Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Big Fat Greek Christmas

After a long time of not having anything particularly interesting to write about, it's high time for a new post! As some of you may know, I spent my Christmas in Greece, where I was generously hosted by my good friend Kostas and his family (thanks again, Kostas!). Here is the scene in Syntagma Square (Constitution Square) when I arrived last Tuesday evening:

As you can see, lots of lights and people! Syntagma is near the center of the city and it seems like it is always busy. Here it is on Christmas Day:
One of the first things you notice about Athens is the dogs. Yes, that's right, dogs. Athens has A TON of stray dogs that usually hang around tourist and other busy areas. This little guy thought it would be smart to sleep in front of a subway station escalator:
And here I am taking a picture while some furry friends hang around me:
Near Syntagma is the original Olympic stadium, where the first Olympic games took place in 1896:
My first stop the next day was the Acropolis, the hill of ancient Athens where the Parthenon is located.
You can climb a nearby hill to get a great view of the entire Acropolis:
Also nearby is a hill where the ancient Greek philosophers used to hang out. However, all that philosophizing can sure make you tired!
On Christmas Eve I visited some museums, and obviously on Christmas almost everything was closed. But I did have a very nice dinner with Kostas and his family. The day after I took a short cruise and visited 3 islands. We departed from the port of Piraeus, which has been used since ancient times:
The first stop was the island of Poros. Here's a view of the port there:
Athens may be overrun by dogs, but on the islands, cats rule. Here's a little "family" on Poros chowing down:
Next I visited Hydra (in Greek: Ithra), probably the most beautiful of the three. On Hydra, automobiles are not allowed, so the locals get around mainly by donkey. Of course, I was no exception to the rule:As I said, Hydra is very beautiful. Check out how blue and clear the water is:
On Aegina, the 3rd island, there is another ancient temple and a nice port with pretty, lit-up boats:

The next day I visited Delphi, where the temple of Apollo was in ancient times. Delphi is famous for its oracle: a priestess would basically get high by smoking some kind of herb and then tell the future. The ancient Greeks consulted her about everything. They also believed that Delphi was the center of the world. Here is a view of the entire site, which includes a well preserved amphitheater. The ruins of the temple of Apollo are the columns on the left:
Here's a closer view of the temple. You can also see the mountains in the background. Delphi is located way up in the mountains and it's quite beautiful!
On my final day I visited the temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea, in Sounion. This is probably my favorite spot in Greece because it is SO beautiful. The water is a deep Aegean blue and the sky is gorgeous:
Here's a closer view of the temple:
Here I am in front of the sea. Just look at how blue that water is!
And here's me with Kostas and his cousin Andy, who was visiting from Chicago.
Well, that's it for now. Happy New Year everybody!