Monday, January 28, 2013

Olympics (Athens, part VI)

Temple of the Olympian Zeus, with the Acropolis
in the background.
Today was my last day in Athens.  After a leisurely breakfast, I got ready and checked out of my room, leaving my bags at the hotel.  I walked first to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, which is in a level area some distance east of the Acropolis.  Only 16 columns from this temple still stand, but they convey its massive size.  The temple was started by one of the tyrant leaders of Athens, abandoned during democracy, and completed during Roman rule.  It was the largest in Athens. 

From there I walked to the Panathenaic Stadium.  This was the site of the ancient Panathenaic games, which we think of as the original Olympics.  The original stadium on this location fell into disrepair in Christian times, but was restored and rebuilt for the first modern Olympics in 1896. In one of those great sports stories, the marathon was held on the last day of those first modern games, and the first to cross the finish line inside the marble stadium was a Greek runner, who is still celebrated as a national hero.  The stadium is impressive, and has an interesting exhibit on the history of the Olympics.

My late morning and afternoon were spent wandering.  Monday is a common day for museums to be closed, and that was a case with those I was most interested in.  So, I took my time, walked through some side streets, had a nice lunch, and then walked a bit more around the Acropolis area.  Although I had already spent a fair bit of time there, this was the first time I had been there with sunshine and clear skies, and it was worth another look.
Panathenaic Stadium.

The Metro, buses, and rail to the airport all remained closed today do to strikes, so I was planning to take a cab to the airport.  As luck would have it, another guest happened to be departing at about the same time that I returned to the hotel, and we decided it would make sense to share a taxi.  This became even more economical when a third guest overheard us and asked if she could join us.  I enjoyed chatting with both of them, and the trip was fast.  This meant a bit longer at the airport than I expected, but under the circumstances I didn't mind.

The return flight went smoothly.  My taxi ride to the apartment was memorable.  My driver was really friendly and was turned around half the time asking me questions about America in broken English.  We talked about health care and my teaching.  He showed me a picture of his son.

It is good to be home.

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