Friday, August 10, 2012

Athens ~ Greece

Greece, the country we had planned on seeing “one day” and that day had finally arrived!  I think it was somewhere back in Grade 8 Social Studies that my interest in Greece began.  That was so long ago, I cannot remember or explain why but Greece and its history was intriguing.

The sunrise is seen out the airplane window as we fly over Italy
Sunrise over Italy
We left Rome before sunset after a very early rise and trip by taxi to the airport and were excited about our days ahead. We were the first flight out of there with a great aerial view of the sunrise travelling over Italy and the Adriatic Sea. We would spend a couple of days in Athens before flying onto Santorini, one of the many islands of Greece. 

The rugged countryside of Greece can be seen out the airplane window.
Rugged country of Greece
We flew across to Greece with Easy Jet in 1 hr 45 min. This is a British airlines and I would recommend it for reasonably priced travels in Europe if you wish to fly.  The rates are so low that one can fly almost anywhere for next to nothing, although some destinations are more. 
Pigeon covered square surrounded by busy streets and high buildings.
Omonia Square in Athens, Greece
We had the address and instructions to find our hotel which included taking the metro but decided we would be smarter to take a cab ride into the city with a population near 5 million people.  There are flat rates from the airport to the city center inner ring or back and our hotel was within that area so we stood in line and we got such a great cab driver that we booked him for our return to the airport.  This Omonia Square is not far from our hotel and the metro station is adjacent, very convenient for our future travels in Athens.

Two policemen walk across Omonia Square while a tourbus stops nearby.
Police patrol Omonia Square
The police are very visible in our neighborhood and seem to keep the numbers of gatherings down at the Omonia Square.  Our cab driver’s English was good and he gave us some helpful information on our neighborhood.  He also explained that a lot had been done to the airport and the city’s metro line as well as other improvements for the Olympics held in Athens in 2004 but also talked a lot about the problems they were having in Greece.
The clean metro station at quiet times and the art showcase there.
Omonia Station in Athens, Greece
We found the Omonia Station for the metro to be clean and very impressive. This was one of the projects improved for the Olympics and we were happy with that, it was an improvement over some we’d seen on our travels. The station included art to enjoy on our walk through to the lower level to catch the train. We had no difficulty getting to our destinations, the routes are color coded and locations are marked well.
The National Library and surrounding buildings.
National Library in Athens, Greece
Once we’d checked into our hotel we walked across the street to a small square and found a nice place to eat lunch.  The place was quiet and the service was great.  We later walked up to the University that our cab driver had pointed out as we had passed on our way in, we were only a few blocks away.  The first building that is part of the campus we see is the National Library. 
A fountain sits in front of the University of Athens Main Building
University of Athens ~ Main Building
We are looking at the Main Building but there are many others that are part of the University of Athens.  There are 80,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students that attend classes in this university and another 3300 academic, administrative and staff so we weren’t about to see the whole campus.  It is the oldest institution of higher learning in Greece and has a very long history dating back centuries.
The steps lead to the Academy of Athens, building dated 1926
Academy of Athens in Greece
Next door was the last building we could see from this street that was part of the university.  The Academy of Athens was established in 1926 and is the highest research establishment in the country.  This building is one of the major landmarks of Athens and often seen in photos and a commemorative coin was issued for the 2004 Olympics with this Academy of Athens on the coin.
We saw many students marching in protest in front of the university.
Protestors march past the University of Athens
We’d heard before our arrival of the students marches and demonstrations over costs for them but were surprised at our timing that we’d see one as they marched past the university early on a Friday evening. The signs were all in Greek so I am assuming it was about the costs and books but it was a very quiet and peaceful march.

This was our first day in Greece and although it wasn’t quite what I had expected to see, our big exploration day will happen the next day when we go to visit the Acropolis. That was something to see and might be getting closer to the reason we wanted to visit Greece.


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