“Beauty is Truth: Truth Beauty”

Ode to a Grecian Urn – John Keats


 

Yassas! That’s how you greet people in Greece. Paying a visit to Greece has been on my bucket list for years. I love everything about the place – the food, the architecture, the music and so on. I am fascinated by Greek mythology – after years of having made reference to it whilst I read for my Bachelor’s degree, I took this opportunity to truly immerse myself in what I’ve read about for years.

It was only appropriate to start off the trip by paying a visit to the main attraction – the Acropolis. Interestingly enough, I got to know that the Acropolis is often mistaken for the Parthenon – I was in fact one of those people who got the two mixed up! The Parthenon is the crowning jewel that sits meticulously at the top, while the Acropolis is the area where sights such as the Parthenon are located.

Before heading to Greece, some people had warned me that the walk is meant to be an unbearable one, but I was set on doing it nonetheless. Much to my surprise, I found the walk to be extremely doable but I must say we really picked a scorcher of a day to do it – the heat was the only thing that held me back at times, but I was determined to keep trudging on until I reached the top.

The Parthenon, Athens
The first stop was the Theatre of Dionysus. This theatre is situated right at the foot of the Acropolis, and is dedicated to the god of plays and wine. In ancient times, this theatre was considered to be very important to the Greeks, since it was constructed during a time when theatre did not even exist yet. Major plays by Sophocles and Euripides amongst others, were performed as part of a cult festival of Dionysus during the 6th century BC. Luckily, many of these plays have survived, and we are still able to gain an understanding of what these playwrights’ were thinking. Also built at the base of the Acropolis is the The Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Herodes Atticus built this theatre in 161 BC, in memory of his late wife. Nowadays, it is still used as a venue for the Athens Art Festival, concerts and plays.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
We made our way through the Propylaea – the main entrance to the Acropolis. To say that I was marvelled by every stop we made is an understatement. The Temple of Athena and the Erechtheion were probably my favourite structures, leading up to the Parthenon. I truly felt that everything I knew from the history books was coming to life at that very moment in time. The history behind the place and how civilisation came to be intrigues me – I’ve always said that if I had to transport myself to a particular era, I would choose Ancient Greece.

The Erectheion, Acropolis Views from the Acropolis
During the next few days, we got to know the capital city a little better. Our Air BnB apartment was situated in a neighbourhood called Thissio – very central to pretty much everything in the centre of Athens. It was convenient to have the train station situated close by as this facilitated our travels around the city. From Thissio, we took the train to Monastiraki – the heart of the city. Known for its mosaic-effect streets, and its flea markets, this place was truly a must see. There was also a variety of restaurants to choose from – being such a fussy eater, I was delighted that I loved the Greek delicacies that I tried out while I was there. If I had to pick a favourite dish, Moussaka is a winner, hands down.

Monastiraki Flea Markets
Since our trip was a short one, we opted to go to for an overnight stay at one of the less popular Greek Islands – Aegina. Minute, but stunning nonetheless. From Athens, the ferry to Aegina took only an hour– this came in handy considering boats are not exactly my favourite mode of transport. As soon as we got there, we decided to rent a car to get around the island easier.

Our first stop was the monastery of the Greek Ortodox saint – Agios Nektarios, situated in an area called Kontos, located around 6km from the centre of Aegina town. The building and all the intricate details of the place are truly captivating. Nowadays, a community of nuns who tend to those seeking solace and spiritual help inhabits the monastery. After spending an afternoon at a beach called Agia Marina, the next main attraction we drove to was the Temple of Aphaia. What a sight! Greece is truly temple central.

The Monastery of St. Nektarios
It was time to head back to Athens to tick off the last few things that were on our itinerary for the last two days of the trip. After visiting the Acropolis Museum, we spent some time in Syntagma Square to pay a visit the Panathenaic Stadium – another significant monument in Greece. This stadium was first erected on a racecourse in 300 BC and later In 144 AD, the stadium was then immaculately re-made entirely out of marble by Herodes Atticus.

After being disused for many centuries, in 1869, this stadium hosted the first Modern Olympic Games and was also used an Olympic venue in 2004. Nowadays, it is used to host concerts. As we started to make our way back to the hotel, we passed by the Temple of Zeus – located only a few steps away from the Panathenaic Stadium. Even though it was closed by the time we got there, we still managed to get a good glimpse of it from behind the rails.

The Panathenaic Stadium

The Temple of Zeus
Our last stop before heading back to Malta was Mount Lycabettus – the highest point in Athens. After five, full days of touring around, walking up 200 steps (yes, I counted them!) to get to the top were the last thing I needed. That said, the views were truly incredible up there and well worth the effort.

Until next time Greece!
Mount Lycabettus, Athens
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Christine Cassar