Friday, December 31, 2004

Christmas in Athens - the Areopagus

Sunday 26 December 2004

Evzones changing guard
Up early and off to explore the Areopagus and look for the Cave of the Furies.

It's beautiful morning and I pass the Parliament and am the only one to witness the changing of the guard. The Evzones manage to look dignified despite their pleated mini-skirts and big pom-pom slippers.

Near the acropolis I hear a priest intoning the service in Greek and realise they broadcast it on a loudspeaker. I hear other services from other churches as I start to climb the areopagus and explore it. Some of this rocky hill is walled off and I can see tantalizing Roman ruins but I can't get at them.

Cave of the Furies? Maybe?
I do see several caves. One on the north slope and one on the south. I also find a cistern. Whether one of these caves was the famous Cave of the Furies or not, it shows that caves could easily be carved into the rock.

Over on the Pnyx, I find a cave with bars called 'Socrates' Prison'. It almost certainly wasn't Socrates' prison but the information board confirms my realisation: 'The cutting of groundwork and even whole rooms into the rocky hills west of the Acropolis, including the Areopagus, is especially characteristic of this area...'

"Socrates' prison"
Nearby, a service is just finishing at the little Byzantine Church of St Demetrios Loubardiaris. At a nearby cafe a group of grey-haired English are discussing the service. They are obviously residents rather than tourists and as they leave I ask one if he knows where the Cave of the Furies was. He thinks on the south slope but he has to go catch up with his friends who are disappearing. I wish I'd asked them sooner.

I order an espresso and croissant but they don't have the latter. So I let the waiter bring me a 'sokolatina'. It turns out to be one of those sculpted pieces of chocolate cake too sweet to eat. And he charges me a whopping E 6.40. I guess it's because this place has a view of the acropolis. Later the waiter runs after me to thrust some euros in my hand and tell me he charged me for two not one, but the damage has been done. I ain't going back there!

Richard's acropolis watercolour
Back at the hotel, Richard has been doing a watercolour of the Acropolis. It's getting windy and cold, but we brave the weather and walk to Monastiraki. Surprise: everybody is eating at some meat restaurants here. It is only 1.00 and yet whole families are crammed round tables at two restaurants between the flea market and the metro. Later a Greek taxi driver tells us these two places are famous for their giro and souvlaki.

We settle for mezedhes with a view of the Temple of Hephaestos. The plate of goodies include rosemary flavoured burgers, grilled pepper, spicy sausages, cheese, olives, chicken, and delicious chunks of cooked but cold potatoes marinated in vinagrette. Absolutely delicious, and much better than leftover turkey. In case you're interested, the place is called Paradosiako Kafeneio.

Richard's getting a runny nose and it's quite cold so we retreat to the warmth of our hotel room for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is our last day and another busy one. We have hired a taxi driver to take us to Corinth and its surrounding sites!

[The 17+ books in the Roman Mysteries series, including The Fugitive from Corinth, are perfect for children aged 9+, especially those studying Romans and/or Greeks as a topic in Key Stages 2 & 3. There are DVDs of some of the books as well as an interactive game.]

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