Thursday, November 18, 2010

Syntagma Square

Remember Mary Poppins (tuppence a bag) or Home Alone - the lady feeding the pigeons? The parents enjoyed a break in the famous Syntagma Square in Athens:


video 




It is a pretty place, full of activity. One can find the modern (McDonald's, what else?!) mixed in with the old as can be seen in this picture of a man selling bread: 


There are lots of ornamental orange trees - just like in the rest of Athens.


There was this lady selling pins which she had made - she showcased them on her umbrella!


This is the center of the Square:


It is surrounded by important buildings - Government and Private hotels, etc.


This is the Greek Parliament building. Every hour the Changing of the Guard ceremony is performed by the Presidential Guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier there.








Here is a video of the ceremony:

video

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Athens, Greece

It has been a long time since I updated my blog. We traveled to Athens on the same trip which took us to Cairo and Istanbul. Athens was a lot colder than Istanbul, even though there was no snow there. It lived up to it's name as a Mediterranean place, just judging by the orange trees throughout the entire city which had all those oranges hanging like ornaments!
Traveling from the airport into town was no problem. The trains ran at regular intervals and we were able to find our way quite easily. We stayed at the local Intenational Youth Hostel the first night - close to the Metaxourgi station and the Omonia station. After enjoying the most luxurious stay in the hotel in Cairo and at an equally warm and lovely place in Istanbul, the YMCA was a great shock. It definitely did not feel like Europe.... enough said! So we moved all our stuff to another hotel the next day: to the Achillion Hotel (http://www.achillionhotel.com/) The lady at the front desk at the Youth Hostel was very helpful and friendly. She suggested that we visit the Parthenon the first day we were there - on Sunday. We couldn't understand why until we went there - a lot of the museums and tourist places are free on Sundays! It did save us a lot in admission fees, especially since you don't need a tourist guide and everything is pretty self-explanatory at the Parthenon and a couple of other places close to it, all in Acropolis, Athens.
"Acropolis" means "the highest city" in Greek (or the Citadel in English.) The most famous Acropolis is the one in Athens on which the "Parthenon" (which means "temple") is built.  The Parthenon is dedicated to the Goddess Athena - the place itself is pretty awe-inspiring, especially as you go closer to the ruins. One can only imagine what it must have taken to carry all the marble high up there and build the huge structures.

As you can see in this picture, everybody is bundled up quite well. I must say the parents did remarkably well, climbing all the way up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. At one point, there was a rather cold wind blowing in our faces, and as my mother put it, "How much more do we want to see here? It's just a bunch of old, broken rocks lying around!" Nonetheless, she too enjoyed seeing all the sights.

This is the open-air auditorium of the Theater of Dionysos, on the Southern slope of the Acropolis. This is where they performed the famous tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes. It was built around 500BC (I think!)

There are different colored marbles lining the walkway around the Parthenon.

Beautiful marble columns hold up the ancient Temple.

A view of modern Athens from atop the Acropolis.
A view of the "Agora" which was the Forum or Marketplace in ancient Athens.

Not sure if all the pebbles were originally there or brought up recently during the restoration of the Parthenon. I just found the shell there to be interesting, since it seemed so out of place way up on the hill.


We had a delicious lunch at this very lively modern "marketplace."


video

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Snow in Istanbul

It is just as well that it snowed our last day in Istanbul. The place was so beautiful, I was loath to leave it but for the fact that the weather turned COLD. Here are some random pictures of snow there - everybody said it was rare for it to happen.

These are views from our hotel room:


On our way to the airport:


At the airport:

The Bosphorous Tour

The Bosphorous or the Istanbul Strait is a channel of water separating Europe from Asia. We took "The Bosphorous Tour" where a bus came to our hotel to pick us up.



Our all-day tour included:
The Spice Bazaar



The Golden Horn which is a historic inlet or estuary which is the point where the Bosphorous enters the Sea of Marmara.



A boat tour on the Boshphorus strait




 We saw a lot of historic buildings both on the European side and the Asian side of Istanbul. The buildings are very well maintained and some of them have been converted to offices and universities.



Had a Turkish family with very cute children on our tour.



We stopped for a delicious Turkish lunch in between. They had great vegetarian food, desserts and coffee. We then drove on the Bosphorus Bridge from European Istanbul to Asian Istanbul.



The tour took us to the Beylerbeyi Palace (the summer residence of the Ottoman Sultans withe the original furniture, and wonderful gardens) on the Asian side.




The Camlica Hill (the highest point in Istanbul from where you can get a panoramic view of the city and the Bosphorus) - we couldn't get any good pictures here since it started raining really heavily.

The shopping included a fashion show at a leather coat shop.


 Even though it was a rainy and cold day, the trip was well worth it since we were able to get an overview of Istanbul in the short time we had there. Our guide was a humorous chap, spoke good English and made it all quite entertaining.