Athens
Antiquities Promenade
November 3-4 2007
Before boarding Royal Princess for a cruise to the Holy Land, we spent two days in Athens. I had heard reports of the new Antiquities Promenade, but I couldn't find very much information on it. So with the hope I can help others find this wonderful experience, here is our report.

The closed off streets run from the Temple of Zeus at one end to the Ancient Agora and the Kerameikos cemetery at the other, passing under the south slope of the Acropolis. On this map, they are shown in the blue cross hatching. We stayed at the Parthenon Hotel, which is perfectly located for all the antiquities of Athens. It is situated right on the edge of the Plaka, a block from the Acropolis one way and the Temple of Zeus the other, a half block from the start of the pedestrian mall and a half block from the Metro. Cruise passengers can take the Metro from the port to the Akropoli stop and be at the same place. All the attractions of the city are easy to get to.

Just around the corner from the Metro stop is the Temple of Zeus. Here you can buy your combination ticket for 12 Euros, which will give you admission to all the antiquities including the Acropolis. This Temple was one of the most magnificent in the city. Unfortunately, only 16 columns remain of this great edifice. They are among the finest examples of the Corinthian order of architecture. The Temple precinct is a beautiful little park.
Crossing the busy street from the Temple of Zeus leads to the beginning of the pedestrian mall, two main streets running south of the Acropolis which have been entirely closed off to form the Antiquities Promenade. It is a beautiful walk and every step leads to another historical site.

The walk begins at an area called Plaka's Gate, with souvenir shops and restaurants. We had some delightful baklavas here. But after a short distance it becomes more peaceful and serene without constant vendors.

The first major site you encounter is the Theater of Dionysos. . Only the first few rows of seats remain in the Theater, which originally covered the whole hillside. I couldn't resist hamming it up here!

From here, you can follow the path along the South Slope of the Acropolis, past the Stoa of Eumenes, or you can return to the easier going of the pedestrian mall.

Along the way you pass many small sites, including a wayside shrine,a Roman cistern, the spring of the Pynx, the Temple of Pan, and the oldest temple Zeus Dios yet discovered. The next major site is the Odeon of Herodes, a huge theater which is still in use today for special productions.
Moving on down the Promenade you come right under the shoulder of the Acropolis. At the time we visited, they were moving artifacts from the old museum at the top to the new museum being built along the Promenade.
On a later trip (in 2009), the new museum was open and it is truly stunning! It is definitely worth while to plan to spend at least an hour there. The top floor features a full size reconstruction of the Parthenon with many of the friezes and statues in their original places. Sadly, the "Elgin Marbles" taken to England in the 1800s have not been returned. Clearly they belong in their proper place here.
You can now turn off from the Promenade to the main entrance of the Acropolis. It is truly a stunning site. There are 185 steps to climb up the Propylia to the top of the Acropolis, and since we had done that on a previous trip we did not repeat it today. Here is the picture from our previous trip. The long climb up the Propylia to the top is strenuous but well worth it to reach some of the world's most renowned antiquities.
At the top is the marvelous Parthenon, temple of the goddes Artemis, as well as several smaller temples including the Erecthion, famous for its carytids. Although the path up was very crowded, the top is large enough that the crowds are not apparent.
Descending back to the Promenade, soon you come to a beautiful little park which marks the Hill of the Muses. In this park (behind and to the right of us in this photo) is the Pynx, considered to be the birthplace of democracy. Here the famous orators such as Demosthenes harangued the voters of Athens, thus starting a long tradition.
The promenade continues past the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, another famous meeting place for the ancient Athenians, and well known in the Bible as the location in which St. Paul preached Christianity to the Greeks.

If you look VERY closely you can see the people on the top of the hill. This is another opportunity we decided to pass up!

Continuing along the promenade, you come to the entrance to the Ancient Agora. This area has a number of outdoor restaurants so we stopped for a Greek salad before continuing our walk.
A very major attraction along the Promenade route is the Ancient Agora. Entering from this side, the first thing you come to is one of the most delightful temples ever excavated, the Temple of Hephastion. This magnificent Doric building dominates the Agora, sitting on a hill overlooking the entire site.
Continuing along the path, you have a fine view of the entire area laid out before you. On the left behind me is the restoration of the Stoa of Attalos, carefully made as close as possible to the original. Behind me on the right are the ruins of the Agora, or marketplace, itself. Socrates and his students often disputed in this area. To the far right is the hill of the Acropolis.
At this point there are several options. You can cross the Agora, exiting on the opposite side and continue to the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds. If you return past the Temple of Hephastion to your entry point, you can continue down the promenade to the Kerameikos, an ancient cemetary. What we chose to do here was to take the Metro back to the Akropoli station, just half a block from our hotel.

The Athens Metro is easy to use, if you keep careful track of your transfer points. It is a beautiful and very clean system, and many stations have wonderful displays of art.

The Antiquities Promenade is a wonderful way to see the sights of Athens on your own or with a guidebook. You can easily spend an entire day making your way from one end to the other.

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