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Greece Trip (Christmas Week of December, 2003)
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I will try to avoid my enthusiasm to create an exploration travel account here!
I will just tell some trivia that you may find interesting.

Day-1

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Acropolis


Parthenon... Supposedly Pericles ended up spending equivalent to  billion dollars of our age
on this marble structure which was completed in fifteen years.
The Tour Guides say that in 1687, when the turkish used to keep their arsenal in this temple of Athena, Venetian troups bombarded it enough to let the gun-powder storage explode, which destroyed the roof, and the middle columns. What is hard to find, is the fact that Pope Urban VIII (contemporary of Galileo, and instrumental in his trial) ordered the beams from the Parthenon to be installed in the Bronze columns over the altar in Vatican basilica.


The theatre of Herodes Atticus.. It is remodelled and still used for concerts and operas.
Part of the Acropolis...



It was beautiful to watch lit-up hill of Acropolis with star of Venus between the dark clouds from our room. Like many european cities, haunting music of sexaphone was drifting away  in the streets somewhere, as the night progressed, but the city seemed awake all the time.

Day-2
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Down below the hill of Acropolis are the Roman ruins or Roman Agora. The building in the trees on the left is recent remodelling of the original Market place, where Socrates and others used to hang out. It was raining the next day, but our spirits were high.



The Temple of Theseion. (449-440 BC). Also used to house monuments of Eponumous heroes. One of the best preserved buildings in the Roman Agora.
There was noone in the Roman Agora besides two of us, when we entered, and it almost gave us a feeling of discovery. The rain later reduced, and we spent some time walking the streets of Monastriaki, and buying Indian style corn heated over coals from an old man, while listening to a bazuki player.

We later visited the museum of folk instruments, which seemed closed but we knocked on the door and  after a while someone turned on the lights and opened especially for us :-). The painting of these three turkish singers was a lifesized  version in the museum and totally knocked me out.

Ride to Meteora:
We later took a six hour bus ride from Athens to Kalambaka. (had to change in the town of Trikala..That one sounds funny if you are an Indian!)
The road at some point goes parallel to the Aegean Sea, and it was unforgettable to watch mountains and islands and hidden towns in those valleys next to the ocean, passing by in the cloudy mist. Seems like more TV, but felt real..
felt like stopping by and crash in one of those towns... Sometime..

Day-3
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Those who have seen the Bond Film, "For your eyes only", may remember this scene.
Since there is no bus service in winter, we hired a taxi, and it turned out to be a nice Mercedez E-Class, and a non-smoking driver(!). He only charged 50 Euros to us for a three hour ride to five monastries and a drive back to the bus-stop.
This one is the monastry of Holy Trinity. The most dramatic one..
Needs at least an hour specially for this one. Though, the ones which have a lot more to see are Megalo Meteoro and St. Stephanos.



The monastries do not allow photographs inside. The paintings in those monastries reminded me of how religion was  in the middle ages. The images depict a vision of hell. The message is clear:We are all sinners...A few monks and nuns still live in most of these monastries.
The above one is Varlaam. We knocked on the doors of this one, (when we went up there), but no one showed up. Finally we entered on our own and roamed around. We did not see anyone besides a couple of cats in meditative position.


Varlaam, while going up on the way to Megalo Meteoro..
Many of these monastries did not have staircases in early years, and the only way was either a draw bridge, or a basket of ropes to pull you up. Megalo Meteoro still has some of the old stuff preserved. The kitchen and eating  area are well kept. With less than ten people around, and monks walking by, it felt like we had landed right in the middle of dark ages.


From Megalo Meteoro, looking at the town of Kalambaka and Kastraki.
These are famous for the rock climbers who train on the rocks next to the monastries and every few years a world championship is held here.


The Pindos mountains look intimidating from the monastries. Although they are in the range of 8000 to 8500 ft, they reminded me a lot of the sierras. The taxi driver said that, the town in the valley is usually empty in the winter, and people come down to live in Kalambaka or go to Athens.
We took the bus back to Athens in the evening.
Day-4-5-6
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We spend some time in Athens. It is Christmas and even the famous fashion street of Ermou is pretty much empty. We walk to the Parliament Building and spend some time in the Church of Plateia Mitropoleos. It is full of families and festivities. Later in the Evening we take our Flight to the island of Crete.


We land in Chania. (Pronounced "Hania"). The Hotel is facing the serene harbour..But everything is closed for the night. Fortunately our receptionist is waiting for us to arrive before leaving for her own home. Our Christmas night dinner:
Three apples,  an orange and a pear,  a pack of Parle-G and few Thepalas.



The Harbour of Chania is extraordinary at night. The dome in the center-left, is the oldest mosque of the ottoman empire. We were fortunate to have such a great view from our balcony. With a drizzle of rain, and a glass of red wine, it felt like a dream.

We spent next two days in Crete, enjoying the seafood, naval museum and local market. Chania is a big town, and I managed to find a music shop and bought a three stringed Bazuki. It was fun playing some harmonic minor while sitting in this balcony during the day. Unfortunately, the palace of Knossos was closed for the two days and although, I am not big into archeology,  I hope to visit the remains of this civilization some day, which ruled 1500 years before the rise of Athens and contemporary to the Harappa-Mohenjo-daro civilizations.