27/08/2015

Thessaloniki : Agia Sofia, Agios Dimitrios, Alcazar and Agora Modiano

Istanbul is not the only city to have its Agia Sofia.
Agia Sofia road

Rethymno

Iraklion-Rethymno by bus : 7,60 euros. 1h30.

Fortress10

Rethymno is a really nice little town which, even more than Iraklion, has kept a lot of its historical monuments, among which a lot of the Ottoman and Venitian period. The most impressive being the fortezza built by the Venitians to protect the old city :
Fortress10 Fortress 2

Souvlaki

The Souvlaki is probably, even more than Mousaka, the most famous Greek dish, the one which is not reserved only for special occasions and can be enjoyed by everybody anytime, anywhere, but also the most confusing. Indeed, Souvlaki can present itself as roasted meat (pork, chicken or lamb) on a pike (pic1), simple, or inside a pita (flat bread) peppered with chips and veggies and tsatsiki or mayonnaise sauce (pic2). 



The price for a Souvlaki with pita ranged from 1,80 euros to 2 euros, and the quality, we must say, can vary from shop to shop, but in Athens, there is no contest that the best Souvlakis I ever ate were from Ο ΛΕΒΕΝΤΗΣ, ΠΕΙΣΙΣΤΡΑΤΟΥΣ 81 in Kallithea. Service was awful though.

THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM

Sunday 27 of September was Day of Culture, and as such, all museums and archeological sites in Athens (and in Greece as well I guess) were free ! I was absolutely not aware of this when I entered the new Acropolis Museum on Sunday morning.
Outside Acropolis Museum 
Museum from Acropolis Museum Ruins
P9270301 P9270298
From balcony
As you can see on the picture above the Museum is built on the same plan as the Acropolis itself : the last floor, the glass one, is built a little sideways, just like the Parthenon on top of  the Acropolis, so that they are perfectly parallel. At least, I think that’s what they aimed at. All the museum is devoted to the Acropolis site, and most of the statues and marbles have been sheltered into the Museum itself. If I have understood well, the goal is to have a kind of giant counterfeit on the top of the Acropolis and to keep all the original and more precious things in the museum.
I must say I was not really overwhelmed by the museum. There are less stuff than what I expected, no clear path or disposition of the elements, and to be frank the shops are disappointing too. The Louvres is safe ! Moreover, it is forbidden to take photos inside the Museum. I know, it’s a shame. That’s why I took one :
Inside Acropolis Museum
This is on the top floor. It shows the marbles which used to be on the southern flank of the Parthenon.

Meteora

To go to Meteora, you can take the train from Athens. There is a train at 8:21 am every day. 5 hours more or less and 14,60 euros. You can also take a bus from Ktel Terminus B in Athens. Timetable and price here. However, the bus stops at Trikala. You have to take another bus or train to get to Kalambaka and Kastraki, where are the Meteora monasteries.

from Varlaam
The trip by train is a bit slow sometimes and don’t expect it to be on time when you arrive, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to see the mountains of central Greece.
And as soon as you arrive in Kalambaka, prepare to be overwhelmed :
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P4070006 Kalabaka P4070025 P4070042 Kastraki sunset

11/01/2015

On the sides of the Greek roads

The Greek roads are notorious for the number of accidents which happen every year. That's why you will see a lot of these mini-chapels, which commemorate the place where someone has died or the place where someone nearly died.

There is usually an image of the dead inside and oil burning, or an image of a saint. The family takes as much care of it as the tomb.



BYZANTINE ORTHODOX CHURCHES

The monumental size of the Agia Sofia in Istanbul is a kind of testament of the greatness of the Byzantine Empire, but as time went by and the empire fell down the spiral of decline, the size of its building followed the same trend and it can be seen in Athens itself.

The Church of Panagia Karnikarea, at the end of the Ermou street, was built in the 11th century and strikes a radical contrast between its quaint and modest size with the ugliness of the huge modern buildings around it.


Even smaller, near the Metropolis Church, 5 minutes away from there, you will find the Church of Agios Eleftherios (also called "Little Metropolis"), a Byzantine chapel from the 13th century, which is worth watching for the sculptures of animal with which its walls are adorned.







MONASTIRAKI

Monastiraki is an emblematic square of the old city of Athens, in the district of Plaka. When I was in Athens in 2011 it was slightly derelict and dodgy, covered with graffitis, but with its metro station, its view to the Acropolis and the flea market nearby it still had a charm and an atmosphere like no other place and it will be an unavoidable step on your visit. 


The Ottoman-looking building on the left was the Tzistarakis Mosque built in 1759. A column of the Temple of Olympian Zeus was used to build it. It is a now a Museum of Greek Folk Art.

TEMPLE OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS

Just like the library that bears his name, or the Roman Agora which stands near the Acropolis, we owe the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a colossal ruin on the edge of the limits of ancient Athens, to the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Completed in the 2nd century AD, it was the biggest temple of Greece, greater even than the Parthenon.



It fell into disuse and was ruined by invasions in the later centuries, before to serve as a quarry for other constructions elsewhere. In the 18th century, the columns were even reduced to plaster to be used for the construction of a mosque in Monastiraki.

There are only 15 columns left standing. And just nearby is the Arch of Hadrian, another landmark due to the famous Emperor, and which marked the limit between the old city and the new city.

On one side of the Arch is written : This is Athens, the city of Theseus and on the other : This is the City of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.






10/01/2015

THE ACADEMY OF ATHENS

The academy of Athens is a neo-classical building built in the 1870s on Panepistimiou avenue. 


                        


It is adorned on each side with statues of Athena and Apollo, and in front of the entrance are also sculptures of Socrates and Plato.


16/09/2014

AVEROF BATTLESHIP


Leafing through my photos of Greece, I found these three ones which did not make the cut back then. 

The Averof battleship was commissionned by the Greek navy and launched in 1910. It was financed almost totally by the rich Greek merchant Averoff. 

It took part to the WWI in the Eastern Mediterranean, then during the Greek-Turkish war, and finally it was part of the navy which fled to Alexandria during the invasion of Greece during the WWII. It is anchored in Faliro since 1985 and has since been converted into a floating museum.


Quite appropriately, you can find on the dock just a 100 meters from the Averof a reconstruction of an antique trireme called "Olympias".



28/07/2014

Nafplio

As soon as I was back from Istanbul, my wanderlust took the best of me, and I took off to Nafplio for the weekend.
Nafplio is a really nice little city in the Gulf of Argos. It was the second capital of Greece, from 1829 to 1834, right after Egina. The location of the city, on the slopes of two sharp hills, were perfect for an Acropolis in ancient times, and afterwards for fortifications. The city was in control of Byzantines, then Franks after the Crusades, then Venitians (as can be seen with the images of winged lions everywhere in town) and last by the Ottomans. This is where Ioannis Kapodistrias, first head of State of modern Greece, took office, and where he was later assassinated.
Nafplio 3
Eglise Palamidi 2
Nafplio 1
Palamidi and Nafplio 3
Palamidi Int 2 Mer
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