A Life in a Year – 6th April, The first Modern Olympic Games

Our plan was to go first to the Acropolis and the city guidebook advised getting there early to avoid the crowds. We did as it suggested and got there early (well, reasonably early) and it was swarming, I mean really swarming! Obviously we weren’t early enough. I can’t imagine what it is like when it is really busy!

We visited the hopelessly inadequate Acropolis Museum; It was small, hot and stuffy and overcrowded with lots of pushing and shoving, and there were so many treasures to show but it was smaller than a corner shop; later we saw the buildings where the famous marbles used to be before Lord Elgin pillaged them for the British Empire 200 years ago, he just hacked the statues off the buildings with saws and sent them back to the England where the 56 sculpted friezes, depicting gods, men and monsters are kept at the British Museum. Elgin was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire who ruled Greece at that time and the Turks gave permission for the removal without consulting the Greeks.

We walked past the city museum but didn’t have time to go in and then to the original Olympic stadium of the modern games which opened on April 6th 1896 and which looked perfectly useable to me. I don’t know why they had to build another one in 2004 when this one was completely adequate. And that gave them a lot of trouble as well because they nearly didn’t get that finished on time; what a good job they didn’t need the Acropolis for the 2004 games!

In the afternoon we went to the temple of Dionysus, another unfinished building and there wasn’t much going on there either. What the Greeks need are some builders from Poland to come over and get the jobs completed. Everyone says that that the Poles are the best builders in Europe at the moment with fantastic productivity, I’m sure they would have this placed finished in no time.

The day was really hot by now and the afternoon temperature in the city was rising all the time but we carried on as best we could. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that! I specialise in speed sight seeing but even I was beginning to flag and I had a bit of a sweat on now but hopefully no one had noticed? Around the back of the Parthenon we walked through a collection of interesting whitewashed sugar cube houses, that looked curiously out of place and resembled those on the Cyclades and we read later that they were in fact built by workmen from Santorini who came to Athens many years ago to find employment during a building boom in the city.

We arrived at the Greek Agora, which is the equivalent of the Roman Forum in Rome, but we had been walking now for almost six hours and really couldn’t do much more so we had to give up after only seeing less than half of it. Sally had a bit of emerging sunburn with vivid white strap marks but Charlotte was well protected under all that factor 30! We took some shade and applied some cream and then we walked back to the hotel stopping off at a little shady pavement bar next to the Roman Agora, another Mythos for me and iced tea for the girls.

On the way back I bought a cheap bottle of local red wine from an untidy little back street mini-market and we returned to the hotel. No one wanted to share it with me so I had to drink most of it myself but couldn’t quite manage the full bottle all in one go. We changed and went out again into the Plaka to eat. This time we choose a taverna adjacent to the first in a picturesque tree lined square. I had probably my best meal of the holiday, a lovely grilled chicken with fresh vegetables with especially memorable baked tomatoes. The girls had salad (again). And there was Greek music and dancing including our first Zorba of the holiday, which was really good.

 

 

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