When I left you last, we were in Alexandroupolis, ready to embark on the next to last leg of our trip with two days on vacation in Athens. Here are some of the exciting parts of our stay there.

1. A high point. We landed in Athens, took a taxi to our hotel, and checked in. God bless the Marriott – I sure do love American hotels, especially after our 3 week sojourn in rather modest circumstances. We chilled for an hour or so, then made our way to Syntagma square, the center of the city.

2. Another hight point. We got there a few minutes before 3 pm, enough time to cross the street and watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier which sits in front of the Greek Parliament building. You can see videos of this online at YouTube (notably here and here). But if you can stand the still photos, here are a few pictures that we took.

First, a set of new troops marches in from the street side of the square. I don’t know where they came from, all of a sudden they were just there.

A new set of troops ready to stand guard.

There is another little house and another guard facing to the left which are not in the picture, but they are to the right of the camera. The soldier in the blue hat is going to inspect the new troops.

Standing for inspection

In the meantime the two guys on the platform are beginning to swing their legs in an elaborate march toward the center.

Old guard on his march toward the center.

More high stepping and arm swinging from the old guard

The two old guards meet in the center, then they will separate.

Now the new guards start their march.

The new guards are on their way in...

One of the old guards meets one of the new guards

The old guards have assembled at the bottom of the steps with the 3rd cohort who had marched in with the new, now they start their march out.

Farewell for now

3. After watching this we walked down Ermou, the main shopping drag, toward Monasteraki, where we enjoyed lunch. After this we headed toward the Monasteraki subway station to take the green line to the Victoria station, from which we could walk to the National Archaeological Museum.

4. The (only, but nonetheless significant) low point: While getting on the subway, two men working together created enough of a diversion (by separating us and pushing me into the gap between the platform and the train that, as the British say, I should have been minding) that Rick took his hands out of his pockets. After a moment we were reunited, but the two men were gone and so was Rick’s wallet, and train was moving. However, once we disembarked two stops later we were able to call all of the card services involved, but not before a charge for over $1000 had been made on the Visa card. Ouch. We don’t have to pay it, but still, ouch. Fortunately his passport was not in his wallet. Although Rick beat himself up a bit for this, in the end he decided that this was not going to ruin his vacation and he set out to enjoy himself.

5. Another high point: After an hour of dealing with the necessary phone calls, we went to the National Archaeological Museum. I really like that museum – I love seeing the Mycenean death masks, ie the Mask of Agamemnon etc. Also the sculpture is exquisite. At 6:30 we left to walk – we still weren’t in the mood to get back on a crowded subway train – back to Syntagma, where we could catch a shuttle back to the Marriott. We then grabbed a quick bite of supper in the hotel bar, and called it a night.

6. The next morning we got up early to walk up the Acropolis. I made it – I had failed to climb it when I was in Athens in 2008, and it was a personal goal. Here is the official picture of me in front of the Parthenon.

Vicki in front of the eastern side of the Parthenon.

Rick in front of the famous Caryatid porch on the south side of the Erechtheion.

Here is another shot of the girls, without the beefcake:

A closer look at the Caryatids

7. The last major high point: After 90 minutes or so, we had seen as much as there was to see, and so we climbed down the Acropolis and wandered over to the New Acropolis Museum. On the way there, the sign below caught our eye. It was hanging on the door to a house that was on the street that skirts south of the Acropolis, and the museum sits just behind it.

The Greece Ministry of Culture or the Druid Hills Civic Association - its a toss up.

The sign was also posted in German and Greek.

The New Acropolis Museum, opened in July 2009, was lovely. The displays were well placed and very educational. Although most of the buildings on the Acropolis are devoted to either scenes of  battle or to events in the lives of the gods, I did find a couple of friezes that evoked some of the same imagery that is used on buildings in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. I wonder if there is any connection. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed. Since I had already been warned by one of the numerous guards not to touch (I really didn’t touch it, although my fingers did get closer than a foot away, honest), I didn’t want to flagrantly take pictures. I hope I can find images online somewhere.

That about sums up our stay in Athens. It is a dry, dusty town, but even in that large metropolis we managed to run in to Kyle, who was having lunch in the same cafe into which we wandered after the museum visit. Small world.

More posting later when I get GigaPans processed and uploaded…