Thursday, May 8, 2014

Do You Understand This?

We arrived in Athens and had booked a tour company to give us all a private tour of the city. Things did not quite work out as planned though and the company was nowhere to be seen when we got off the ship. We tried to get in touch with them, but they did not seem to have any record of us booking with them. Luckily, we had not yet paid them a fee, however, they did not have anyone else available to drive us around for the day. We did spot some tour vans off to the side, so Aunt Esther went over to negotiate a deal with them. It worked and we met Dimitris.

Dimitris was quite a character, explaining that he was often called upon to tour around the rich and famous when they visited Athens. He even showed us a decades old American newspaper with a story written by someone who had used his services. It was pretty hard to believe, but we played along with it. We started off by visiting the Zea Marina. As we drove there, Dimitris was telling us about a local philanthropist, Aristotle Onassis, who directed his estate to be used to build and operate the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in honour of his son who was killed at a young age in a plane crash. Each time Dimitris explained something to us he asked “Do you understand this?” This would become a common phrase throughout the tour.

Next we went to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We got there just ahead of many of the other tour buses and Dimitris parked illegally, so that we would have good access to the area and be able to move onto our next destination easily. Stephanie also found a cat roaming the grounds. It was really odd to see the juxtaposition of the ancient ruins right in the middle of the city. Often in photos it seems like they are off on their own in isolation, but they were really in the centre of it all!

Next we headed to the Acropolis, which we could actually see from the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Dimitris explained to us that “polis” meant “area of” in Greek and “acro” meant “height,” so Acropolis meant a high area in Athens. He also drove us right up to the entry gate, even though everyone else was getting let out at the bottom of the hill and having to walk up. He seemed to get away with everything! There was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (an amphitheatre), the famous Parthenon and the old Temple of Athena.

From there we went to the Panathenaic Stadium, used for the Olympics, followed by the “Heel of Athens,” the highest lookout point in the city. We also got our pictures taken with the Presidential Guards and had to be serious when doing so.

After that, our tour was complete, but Dimitris offered to take us somewhere with bathrooms and drinks for a break before we headed back. We arrived at a store and they offered us pop and ouzo (I passed on that) and they also showed us around their souvenirs. We bought some jewellery and trinkets and could see that Dimitris and his friend had a good system going! While we started off not knowing how the day would go due to the missing tour bus, it turned out great, was very informative and was certainly a unique experience! 

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