Greek Holiday Stop 3

After 2 nights of Athens, I took a bus ride to see Olympia as suggested by Rick Steves.
There are two bus terminals in Athens. Make sure you go to the correct one. For Peloponnese and Thsessaloniki destinations, you want “Terminal A” at 100 Kifisou Street:

  1. Take the metro to Omonia Square. Walk down Pireas Street (Keep Omonia Grand hotel on the right).
  2. Take the second right into Zinonos Street (one way street going left or south for cars). Walk 2 blocks until you meet Menandrous Street.
  3. You will find Bus stop near the corner. Take Bus 51 to the last stop inside a bus terminal. Do not get off early. Two stops before the terminal looks like a bus terminal as well from the street. Wait until you are inside a covered bus terminal.

The 5 hour bus ride was quite scenic along the northern coast of Peloponnese. Do not fall asleep about 3 hours into the ride. There is a beautiful bridge that crosses the ocean from the east end of Patras over to main land Greece to the north. There are a some wind turbines along the top of mountains in this region.

I had to change bus at Πυργου (Pyrgos). There are two people at this bus station particularly nice to travelers. They invited me to wait inside the terminal building and then waved me to go board the bus at the right boarding isle when the connecting bus pulled in. They do not make announcements in English at bus terminals throughout Greece. I really appreciated this extra help.

The town of Olympia is very small. Most of the businesses are geared towards servicing tourists along the main street. I stayed at Hotel Pelops as suggested by Rick Steves’ guidebook. It is very comfortable and reasonably priced. img_3255

The bus dropped us off just one block south of the hotel. There is no obvious sign for bus stop. I almost missed my departing bus the next morning after waiting in the cool pre-dawn morning for 20 minutes. I realized my mistake just in time to find out that the bus departs from what looks like an abandoned train station one street east of the main drag.
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Entrance to the Olympia stadium is just 5 minutes walk from the hotel.
IMG_3257 Processed with Snapseed. Inside the archeological site, you will find this amazing column: G1X01970
Well, it was reconstructed for the 2004 Olympic game from fallen pieces and new materials.

This is what original columns for another building here look like after 2000 years:
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Compared the one-and-done throw away stadiums we build for recent modern games, the stadium here is rather underwhelming:
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Are we building modern games’ new stadiums for the olympic spirit, or to stroke some politician’s ego and enrich their friends?

There is a nice garden between the archeological museum and the stadium archeological site.
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Olympia

I enjoyed walking up and down this small town after hectic Athens. People with a rental car may opt to continue their journey else where. Though they would miss beautify sceneries with morning fog I saw the next day.

 

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Greek Holiday Stop 2

The 04:30 bus ride (Route X95) from the airport to the city center was an uneventful ride through several neighborhoods. The only thing worth noting was there were several petro stations on the ground floor of residential buildings. This arrangement is probably forbidden in the USA…

I dropped off my backpack at the Athens Backpackers Hostel (http://www.backpackers.gr), and went out in the predawn darkness to find a good vantage point for a view of the Acropolis at sunrise:

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After the sunrise, I walked aimlessly for a while just to see if I find interesting photo opportunities. I then waited for an organized city walk advertised at the hostel. This walk led by a college student between 1030-13:00 was a little bit too late and hurried for my liking. I ended up doing my own city walk again the next morning with Rick Steves’ guidebook.

I stopped inside a Greek Orthodox Church to see parts of a Sunday service:
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I found street art in back alleys: IMG_3478

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And I captured colorful homes in better lighting condition: G1X01861

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The National Archaeological Museum has massive number of artifacts from throughout the country. The artifacts were presented in chronological order. I saw a lot of German speaking visitors taking their time to examine the collection.

On the way to the museum is the central market. Unfortunately for me, the market is not open on Sundays. The only exception I saw was this shop owner, working overtime to make a better living for her children:
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You can find fruit vendors outside the Monastiraki subway station even on Sunday morning: G1X01904

This is also where you will find arguably the best Gyro in town for only €2 and then just sit back and watch people go by:
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Next to Monastiraki is the Ancient Agora of Athens. (http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh3530.jsp?obj_id=2485) You will find the best preserved of ancient temples, the temple of Hephaestus, still standing here. I found a shadow in the afternoon most interesting during my visit:
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I left too little time (1 hour) to visit the Acropolis, further shortened by park rangers chasing us out 15 minutes prior to closing time. I found out later they were making way for a wealthy bride to have her wedding portrait taken without other visitors. The Parthenon was under restoration with construction equipments and scaffolds everywhere ruining my photographs, and the sunset was obstructed by clouds that afternoon… I captured a view from atop the hill overlooking the Acropolis Museum. My hostel is just 3 block to the right of the museum. G1X01931

Here is a closer look at one facet of the Acropolis museum:

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Greek Holiday Stop 1

The first stop of my Greek holiday is the British Museum. Yes, the one that is in the heart of London, England.

This stop in London came about because I wanted a more useful stopover if I had to have one on my way to Athens. My other choices were 2-5 hours in other airports that would mean just time wasted waiting for connecting flight. In addition, I would land in Athens just hours before midnight and thus have to add a night stay in Athens with no useful time for sightseeing. This itinerary through London gives me 8 hours in the afternoon, which gives me enough time to have a look at the city instead of being confined to the airport. My arrival time in Athens would be 04:00, which I can handily use to store my luggage for free at the hostel and then go find a spot for sunrise without incurring hotel expense.

It wasn’t until I started reading more about Greece did I realize that London hosts some prized Greek antiquity in the British Museum. Thus my 8 hours in London suddenly became a very wise choice.

The following illustrates the reason to visit the British Museum on a Greek Holiday:IMG_3147

The docent explained that Lord Elgin saved these marbles from being neglected by the Ottoman rulers further. Greek people on the other hand want these back in their brand new Acropolis Museum now they have attained the knowledge and facilities to host their heritage. Read more about the debate starting with this Wikipedia entry.
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I am quite impressed that the ancient sculptors carved even the back side of the pediment – the side that would not be seen by any visitor if they had stayed in their intended places atop the Parthenon 2500 years later. IMG_3151

It was a nice day to visit London. I grabbed this snapshot before I was absorbed in the museum:
IMG_3383 The museum is quite impressive even before I got to the artifacts on display: G1X01768

It a shame that I didn’t have more time to see more of the museum, for I wasted about an hour trying to find in vain an airport lounge that would store my luggage (for free) while I take a side trip into the city. As it turned out that I probably would have gotten into a lot of trouble if I had tried to exit the airport without my luggage. Apparently not many people take advantage of their connection time as I do. The border control agent asked a lot of questions even though I had all my things with me – something about 2 weeks holiday with only a carry-on backpack and a small messenger bag for camera and documents.
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Holiday in Greece

I had a wonderful experience in Turkey 2 years ago with an organized tour by gadventures.com. So when I saw a sale for one of its tours to Greece this spring, I jumped on it for the percentage savings…

After ruminating over the prospect of 2 weeks at sea with 7 other travelers this summer, I backed out of the tour and decided to go on my own with a Rick Steves guidebook in hand. This is not a knock against adventures.com I just decided that since I am not a good swimmer to start with, I rather make sure my holiday includes enough hiking and museums, which are my default activities over long weekend getaways. 

Just about everyone I asked tells me that traveling in Greece with just English will be fine. English is their second language in school. I found just enough time to learn the first lesson in “Living Language Greek” a month before departure. I cannot say anything beyond thank you and good morning, but at least I can recognize all the Greek alphabets and pronounce words in Greek of the time.

With that minimal preparation and first two nights of hostel reservation in Athens made just two days prior to departure, off to Greece I went. 

 

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