Where it all [or, at least most of it] began……Athens – Part One

Athens is considered one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history of over 3400 years.  It is where some of the first temples were built and where the first Olympic Games were held.  However, we are visiting Athens at a very interesting time; new history is about to be made.  Greece held national elections today and we just read that the Conservative Party won, which means that Greece will most likely be staying in the Euro Zone and the Greek people will suffer from the stiff austerity measures.  We are not sure if tomorrow will bring another peaceful day or a day of riots (like those of a month ago).  As for now, we are executing our duties as tourists and seeing the sites around this ancient city. On the day of the elections, we visited the Parliament Building because every Sunday the Evzones, or elite infantry and mountain division of the Greek Army, perform the “Changing of the Guard” ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown solider.  It started with an elaborate procession of the Athens’ police band, followed by the members of the Army.

Police band

Changing of the guard – Leader of the Army procession

Changing of the guard procession

Beautiful costumes

After the Police and Army took there place, the “caller” or the soldier that gave the instructions for the procession, called for the men who were participating in the changing of the guard to proceed up to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.  The soldiers have a very interesting high-kick, knee swing march.

Changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider – Parliament Bldg in background

Standing guard before the switch

The replacements

Getting ready to switch

The men who have been standing guard then cross each other, come to the front, touch feet (who knows why?!), and proceed back to the line of the Army to take the place of their replacements.

Changing of the guard – the cross

Changing of the guard – touching of feet

Changing of the guard – marching back to get in line after the switch

The photo above was taken right before the guy on the left eats it.  He was only down for a couple of seconds before he jumps back to his feet.  I think it was a combination of the high kicks and these rockin’ (but perhaps slippery?) shoes.  Check these out!

I want some of these guys

And finally, after everyone is in line, the band plays a song, the Army marches out and back down the street in front of the Parliament Building.

Procession after changing of the guard (I’m not sure what these guys did)

For lunch, we had our first taste of Greek food.  We stopped at a place called the “Souvlaki Bar”.

Lunch – open faced gyro

Lunch – gyro and souvlaki

Oh, and the food is pretty cheap in Greece too!

Lunch – Only 15 Euros WITH a 23% tax. Wow.

Our next stop landed us at the Panathenaic Stadium.  This stadium hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896 and then the archery competition and served as the finish-line for the marathon of the Athens Olympics in 2004. Reconstructed from the remains of the ancient Greek stadium that once stood in its place, the Panathenaic is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble and one of the oldest stadiums in the world.  We read a sign by the entrance that said the marble weighs 93,810,000 tons.  Incredible!

Panathenaic Stadium

Stadium seating – rows and rows of marble

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

The stadium seating was particularly interesting.  The steps were incredibly large.  After only 6 steps up, the height of the seating was the taller than Bobby (over 6 feet!)

These steps are definitely code-abiding.

These were a little more accommodating.

Large, straight up stairs.

At the end of the stadium, there were two original statues that competitors would run around or pull their cart around to the finish line.  In front of the statues, the emperors would sit to view the games.

Panathenaic Stadium

Emperors overlooking the race

I let him win and then he gloats.

On one side of the stadium, we entered a long tunnel and reached a small museum that held memorabilia from Olympic games around the world.  Specifically, the Olympic torches and commemorative poster for each year are displayed there.

The Olympic torch for Rome’s Olympics in 1960

Mexico wins for the coolest poster – 1968

Berlin – Storm clouds on the horizon for WWII

Wondering around after seeing the amphitheater, we ran into the National Archeological Museum, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  First, though, Bobby stopped for a little fun on the jungle-gym.

Can’t take the little boy out of the man; this contraption was pretty cool.

National Archeological Museum courtyard

Hadrian’s Arch, Athens


Temple of Olympian Zeus

Remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Walking through the Plaka region (where our hotel is), one can buy the general tourist-y things, but also get a good meal, cocktail, and most importantly, catch the Euro 2012 soccer matches.  Unfortunately, we saw a very unhappy group of Dutch fans after their final loss.

Plaka area

Plaka area

Lastly, we made a reservation the first night to see the sunset on the Parthenon at a wonderful restaurant.  The food was good and the view was even better.  It definitely wet our appetite to see the Parthenon the next day.

View of the Acropolis from restaurant

We saw people perched on Mars Hill, watching the sunset


  1. I googled for info on why those guards touched toes. I read a few pages and saw pix that others had taken, but I never did find an explanation. Love the pix of the marble arena!