus not as old. Either way, it's neat to be walking amongst these ruins.
As I mentioned, there are tons of American tourists out here, and we actually met a bunch of young guys who graduated from UVM. They were visiting the city, maybe doing the after-college Euro tour thing. I knew a lot of people who did that after college. After seeing the sites, we decided to brave the crowds and eat amongst the masses. We chose a restaurant amongst the many and ordered a bunch of seafood, which I love, but the kids took with a grain of salt. Something about the tentacles of squid and octopus that didn't go over too well. The octopus was killer, though, so tender and delicious. I like it cooked plain, with maybe a little olive oil and vinegar, not too heavy on the sauce. We also got whole anchovies and sardines, complete with the heads. This, too, didn't make everyone at the table too happy. However, we were able to stash several of the fish in our napkin to feed the cat family across the square, which the kids really enjoyed. There are feral cats everywhere in this town, not to mention Istanbul, as well. It's amazing how many you see.
After supper, we went back to the hotel to gaze at the Acropolis and eat ice cream and chocolate. It was our last night in Athens, and we are off to the Islands in the morning. Until then, thanks for reading.