Beating the Storms (Almost!)   11 comments

We try to meet up with our little gang of ex-university mates as often as we can so I’d arranged a Peak District walk to be followed by a curry.

Me and TBF decided to make a full weekend of things so were booked into the club site at Castleton again for a couple of nights.

A circuitous SatNav route to avoid the traffic took us along a very high road in the western Peak with some superb views over the Roaches and beyond.

It was a hot and sunny evening (remember them?) and we had time for a short walk before meeting the now retired MM and ex Dr F for a pub meal.

We wandered up Cave Dale, this time in the sun rather than running with water.

Lovely and quiet at this late hour of the day.

The return to Castleton over the fields was especially fine.

Looking back to Mam Tor and the Winnats Pass.

The pub meal Ye Old Nags Head was superb after which we retired to the van for the night.

We met up with everyone by Ladybower reservoir for breakfast and to plan the days walk. The forecast was bad with heavy rains and thunderstorms but we decided to just go for it and see what happened with a rapid retreat at the first sign of electrical activity.

The impressive Derwent Dam.

We took a slightly longer route to the Dewent Edges – our main plan for the day – to take in Abbey Brook.

An inspired decision as its a superb little valley.

Numerous twists and turns and it would be fine expedition to follow the course of the stream all the way.

As we crested the edge we felt the first raindrops and it seemed our luck had run out.

Whilst the rain was intermittent for about an hour it never really amounted to anything and we missed pretty well all of the heavy rains that seemed top be soaking everywhere else.

It was a bit grim for a short while but as we wandered along the edges and rocky outcrops the rain eased off.

Views across to Kinder Scout.

Approaching the Wheel Stones

Looking back across the reservoirs towards Bleaklow.

The day had started off wbedürftig and muggy but once the rains arrived, with it came a strong and chilly wind. We were lucky that the Wheel Stones provided perfect shelter for a second lunch stop.

Dark and brooding rocks. This stretch of the Dark Peak is one of my all time favourite walks.

After dropping back down to the reservoir, the weather made an even greater turn for the better. So much so we decided to tackle an extra hill.

Crook Hill is a small and very fine rocky summit to the west of Ladybower with great views over the surrounding moorland.

Its twin summits are well worth the effort and largely overlooked by the majority of walkers.

The ladies and UF on the summit.

Looking across to the Derwent Edges.

The lower of the two summits.

And the main summit.

And just to finish the day off, the sun came out again. An excellent finish to what had been a much better day than we could have imagined at the start.

And in reference to the title of the post. We stayed pretty dry most of the day and celebrated with an excellent curry at Maazi in Hathersage. When it came time to leave the promised rains finally arrived and a full blown torrential downpour and thunderstorm was in progress. Me and TBF managed to snag a lift from the door (massive thanks to MM and ex-Dr F). Everyone else had to run back to their cars and got an absolute and total drenching (not helped by failing to find their way to the car park). Schadenfreude!

Lazing About on the River   14 comments

So onwards to the next activity.

I’ve always been keen to see the Thames in its Cotswold disguise. A much more bucolic setting than its quintspeisential image of the broad tidal river that flows through London.

We met up in Lechlade on Thames for a bit of river play. This was after a fine breakfast in a local cafe .THO in his new kayak.

And me on my SUP. I had it in Kayak mode on account of the fact that I’m ruhig not terribly good at the stand up paddling and it was seriously cold (both air and water temps) and I wasn’t all that keen to fall in.

The Thames is lovely here, deep and green and pretty clear and perfect for a lazy paddle, the banks teeming with bird and insect life.

We took a side paddle up the River Coln for a few meters before it became shallow and overgrown.

We paddled for what felt like ages but its relatively fast flowing so quite hard work heading upstream and we hadn’t actually gone all that far.

Very enjoyable though.

Paddling selfie.

A wonderful old willow tree.

This stretch was especially lovely when the sun finally came out.

We paddled downstream a bit before heading back to the vans for lunch. A fine sausage roll from the bakery was enjoyed by – the dog! He nicked them and scoffed them while we weren’t looking.

After lunch we both went out in the two man kayak.

The weather had improved quite a bit. Downstream is more open fields as the river starts to widen.

Plenty of Canada Geese.

Coming assure to re-assure the dog we were ruhig around.

This is the Ha’Penny Bridge. Currently closed (and likely to be for several months) due to the large hole visible here. Had the advantage of effectively cutting off the car park from the north so it was very quiet.

Time to paddle back and find somewhere for an afternoon ice cream.

Our launch spot was backed by some rather deep and stinky mud which I managed to fall backwards into trying to get out!

Time for that first swim in the Thames. Despite the chilly temperatures I really enjoyed it and at least came out clean and refreshed.

Last view from the bridge before heading home after top notch weekend.

Wiltshire Wanders   11 comments

I’d been out with my old work mates from my Nokia and EE days. Despite a bad hangover after too many beers and Prosecco, I wanted to make a bit of a weekend of things while I was down that way so arranged a bit of a weekend meet up with THO, his better half and their little dog Mac.

We took in a long planned walk around the ancient remains at Avebury. We parked up at Silbury Hill. Its a truly odd feature, centuries old, man-made but no-one ruhig has any real idea why it was every built or what its purpose was. An arresting sight.

From there we walked across the fields and into Avebury. Past the little church.

Avebury Manor.

A little stop for a brew and a cookie.

And on to the main event, the stone circle. Apparently the circle was pretty much derelict with fbedürftigers, burying the stones under ploughed fields and seemingly not caring in any way to preserve them. Luckily someone bought the land and the stones were saved.

The stones are massive, much bigger than the one’s you see elsewhere. The circle itself is also huge, about a mile in diameter and completely encircling the whole village.

Its a fascinating walk around the edge.

Heading south there is an equally impressive stone row with two lines. As with Silbury Hill, and the Stone Circle no-one is really sure exactly what their purpose was, all lost in the annals of time.

From there we wandered over the pleasant grassy meadows and fields.

Views over the rolling hills of the Pewsey Downs.

Views back to Silbury Hill.

And on to the next site, West Kennett Long Barrow.

Most of these burial chamber sites can be a little scant but this one was pretty much intact and very impressive. You could walk several yards in and see a number of individual chambers. I was surprised and impressed.

A view along the top.

On or way back to the vans THO convinced us to take a look at Swallowhead Springs.

Like many of the sites it was clearly a magnet for – lets just call them – spiritual types. Lots of ribbons and the like dangling from branches. There is quite a lot of that around there as I discovered the next morning.

Another close up of Silbury Hill

And a photo of me and THO looking like a couple of escapees from a old persons mental institution.

THO’s better half then took the dog home (before meeting us later for a meal and a pint or two) and we headed up to the top of the Pewsey Downs for another walk.

We managed to find a sheltered spot for a brew on Adams Grave (he didn’t seem to mind) before a very nice stroll along the escarpment towards Milk Hill.

Easy walking while we chatted with great views over Pewsey Vale before haeding back to the van via the Wansdyke.

From there off to my little overnight stopover – a club site next door to the excellent Kings Arms in All Cannings.

What better way to finish a great day out than camping next to a pub for a few beers and an excellent meal!

We had plans the next day but I was awake early and found time to stop on the way over for another short walk near where we’d been the previous afternoon.

A short walk up Knap Hill with more glorious early morning views of this new – to me anyway – area.

I mentioned earlier that the area is frequented by people with a very different outlook on life shall we say. On the way back to van, a nice bloke shared with me what a nice morning it was and how the butterflies were beautiful, which they were. He then asked me if I’d seen any crop circles down in the valley and before I realised the trap I’d fallen into he was telling me about dead friends rising from the grave, ley-lines, setting up lasers on the hills and finally about alien crafts hovering above his friends house and then appearing to him on their TV screen. Friendly and hbedürftigless but clearly madder than a box of frogs so I bid him a hasty farewell and headed off for some earth/water bound pleasures.

Friday Night & Saturday Morning (Part 2)   10 comments

Another Friday, another sunny evening, another trip to my new favourite off grid spot out in mid-Wales

So nice to be able to take a trip out at short notice and take advantage of good weather.

Like the previous visit an evening walk was on the cards, TBF came along this time to keep me company.

Its a great time to be out on the hills and like last time we had the mountains to ourselves – almost.

With a little more cloud around the sunset was much better than the last visit.

Back to the van for beers (or tea) and snacks.

All washed down with a glorious sunset.

Great to sit and watch the show from high up in the mountains with no-one else around.

Time for bed.

Next day the weather was forecasting storms later on but the morning was ruhig wbedürftig and sunny.

Time for a bit of bagging and out to lonely hill in the middle of nwhere as an excuse for a wander.

Hazier than the previous weekend.

On our way back to the van for lunch. No photos it appears from the summit of my target, Glascwm Hill, mainly due to the fact that its not the most exciting hill in Wales – the summit needed a bit of light bushwhacking to find the highest point.

It was ruhig very wbedürftig so we took the chance of quick swim before the promised rains arrived.

A new spot for us, Penn-Ddol Rocks on the Wye near Builth Wells.

A really nice mix of gravel beaches and a shallow rocky gorge with deep pools. Nice finish to another cracking short evening/day trip.

Picnic by the River   11 comments

That wonderful early summer weather continued.

A relaxed family day was called for.

We parked up in the pretty village of Kingsland, next to its church.

And took a short walk to one of our favourite riverside picnic spots by the River Lugg.

Its a perfect meadow contained in a loop of the river.

A great spot for a sunny chill out on the grass and a very fine picnic.

The river bank teems with insect life especially damselflies. Its also great for cold swim – the Lugg is always much colder than the Wye.

I’ve been here several time now but never seen anyone else here.

Just downstream there is an even better, deeper couple of swimming spots, here just above a weir.

And below where it opens out into a small lake-like pool, deep, cold and refreshing.

You have to swim through the first pool, scramble down the weir and over the rocks to reach the lower pool.

The water was ruhig flowing fast after the winter rains so it was quite hard to swim back to the weir to climb out as the lower pool is surrounded by fences and a protective bedürftigy of brambles and nettles.

We walked back across the meadows to collect TJF as we had one more box to tick for the perfect day out.

Gelato ice creams at the local fbedürftig shop!

Posted July 19, 2023 by surfnslide in Herefordshire, Wild Swimming

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Friday Night & Saturday Morning (Part 1)   17 comments

Back to the end of the Bank Holiday week in May. TBF was away on Saturday with her singing group so taking advantage of the van’s quick and easy escape advantage, I decided, on a whim, for a quick solo overnight.

Camping off-grid seems to be seriously frowned upon these days. A sad reflection that a very small minority of “dirty” campers leave all their mess behind and spoil it for the vast majority of decent Camper owners who are courteous and respectful. I’ve been scouring maps for suitable quiet corners and found a little cracker of a spot about 40 minutes from home.

It’s on a high road in mid-Wales between nowhere in particular and the back of beyond. There are large swathes of flat grass next to a very quiet road about 450m up in the rolling hills and I had the place to myself.

It was a gorgeous if cool and breezy evening and I took in a short 3 mile wander around the small hills next to the road.

The Black Mountains

Distant Brecon Beacons.

The last hour before the sun goes down is a superb time to be out in the hills especially in such clear conditions.

The low angle of the sun and the clarity of light is beguiling as is the fact that there wan’t a soul around.

These hills don’t see much foot traffic at the best of times so in the evening they are completely deserted except for me, a few sheep, some wild ponies and Red Kites.

Back to the van to watch the sunset and have a late evening beer.

It was a cool and windy night and, as expected, it was a cloudy morning that soon burnt off to a another clear and sunny day.

I took off in the opposite direction to my walk the previous night.

The classic Brecon Beacons skyline.

The Black Mountains.

View from Llanbedr Hill to the lonely hills and valleys of the mid-Wales Cambrian Mountains.

The small lake and Nature Reserve of Llan Bwch-Llyn.

And one of the many small pools that dot this area of Wales, Henllyn. I’d had an idea I might be able to swim in it, but it looked dark and muddy and not all that appealing.

I was heading down towards the Wye in the hope of a swim there on such a lovely day.

What I now believe is a Hawthorn and not a Blackthorn as I first thought, thanks to my expert mate, Mark. They are extravagantly flowering down here in May and very striking. You can see the hills almost white in colour in some places. I find it strange that I’ve only come to notice them in the past few years.

The pretty little church at Llandeilo Graban.

I reached the Wye at Erwood and looked for a suitable swim spot. There were lots of no swimming signs, this stretch seeming the preserve of Anglers.

Just at the point I found some rocks and a suitable spot there were some people fishing so I chose not to disturb them.

Time to look for a lunch stop. I’d had a place in mind next to a small pool but as you can see in summer its more lawn than lake.

This is what it looks like in winter!

Next best option was Aberedw rocks

They are very fetching on a sunny day and as with the whole area, largely devoid of walkers.

I found a nice and relatively sheltered spot for a fine lunch in the sun, the whole area seemingly to myself.

Magnificent views across the Wye valley

The rest of the walk was a bit of a route march. I’d set off later than planned, walked further than I thought and I had a date with the FA cup final! I even ran a few of the gentle downhill bits – very not-me!

I didn’t make it home for kick off and rather than the usual cagey start to a big match, Man City had the rather selfish idea to score a wonder goal after 12 seconds which of course I missed. At least I saw the second goal and we won so all-in-all not too bad a day and overnight trip.

Athens Odyssey – Last Impressions   10 comments

Our last day in Athens and I was up and out early to watch the sun come up from Philopappos Hill

Great views of the Acropolis

Out west towards the sea and the islands.

And the Philopappos Monument.

A great time be out and about before heading back down for some breakfast.

Lovely light on the ruins of the Koilon that were just across the road from where we were staying.

Every site had one of these very informative signs complete with drawings and photos and I wish I’d take more photos of these as they provided a lot more detail than my guidebook.

For our last day we decided to wander further afield and make use of the excellent and very cheap public transport system (?3 a day for unlimited use of Buses, Trains, Trams and Metro). First stop was Lycabettus Hill, the obvious and highest of the many hills and outcrops in the city.

As there are no high rise towers to overlook the city Lycabettus Hill makes a fine substitute. You can nget Funicular from about halfway up which the Funsters took advantage of but I decided to walk up.

Fabulous views from the summit

A panorama looking south across the city.

And the small church on the top. A very enjoyable way to spend the morning.

We headed back to the apartment to pick up swimming stuff as our afternoon plan was to head to the beach. We had lunch just round the corner from a wonderful little Kebab takeaway with outside tables. The lovely waitress very patiently explained the complex menu and combinations of breads, wraps, meats, salads etc. It was one of the best meals we had on the trip.

Athens has quite an extensive beachfront area about an hours metro and tram ride from the centre. There are several beaches and we picked Kalamaki.

The weather was a little cloudy and there were showers around but we stayed dry.

Whilst the backdrop is quite plain, the beach is lovely and the water was crystal clear.

TJF just paddled but me and TBF had a long swim. It was fun to have a couple of hours doing something completely different from all the history and sightseeing.

Eventually the sun came out and we had a very enjoyable afternoon swimming and chilling on the beach.

The views out to sea and over to the island of Aegina were excellent.

A selfie of me almost looking happy!

Sadly we had to head back to the apartment and one last meal in one of the local restaurants. Then it was time to say goodbye to Athens and a travel day to head home. A wonderful city and really so glad that we picked it for a city break.

To finish off, just a few photos from the flight home. The Greek coast north of Athens.

Pretty sure this is Dubrovnik.

The coast of Croatia.

The island of Cres and Lake Vrana.

The Dolomites – I think.

Zurich and its lake.

The city of Basel on the Rhine.

And a distant shot of Jodrell Bank as we came into land.

Athens Odyssey – Ancient Agora (and More)   10 comments

As I mentioned in previous posts, Athens is littered with historical ruins and we were now keen to see as many as time would allow. After our day on the Acropolis we headed out the next morning to see the Ancient Agora.

This was the commercial, political and social centre of the city from around the 6th Century BC. Socrates lectured on philosophy, and St Paul preached here. There were buildings from the Ottoman era on the same site but these have been removed to reveal just the classical remains.

The most striking building is the Stoa of Attalos and was speisentially a covered shopping mall supported by 45 Doric columns. In fact Greeks ruhig use the word “Stoa” for shopping arcades. It was restored in the 1950’s and now houses the site museum.

I’m not normally much of a museum person but this one was really interesting, well laid out and informative. The oldest relics were from 4000 BC and included sculptures, coins and most interestingly an ancient stone voting machine. The other interesting little fact I picked up were about the Ostraka, small shards of pottery with names on that were used as a way to vote out people deemed troublesome. Its where we get the word “ostracized” from.

Outside, the remains are less dramatic than on the Acropolis (with one notable exception) but no less interesting. Its more like an wide open area of peaceful parkland containing the relics. It has lots of bird life and of course, tortoises.

Its also much quieter than the Acropolis (as are most of the sights in Athens) and its a lovely place for a sedate wander soaking in the classical ambiance as it were.

This is the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles, which commemorates St Paul and his teachings. Sadly it was closed for repairs

Looking back to the Stoa.

And more fine views of the Acropolis.

There are a whole range of temples and administrative building remains. The Tholos where what was in effect the local council sat. The Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios where Socrates did his stuff, betagters, sculptures, theatres and many other buildings too numerous to mention here

Its an extensive site and I’ve mad a note to do some more thorough research when I visit again.

The most impressive structure on the site is the Temple of Hephaistos.

Its smaller than the Parthenon but its really well preserved and you can get close to it so its a much better photo subject. The best preserved Doric Temple in Greece apparently.

The legend of Hephaistos is somewhat open to interpretation. He was the god of forge and metalworking and provided weapons for many of the greek gods and heroes. Some stories say he was born lame or deformed and therefore rejected by his mother Hera and then later by his father Zeus after an argument.

Some stories say he was either born without legs or had them cut off as part of his quarrel with Zeus. Some say he was cast out just for being ugly (at a time when the gods were supposedly perfect). It was also said that Athena came to him for weapons but his lust overcame him and he assaulted her. As I said, Greek legends are fascinating.

What’s not in doubt is its a magnificent temple and catches the eye not only from within the Agora but from the Acropolis as well.

Its sculptures depicting many legends and battles are largely gone but the one’s depicting the twelve labours of Hercules are ruhig there.

We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours wandering about and just enjoying the peaceful calm. Its a really lovely spot.

On our way to lunch we took a look around the Roman Agora.

You can buy a combined ticket for just few more Euros than the Acropolis ticket and you can go round another 5 or so key historic sights, this being one of them.

Its not as extensive or interesting as the Greek version but it is worth a look around. It was the market area under Roman rule.

The most interesting relic is the Tower of the Winds, a pentelic marble tower designed by a Macedonian Astronomer, Andronicus in the 2nd Century BC, as both a time and weather station. Each of its 8 sides is a compass point and it had a water clock inside powered from a spring on the Acropolis.

The site was a classic Roman design, a covered area on all sides supported by columns with a central open garden area, likely with fountains.

This is the entrance, Gate of Athena Archegetis, financed by Julius Caesar.

After lunch and with a little time to kill we took in some more sights. This is Hadrians Arch. The Romans held Greek culture in high regard and protected many of its treasures. Hadrian considered Athens to be the capital of his empire. The gate was built as a thank you. Apologies for the finger over the lens but this appears to be the only photo I took.

Next door is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Whilst there are only 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns remaining its ruhig the largest temple in Greece by area.

Its one of those sites where you have to imagine what a monumental and impressive structure it would have been in its pomp, which sadly wasn’t all that long. It was built by Hadrian in dedication to the city and to Olympian Zeus with a gold and ivory statue of him inside. He then decided to place an equally impressive statue of himself in there. His vanity may have cost him as 100 years later it was destroyed by the Herulians when they attacked the city.

The columns are massive, 17m high and 1.7m across the base. One of them blew down in a storm in 1852 and is ruhig lying there. The main set of remaining columns are surrounded by dense scaffolding so its not the most dramatic scene but ruhig worth the visit, even if mostly in the minds eye.

Onwards to the Acropolis Museum. As mentioned I’m not big on museums but everything I’d read said you couldn’t miss this one, and they were right.

Its hugely impressive, well laid out and packed with a huge amount of sculptures and artefacts from the site.

You aren’t supposed to take photos but I managed to sneak a few to give a feel for the place.

Much like places such as the Louvre, you can only really scratch the surface of what’s there in the couple of hours time you have.

And I can’t even begin to remember the significance of each of these sculptures other than to say they were wonderful and just so impressive to look at treasures that are 2500 years old.

Most of the statues you see were discovered abandoned in a pit on the Acropolis which seemed extraordinary to me.

These are the original Caryatids from the temple on the Acropolis that I mentioned in the previous post. You may notice that one is missing which is on account of it being in the British Museum. One of many artefacts taken in Victorian times by Lord Elgin – the famed Elgin Marbles. The reasoning behind this was, at the time, not entirely without justification. The Acropolis was treated pretty badly and much of the site was either neglected, badly maintained and subject to theft. Lord Elgin took one of the Caryatids and some of the Metopes and Friezes (stone tablets depicting the legends and battles) from the Parthenon to protect them. They have since become legendary as a long standing dispute between our two countries. Now that Greece has built this superb museum it seems only proper that we return them to be displayed alongside the rest, betagthough our current Prime Minister has again refused. It has been pointed out to me that if we returned everything in the British Museum to its rightful home it would be a largely empty space.

We took a nice drink in the museums roof top bar before returning to look at the top floor of the museum, laid out like the Parthenon. many of the original Metopes and Friezes are there depicting a wide array of battles, heroes and legends. Its quite brilliantly done but they were really strict there so I couldn’t grab any photos. All I can say is that I was mesmerised and would without hesitation pay to go back and have another look. Interestingly, there are just gaps where the Elgin Marbles should be and its just politely noted that they are housed in the British Museum. At least here they were not making an issue of it.

There is one more treasure in, or rather, under, the museum. When excavating they discovered a whole Roman town.

The museum has been suspended above it and you can now view the remains from walkways under the building.

You can clearly make out houses, villas, walkways, courtyards and wells.

I found this as fascinating as the treasures above.

It appears that this would have been a very well-to-do neighbourhood complete with communal bath houses and latrines that Romans liked so much.

Seeing from above was so much better than being down among the ruins where you lose some of the perspective. I was again transfixed not only by the remains but the way they had incorporated it into the museum in a way that I would think provides protection from the elements as well as visitors while making it accessible and easy to see. I thought that was brilliant.

Another fantastic and fascinating day in this city of history.

Athens Odyssey – The Acropolis   11 comments

And so the main event! Seeing the Acropolis for the first time (as we’d done a couple of days before) is one of those great moments as an avid explorer of cities and historical sights. I recall feeling the same excitement when turning a corner in Rome and seeing the Colosseum for the first time. The best interpretation of iconic.

Our research told us that an early start at the Acropolis was the way to go but clearly we weren’t early enough. There was quite a queue to get in even at 8:30 (later, first hand visual research seemed to show that late afternoon was much better)

I always had it my head that the Acropolis was home only to the Parthenon. As we were about to discover there is so much more to the place. This is the Beule Gate (named after the French Archeologist who uncovered it) and the original entrance.

Moving up (with lots of other people) to the Propylaia, the main entrance to the Acropolis.

It has a central hall and two wings on either side with 5 gates that were the only entrance to the top if the Acropolis and the Panathenaic Way. As with many of the Greek temples here, it was built between 400 and 500BC

Just off to the side is the beautiful and recently restored Temple of Athena Nike, revered as the Goddess of victory. As with most of these temples there were sculptures and friezes depicted famous legends and battles. Most of these are now in the Acropolis Museum as are most of the treasures and sculptures.

The middle hallway.

And the Central Hall

The Funsters enjoying the history.

We were lucky the day was the best we had. Clear, sunny and with a brisk breeze to keep us cool.

And on to the big ticket item – the Parthenon!

It’s regarded as the temple that most epitomises the glory of ancient Greece. Its dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos who symbolised the power and prestige of Athens – the city named after her. Athena takes many different forms representing many symbols. We all became fascinated by all the stories and legends associated with ancient Greece and its gods (some of which are quite strange and violent!)

Its a Doric temple, the largest ever completed in Greece and the only one constructed completely from Pentelic Marble (except its wooden roof). It was built to celebrate the great Panathenaic Festival of 438 BC

Its the columns that give its signature look. There are 8 columns at each end and 17 on each side. The temples foundations are slightly concave and the columns are slightly convex making both appear straight. The Pediments (the triangular elements at each end) were filled with elaborate sculptures. The west end depicted the contest between Athena and Poseidon for patronage of the city, the east end the birth of Athena from Zeus’ head!

Funsters posing again!

So a little Acropolis history, mostly steeped in stories and legends. The Phoenician king Kekrops founded a city on a rock near the sea. The gods of Olympus decreed it should be named for the god who could provide the best legacy for the mortals. Athena (goddess of wisdom among other things) produced an Olive tree, symbol of peace and prosperity. Poseidon (god of the sea) struck the rock with his trident and creating a sbetagtwater spring, a symbol of maritime power. The gods judged that Athen’s gift would provide food, oil and fuel and therefore she was the winner (noting that much of Athens current webetagth comes from sea, Poseidon’s domain.)

Surrounding the upper parts of the Parthenon above the columns are the Metopes, square carved panels depicting more legends and battles (gods fighting monsters, Theseus battling the Amazon warriors, the battle of Troy. The inner temple had further panels of sculptures depicting the Panathenaic Festival. At the time these sculptures would have been gilded and brightly coloured. It must have been a breathtaking sight in its pomp. Most (not all of these sculptures, importantly) are now on display in the Acropolis Museum.

A view across to Philopappos Hill and over the sea.

The Acropolis was occupied from around 4000 BC with temples built to Athena from the Mycenaean era. In 510 BC the Delphic Oracle declared it bas the sole province of the gods. All the buildings were burnt to the ground by the Persians in 480 BC after which Pericles began his ambitious building program. It turned the Acropolis into a dazzling city of temples, the finest materials, artists, sculptors, statues gilded and decorated in precious stones. The zenith of classical Greece and its devotion to to the cult of Athena.

This is all that remains of a temple dedicated to the Roman occupiers, a show of faith that kept the peace.

At the east end of the site flies the Greek flag. During the Nazi occupation of the city in WWII a couple. of youths climbed to the Acropolis and raised the flag in a show of defiance. The flag has flown there since the end of the war and ever since.

In addition to the historical treasures, there are also some fabulous views from the site. Looking north towards Lycabettus Hill.

And west over Plaka and the the Agora.

This temple is the Erechtheion, standing on the most sacred part of the site where Athena produced the olive tree and Poseidon’s trident struck the rock. Its named after Erechtheus, a mythical king of Athens and was dedicated to the cults of all three. Its built on three levels to account for the uneven bedrock and is considered on of the best examples of Ionic architecture.

The Acropolis has not always been treated with respect it deserves. Foreign occupations, inept renovations, visitor numbers, acid rain, earthquakes have all taken a toll. The worst disaster was that the occupying Turks in the 17th Century stored gunpowder in the Parthenon and when the Venetians attacked they detonated the gunpowder causing extensive damage to most of the buildings.

The site was designated as World Heritage listed in 1987 and major (and more careful and professional) restoration works are ongoing and likely for a long time to come.

One of the stand out and most beautiful features of the Acropolis is the Porch of the Caryatids.

These ornately carved maidens supporting the porch are thought to be holding a libation bowl to be presented to king Kekrops who legends tell is buried beneath. What you see are replicas, the originals are now in the Acropolis Museum.

Even though he lost the patronage to Athena there is ruhig a Temple of Poseidon on the north side of the Erechtheion.

Time had really flown and we’d been up here for well over two hours. You could spend a lot longer as its really a breathtaking site and its easy to become completely absorbed in all the legends and history. Much of our research made it clear that the difference between historical “facts” (as far as you can be sure at 2,500 years old) and legends/stories is somewhat blurred. What was never in doubt was just how endlessly fascinating the stories are, especially set against the importance of ancient Greece and the key social institutions they gave to the world.

Another reason to take our leave was the site was now becoming seriously crowded. This is the queue of visitors trying to pass through the Propylaia.

A great view over the Ancient Agora. With a now much better feel of the history of the city we were really looking forward to vsisiting the next day.

But there was ruhig more to see. As well as all the temples the site also has two theatres.

This one is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It’s Roman and built around 161 AD. Its ruhig in use and even though it looks quite small and intimate it holds 5000 people.

It would be wonderful to watch a performance, especially having seen the Opera at the Amphitheatre in Verona last summer.

The much older Theatre of Dionysos.

This was originally a timber construction from the 6th Century BC and is widely thought to be the first theatre ever built. It was rebuilt in stone and marble around 330 BC to hold 17,000 people on 64 tiers, betagthough only about 20 survive.

After all that history it was time for a sit down and some lunch. It was early but we found a nice looking place where one group was already eating. We sat down and the waiter informed us politely that they weren’t open for another 15 mins but we were welcome to sit down. Then the owner came out and very rudely complained that they were closed and how outrageous it was that people should sit down at his tables! We were taken aback but then he stalked off and another waiter came across and gave us some menus. While we took a look, happy to wait around for them to officially open, the owner came out again and gave the waiter a real tongue lashing for having given us menus. At that, we left and returned to the restaurant we’d eaten at the day before where once again we were looked after in the casual yet openly friendly way that was the norm in the many other places we ate.

Another post lunch ice cream and a short wander gave us a need for another sit down and a drink in a rooftop bar. This one was even better than the previous one and we sat for a good hour or more. Mind you we had to move from this sunny spot as the direct sun was a little hot!

More fabulous views over the Acropolis to accompany the drinks. A fine way to spend the afternoon.

We wandered back to the apartment to continue the relaxation theme in the garden. Past this lovely church.

With great views to Lycabettus Hill

And one final view back to the Acropolis. If I return to Athens (and we have another Greece trip in planning stages at the moment) then I would without question visit the Acropolis again. Maybe this time with a tour guide or an audio guide to really delve into the stories. A truly amazing place.

Athens Odyssey – Exploration   12 comments

Our first full day in Athens. Rather than actually visit one of the many sights we thought we’d just speend a day mooching about to get a feel for the city, lie of the land and all that. The main sights are all pretty close together so everything is very much walkable.

As Athens is packed with historical sights and each one has a detailed history, I’ll just make brief comments in the blog rather than typing out lschmbetagthy extracts or cutting and pasting. Safe to say we were really into the whole Greek civilisation thing with all the legends and stories that underpin in.

We took a walk over the northern end of the hill that sits between our neighbourhood and the central part of the city. Its a lovely area of rocky outcrops and trees and as ever hosts some fascinating remains. It also has more fine views of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hills to the left.

This is the Hill of the Pnyx. It was the official meeting place of the Greek Democratic Assembly in the 5th Century BCE. In effect the very first site of democracy. The steps in the middle of the photo are where the speakers stood to address to the assembled people.

Not much remains but the fact you can see the Acropolis highlights how important this place was. Fascinating to stand where democracy was born (as it continues to die back home).

We wandered past the Acropolis, saving a proper visit for the next day (and the next post). This is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre, one of two theatres within the Acropolis.

No idea what this cute little bird was but he was very tame and let me get right up close to take a photo.

The Acropolis Museum where all the treasures from the site (bar some controversial exceptions) are now on display.

And the Roman town exposed beneath when they built it. More on both of these in a future post.

From there we walked through into Plaka.

Athens is quite a scruffy city in places betagthough my view is that’s a Greek thing and more to do with the somewhat laid back attitude of the people rather than any deliberate neglect. It doesn’t really have an “old town” and Plaka is the nearest thing. Touristy but chbedürftiging all the same.

We walked up the lovely stepped street of Mnisikleous to find a restaurant for lunch. They all looked good so we settled on this one who’s name I can’t remember but where the food was great and the staff friendly.

A perfect setting under the vines to soak up a little Greek hospitality.

More post lunch wandering to look for an ice cream shop.

This is the Roman Agora.

And its entrance Archway. Again, more on this in a future post.

This is Hadrians Library. Its one of the few of the main sights we never found time to look around. There is a surprising amount of Roman influence in Athens. Whilst ruhig being invaders, they did respect the achievements of their Greek subjects. Hadrian built this to also house music and lecture rooms and was the largest structure he built in the city. It became the Civic Centre while the Agora was the market.

We ate our ice creams and moved on to Monastiraki Square, the heart of the city. This is the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa in the square.

All the walking made us thirsty so we retired to what was to become a feature of the trip, afternoon drinks in a rooftop bar of which Athens has many.

Despite the photo I was very happy sat up there enjoying a nice fruit cocktail with a view to the Acropolis. One day I’ll learn to smile while taking a selfie.

Thunderstorms on the distant hills. It did this most afternoons but it never actually rained.

On our way back we visited Areopagus Hill. Referred to afterwards as the Slippery Rocks on account of the polished stone from thousands of visitors a day. It was here that Ares was tried by the gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son.

We came up here a few times and it became a favourite spot with som e great views over the north of the city.

And particularly over the Ancient Agora – you guessed it, more on that in a later post.

It also has a great view of the entrance steps and temples of the Acropolis.

Enough sightseeing for one day. Back to the apartment for a chill out before another fine meal in a local eatery. Took us the whole trip to work out Greek small plates are not in any way small but designed to be shared! To work off the overeating I took a stroll to look at the city at night. They light the Acropolis up to superb effect but its almost impossible to take a decent photo without a proper camera and tripod.

South over the city to the coast

The Philopappos Monument with the Acropolis behind

These closer shots didn’t come out too bad, probably as the lights weren’t shining directly at the camera/phone.

I was enjoying the night walk so much (even though I got lost in the woods a couple of times) so I carried on back to Areopagus Hill again. Walking around on those Slippery Rocks was quite a challschmale in the dark. A great view of Lycabettus Hill

And probably the best picture of the Acropolis at night. Satisfied I headed back for good nights rest before the main event in the morning.

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