A Travellerspoint blog

Riots continue

Today is the 4th day of riots here in Athens and in the rest of Greece. Unrest has filtered as far away as London and Germany where incidents have taken place at the consulates. The Berlin consulate has been occupied by so called anarchists. Today the funeral for Alexandros Grigoropoulos was held and rioters did not even allow that to stop them from wrecking havoc across the city. To add insult to injury two of the major unions are striking tomorrow bring Athens to a grinding halt. Flights, ferries, metro, buses, and trains will all stop leaving many with no mode of transportation. I've come to learn that strikes and protests are not unusual in Greece, in fact hardly a week goes by without one or the other being brought to my attention, but I have a feeling that because of high tensions tomorrow's strike and protest may just give rise to more violence in the city. I only hope and pray that I am wrong.

The smell of smoke has drifted into our little corner of Athens, Pangrati, and last night we were able to hear explosions coming from Syntagma. A few of us braved the smoke and noise and walked that way to see if things had calmed down. The scene was a bit surreal. People were out and about, surveying the damage, taking photographs, even laughing. I suspect those laughing were involved in this perhaps. A walk down Ermou street gave us sight of broken windows and burnt out store fronts. Syntagma Square was a sad sight with the Christmas tree smoldering and blackened. Down Nikis Street we could see fires still raging. I believe it was the Olympic Airlines office that was gutted down there. Banks were also heavily targeted as the pictures below will show. It has been a sad week for Athens. The tension in the air is still palpable. Just 10 more days until I leave, and even with all this mess I find myself saddened. Greece has it's problems, but it has been home to me for the last 3 1/2 months. I'm also saddened by the destruction, the murder of a young boy, the unrest, the uncertainty. It too will pass in time, but right now it looms on the horizon like a dark storm cloud.

Fires on Amalias Street


Syntagma Square


A dog surveys the damage of a gutted shop in Monastiraki


Sprider on Ermou


I was amazed that places like this were completely open and nobody was looting


ATM's were all smashed


Cars burnt


Firetrucks down Nikis Street


The Christmas tree in Syntagma Square


Posted by oceanchild 11:39 Archived in Greece Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Sad day in Athens

sunny 19 °C

Yesterday I took a walk to a book store just north of Syntagma near Omonoia. It was a busy day, the streets filled with shoppers, Christmas decor lit up, the aroma of roasting chestnuts filled the air. All through Syntagma people were joyous as Christmas music drifted from inside the shops. I was enjoying one of my last weekends in Athens. The presence of riot police did not phase me as they are often a common sight when there is any sort of protest in the city. Protests are common here. They are typically peaceful. Sunday morning dawned bright and while many shops would not be open I thought it might be a good day to do one of my "walkabouts" that I frequently do. Photograph some street scenes, see if I could find some cats, enjoy a bright, sunny Athens day. I decided instead to come to the center and do some my work, get a load off my back so I could enjoy my last two weeks here. A good decision. I learned when I got here that violent riots had broke out in the city last night after a 16 year old boy was shot by police. A group of teens allegedly were throwing rocks at a police car when they were confronted and one was shot. I am not sure if the teens actions were in relation to the protest or not. Athens has its share of what they refer to as "self styled anarchists" and it is hard to say what prompted them to have this interaction with the police. As a result violet riots took place in Athens and Thessaloniki. Businesses were targeted, windows smashed, cars overturned, firebombs tossed. Reports say several police have been injured. I have to assume certain areas of Athens are a mess today. The US Embassy has issued a warning to American citizens to not venture toward the center of the city today. There were protests regarding immigration planned for today and the Greek government has urged those protesting to stay peaceful. Let's hope and pray that things calm down in Athens today. The families of those involved could use our prayers as well.


Posted by oceanchild 03:58 Archived in Greece Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

A Rainy Roman Day

Let it be known that late fall, early winter is not a good time to visit Italy. It seems rain is in the forecast almost every day and true to form, it rained on us quite a bit! But what is a traveler to do when they have spend good money on a flight and hotel? You don your rain gear and see it all anyway. That's just what I did on our second day in Rome. We hit the metro and headed to the Colosseum because we knew it was near a metro station. What amazed me so much was stepping out of the metro station. Whoa!! There it is, the Colosseum. I think this is what many think of when they think of Rome. It is an amazing structure. Huge is an understatement. Like so many things in Rome, the scale is just enormous.


What we didn't know was that it was going to cost 11 euro to get into the Colosseum. With that info and the long lines we decided to hit the Roman Forum first. I believe my guidebook said it was free. Remind me not to trust Fodor's ever again. It wasn't free. At least a combined ticket would get us into the Forum, Colosseum, and Palantine Museum for 12 euro. Forum first, Colosseum later. The Roman Forum, or Forum Romanum as it was known in ancient times and still is in Italy was in its heyday the center of Roman life. It was where citizens did business, politics, and shopping. Whenever I feel the need to complain about crowds in these sites I remind myself that navigating the crowd is exactly how it would have been in ancient times. There is so much in the Forum and it is impossible to post it all and label it. Ok, not impossible, but improbably given the time I have these days. One thing I noticed about Italy is that nothing is labeled. I think this is because they want you to buy and audio guide. I chose not to spend the money. I also failed to take a ton of photos as I usually do because the rain kept falling in waves and I kept my camera out of harms way. It was truly a miserable day but I loved every step I took through the forum!

Heading up to Palatine Hill


The stadion


Palatine Hill


View from Palatine Hill


House of Augustus....the Augustus, grand nephew of Julius Caesar....


And then it rained and we took refuge in a tunnel or sorts..


It seemed like every time I thought the rain was going to stop and the sky looked clear, it would start again. My travel companion had forgot her umbrella so I gave her mine since my coat was water resistant. I probably should have sprung for a second umbrella because I got wet even though I had rain gear on. We did manage to get out into the forum though and look around. There is no rhyme or reason it seems. I think a good weather day, a good plan, some history, and a few hours would have made the Forum all the more enjoyable to me. But still, there I was, in the Roman Forum. My Latin lessons started coming back! Ok, maybe not. There were plenty of reminders though.


Detail of sculpture


The Forum in it's entirety almost


Arch of Septimus Severus (all I can think of is Snape)


Temple of Saturn


Interesting fountain just below the gardens of Palatine. It was like a massive rock with moss and had water flowing into the pool below. Very interesting and I bet it's a nice place to sit on a warm sunny day.


Temple of Antoninus and Faustina


The grass is so green....


Arch of Titus


The Via Sacra, or Sacred Way going toward the Colosseum


The Colosseum...isn't it amazing?


Now it was time to go in the Colosseum! One problem, it was 3:40 and it closed at 3:30. Curses!! You mean we bought tickets and not we couldn't go in? I just paid 12 euro to walk around the Forum?! Thankfully we came back the next day and were able to get in, so not all was lost, but I was feeling kind of bummed at the moment. So we headed up the street toward the huge building we had been seeing while up on Palatine Hill and wondering what it was. Then guess what, it started raining again. I was rather tired of getting wet and was getting a bit grumpy at the time. So I sought shelter under a porch overhang and waited it out. The scoop on the monumental building we were seeing. It is the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or a monument to Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy. I read that a lot of Italians do not like it and it has such nicknames as "the wedding cake", "the typewriter", and even "the urinal". I found it fascinating if not a bit overbearing.



Our next stop, if we could find it, was the Trevi Fountain. And we did find it after taking the wrong street first. I don't mind just walking and not knowing where I am going as long as I'm not wet and cold. I was, however, wet and cold. Next time I got to Rome I'm keeping my umbrella! The Trevi fountain is quite a sight as well. What isn't quite a sight in Rome? It's full on ornate fountains, grand buildings, columns that reach to heaven, and glorious churches! Trevi Fountain is the largest of all the fountains. It was started in 1732 and finished in 1762.



That was it for day 2 in Rome. I was wet and tired and just wanted to go back to the hotel and get warm. We had tentative plans to go to Pompeii the next day, but those didn't work out in the end. I could kick myself now for not just going. When will I ever have a chance again? I guess it just gives me another excuse to go back to Italy! Ciao!

Posted by oceanchild 05:45 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Il dolce far niente

The sweetness of doing nothing in Rome

When in Rome....that's how the saying goes. I'm not sure if I did as the Roman's do, but I am positive that I absolutely love the city of Rome. I found a quote by Herman Melville that speaks of Rome:

These marbles, the works of the dreamers and idealists of old, live on, leading and pointing to good. They are the works of visionaries and dreamers, but they are realizations of soul, the representations of the ideal. They are grand, beautiful, and true, and they speak with a voice that echoes through the ages. Governments have changed; empires have fallen; nations have passed away; but these mute marbles remain—the oracles of time, the perfection of art.

There is so much there that lives on. It seems every corner you turn you are confronted with some grand building, a wondrous fountain, or random ancient ruins. It is a city thank can certainly keep you in awe. I found it cleaner and somehow fresher than Athens. Seems odd. But true. Athens somehow has an identity crisis. She has been through a lot and is not sure what defines her. The ancient past or the recent past. With Rome it is clear that history never passed it by. The ancient blends with the medieval with hardly a seam to be seen. At any rate, four measly days are hardly enough to experience Rome to the fullest. But I did my darndest with my travel companion Samantha.

We arrived in Rome on a Wednesday evening and caught the "Leonardo Express" from the airport to Roma Termini (central station). Roma Termini is quite large and once we exited and walked along the street we thought it would never end. I found out how deceiving maps can be, or at least appear to be when you have no idea where you are going in a dark and strange city. The hotel I had booked appeared to be a short walk from Termini. I didn't time the walk but it certainly seemed to be longer than 10-15 minutes. Needless to say we passed by our hotel in the dark once but finally found it. The Hotel Emona Aquaeductus is located right next to Nero's Aqueduct. It's a rather out of the way section but was at least quiet. Almost too quiet when it came to finding dinner! The hotel owner was quiet helpful and gave us the names and directions to several eateries. We finally found Rome Antica and I had a lovely dinner of linguine with porcini mushrooms.


Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and sunny at least. I had purchased advance tickets to see the Vatican museums on the advice of several people so we were tied into an itinerary on that day. In hindsite it would have been a better day to see the Colosseum and Forum Roma, but we had planned to go to Naples and Pompeii on Friday. That never happened for various reasons. We took the metro to the stop closest to St. Peter's and the Vatican, got off, exited and stood there like lost souls wondering which way to go. It's often disorienting coming out of a metro station. We finally followed the sea of "tour guides" harassing us to take a tour of the site. I finally started answering them with a sound "Οχι!" when they asked if I spoke English. Between them and the signs we made our way to St. Peter's square. We didn't enter through the front, but through the side, so it was a little anti-climatic, but once I was in the square I had goosebumps.




The line was pretty long to go inside St. Peter's so we headed to a coffee shop to have something warm before our ticket time at the Vatican museum. It was a bit brisk in Rome that morning and a nice warm cappuccino did the trick! A walk along the street out of St. Peter's was filled with shops selling "Papal" souvenirs and such. I couldn't resist the "bambinos" in the window!


I expected long lines at the Vatican museum, but there was not a line to be had. Walked right up to the ticket booth and got my tickets before the time I had reserved them for. I didn't take many photos at the Vatican museums because it was too dark in many of the rooms. One of the main reasons we went there was to see the Sistine Chapel. In order to get to the Sistine Chapel you have to follow a labyrinth of galleries to get to there. Turn a corner and see a sign that says "Sistine Chapel ---->" and you think it is right around the corner. But no! It's another gallery! Shortly after there is another sign, then another gallery, sign, gallery, sign, gallery. Some of the sights along the way....

The mummy!


The Octagonal Courtyard


Laocoon and sons


The BIG toe...




Random statue. Note the fig leaf. Many of these fig leaves were added under certain Pope's because they felt the nude body was shameful. I think they just look silly...fig leaves that is, not nude bodies..


The tapestries were enormous. I wish I had something to show the scale....


Gilded ceiling...




Raphael's "School of Athens"


And then finally...the Sistine Chapel!! The masterpiece of Michelangelo!! Sorry, no photos. Here it wasn't even no flash, but no photos period. What a let down for the photographer in me. But let me assure you, it was amazing and neck craning! I could have just stood there all day basking in the wonderful color and glory of this work. It is so much to take in. That's Rome in a nutshell actually. So much to take in!

I can tell you that the Vatican is overwhelming. Even once you leave the Sistine Chapel you walk through hall after hall of opulence and grandeur. After a while it's just sensory overload. So we exited and sought out lunch. FYI, the stair case to exit was pretty awesome as well...


Lunch was a bowl of minestrone soup and a glass of wine at a dive of a sidewalk place not far from the Vatican. Can't complain though. The wine was on the house. However, we did order desert (panne cotta) and noticed that the waiter pulled what looked like "pudding cups" from the fridge and shortly after came with a beautiful display of this baked custard similar to flan. We just had to laugh knowing it was pre-made pudding cup panne cotta. It wasn't bad and the soup was perfect for a chilly day. Wine is always good....


Bellies full it was on to St. Peter's with hopes that the line would not be too long. Thankfully it wasn't and we made it through the security check within 15 minutes easy. St. Peter's is another bit of "overwhelm". It's just huge and ornate and beautiful. We were lucky to be inside when they were doing some sort of commemorative service, thus we heard the organ played and later some singing. The acoustics are amazing! I also got to pray in the chapel they have set aside just for that purpose. In all its grandeur and touristic appeal, St. Peter's can be quite serene.

The outside of St. Peter's


Yes, I'm really there


The papal balcony!!



As the sun sets


First look inside....wow!!


The floors are beautiful



As are the ceilings. That's Greek in that second photo by the way. No I won't translate it for you (because I can't)



St. Andrew sculpture


Can you believe this is a mosaic?


Michelangelo's Pieta


Darkness had fallen by the time we exited St. Peter's. Everything was just as beautiful, if not more so.


I didn't want to leave St. Peter's behind. But it was Thanksgiving and Sam and I had a date with some pizza for dinner. We made our way down by St. Angelo's Castle, hoping to go in, but opted out when we found it cost 11 euro to enter. Rome can be a bit pricey. The Tiber River was beautiful at night though...


I somehow managed to navigate us back to a metro station so we could get back to our "neighborhood" and find some pizza. So we didn't have pizza in a quaint little pizzeria but we did get some pretty darn good Roman pizza at a little take out place. They made your pizza right then and there when you order. Can you say thin crust? These things were done in about 5 minutes tops. Much different from American pizza. Simplicity at it's best.


Posted by oceanchild 10:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Consulting the oracle at Delphi

Another amazing weekend away from Athens

I now realize I am going to miss it all

I love Athens. At the same time I really don’t like Athens. As I walked down the street the other night the wonderful smells of the tavernas and bakeries filling my nose, I realized that I would miss this city when I have to leave it. In spite of the noise, the grime, the pollution, the strange sites (twice I have witnessed drug use on the streets). Going back home will be hard. There is so much I will miss. Having everything within walking distance. Tavernas at my beck and call during the late hours of the night. Gelato on every street corner. Bakeries and more bakeries. Greek yogurt. Good Greek wine. The sound of “worry” beads clicking. Baklava. Chocolate covered baklava. Finding ruins at every turn. Shopping in Plaka and Monastiraki. Syntagma. The central market. Laiki. Incredibly fresh fruits and vegetables. You get the idea? But that is just what I will miss about Athens! What I will miss about the rest of Greece is the sheer beauty of it all. The mountains are incredible, the views stunning. The air is so fresh, so clear. Even bad weather can’t ruin a day in Meteora or Delphi.

Delphi is just where I went two weekends ago. What an incredible place it is. Not just for the ancient ruins, but for the location of it all. The ancient inhabitants certainly had the right idea when they chose this spot for a sanctuary. Delphi is located high up on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus. You can’t actually see the peak of Parnassus from the site though. I know I usually write some great info on these sites but sometimes the photos are enough. I’ll see what I can pull from my brain as I post them.

I slept part of our drive up, but when I was awake it was usually cloudy, foggy, and sometimes rainy. At one point we stopped to see if we could find the Oedipus crossroads. We missed the actual spot but did get some great views and the sky actually cleared up for a while!


When we got to the hotel in Delphi we had some free time to just explore after we got settled in. I decided to take my camera and go on a solo walk. It was quite windy and cool there but the clouds made for some dramatic views over the mountains. Delphi sits not too far from the water and you can see the bay in the first photo here.



We visited the lower sanctuary that night. Not much there except for the tholos and the gymnasium, as well as a temple.

This is the gymnasium from afar....


The tholos, which designates a round building. Scholars really have no idea what purpose tholos served.



As it started to sprinkle we made our way out of the lower sanctuary and by the Kastalian spring. Those who visited the temple in ancient times would have washed to purify themselves here at the spring.


The rest of the evening was spent wandering the town, having hot chocolate and finding a cool taverna for dinner. As always, ice cream is popular!


After hot chocolate we wandered up hill and chose a place called the Vakos to have dinner. No photos of my food, but I had lamb I believe.


I was pretty pleased with our hotel. I managed to grab a single room so I didn't have to share with anyone. Although I have to say the wind picked up so much that night that I might as well have had a snorer in the room with me. Something banged on the roof of the building all night. I thought we were having a hurricane for a while! The next day dawned a bit cloudy with a slight threat of rain. We were lucky that it held off until we were finished touring the main sanctuary site. This is where the good stuff is!

The omphalos, or "navel" of the earth. Legend has it that Zeus set lose two eagles to fly around the earth and where they landed was considered the center of the earth. It is said that they landed at Delphi. There were many omphalos found in the sanctuary.


This lovely kitty followed us the whole way through almost. She is the center of the world!


A bit further up is the Athenian Treasury, given by the city state of Athens.


and then the base of an enormous tripod that was supported by a bronze column of intertwined snakes. The serpentine column now resides in Istanbul in the Hippodrome. Yes, I have a photo as you can see...



A cute little dog followed us around the whole time we were there. Several wanted to take him home...


The Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This is where the oracle was housed. She was called the Pythia and sat on a tripod that some say was over a fissure in the earth that seeped gasses causing her to have her visions. Others say she chewed on laurel leaves. It is apparently true that a group of German archaeologists tried chewing laurel leaves to see if there was a hallucinogenic effect. They failed to find conclusive evidence.



And then there is the theatre. What a view!


The museum experience was kind of tainted by the fact that we were behind a large tour group. But I did get a few photos of some treasures, like the Naxian Sphinx, so called because it was dedicated by the island of Naxos, and the archaic chryselephantine statues. The Naxian Sphinx is impressive alone but just imagine it on a column that is 33 feet in height!


Chryselephatine statues are made of ivory and gold. Imagine huge cult statues made of this!


There seemed to be a colony of tabby cats that populated the area around the museum, as well as a few other cats that I captured while at Delphi. Yes, these are all different cats....







and the beautiful little grey and white kitty who followed us...



and finally a lone black cat I found wandering the streets...


A little shopping, lunch in a cute taverna while it rained like crazy, and an evening Arachova is the end of this entry....




Posted by oceanchild 07:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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