Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 1 - Athens (Greece)

I took Qatar airline from Singapore to Athens, which transit at Doha. Even though I have been in Doha airport for 5-6 times already, I have never stepped out of the airport

Doha (Qatar) Skyscapers in the middle of the dessert.

I know that Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world, but I am always wondering what will happen to the country when the oil reserves run out (in 25 years)?

Wiki: Petroleum is the cornerstone of Qatar's economy and accounts for more than 70% of total government revenue, more than 60% of gross domestic product, and roughly 85% of export earnings. Proved oil reserves of 15 billion barrels (588,000,000 m³) should ensure continued output at current levels for 23 years. Oil has given Qatar a per capita GDP that ranks among the highest in the world. Qatar's proved reserves of natural gas exceed 7000 km³, more than 5% of the world total, third largest in the world.

More buildings in Doha. The city landscaping is quite impressive.



WikiAthens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum,[3][4] it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy,[5][6] largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC in later centuries on the rest of the then known European continent.[7] Today a cosmopolitan metropolis, modern Athens is central to economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece. In 2008, Athens was ranked the world's 32nd richest city by purchasing power[8] and the 25th most expensive[9] in a UBS study. 

I read so much about Greece economic crisis that I wanted to visit Athens to see it for myself. A few years ago, the Euro/SGD exchange rate was 2.1, but recently it declined to 1.56 (25% drop). On the train from the airport to the city (8 Euro), my first impression was the people looked grumpy and were not happy. 

A Bulgarian gentleman sat besides me and started chatting with me. He spoke very basic english and shared with me that he couldn't find work in Athens and had been sleeping on the street. He started to ask me about Singapore, the employment opportunity, the salary as well as my religion (He was holding Bible in his hand). I showed him photos of Singapore and he was very impressed with it.

After a short chat, he told me he was very keen to find work in Singapore and wanted my contact details. However, he did not give me a good vibe and I was not comfortable with him, so I left my email in his Bible.

This is my first impression of Athens.

The main square in monastiraki, Athens with Acropolis at the back.

Street in Athens

The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Wiki: The Temple of Olympian Zeus (Greek: Ναὸς τοῦ Ὀλυμπίου Διός, Naos tou Olympiou Dios), also known as the Olympieion orColumns of the Olympian Zeus, is a colossal ruined temple in the centre of the Greek capital Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD some 638 years after the project had begun. During the Roman periods it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world.
The temple's glory was short-lived, as it fell into disuse after being pillaged in a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD. It was probably never repaired and was reduced to ruins thereafter. In the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was extensively quarried for building materials to supply building projects elsewhere in the city. Despite this, substantial remains remain visible today and it continues to be a major tourist attraction.

The "Coffee" Place

When I was walking from Monastipaki to Plaka, there were at least 2 old man who were very friendly and approached me for a short chat. And they would offer me to join them for a drink, I was skeptical and they appeared to be annoyed when I declined their offers.

After that, I was wondering if I was too skeptical (even though I didn't have good vibes) and perhaps I should be more friendly. While I was taking photos of the temple of Olympian Zeus, a 3rd old gentlemen approached me introducing himself as a retiree from one of the Greek Islands spending his vacation in Athens. He invited me for a drink and I decided to be less skeptical and join him.

He wanted to bring me to a particular coffee place (which was a few blocks away), but I told that we could just go to any ordinary coffee place for a short chat. He insisted on bringing me to his coffee place.

When I arrived at the "coffee" place, I realized I was cheated. It was not a normal coffee place, but a bar with hostess. I have been to many bars & nightclubs with hostess, but this was my first time visiting such a place on an afternoon. I ordered a Ouzo (Greek drink) for 5 Euro and ordered the cheapest drink (20 Euro) for the hostess, who was not pretty. 

I decided not to waste my money and time, and started asking about her background and work in this bar. I also asked her about the general working attitude, and how the reasons behind current economic crisis in Greece. I told her frankly that in Asia, people worked really hard and competition are very stiff. She acknowledged there was an inherent problem in Greek's working attitude, but she said that they needed time to change.

This is not the first time I was cheated and will not be the last time. I wasn't unhappy, but I think it was quite an interesting experience (I had worse experience in Bangkok, Thailand and Alexandria, Egypt).

This is my 2nd impression of Athens.

Panathinaiko Stadium

Wiki: The Panathenaic Stadium or Panathinaiko (GreekΠαναθηναϊκό στάδιο, also known as the Kallimarmaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο, meaning the "beautifully marbled"),is the most ancient stadium in use in the world, is an athletic stadium in Athens that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, the Panathenaic is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble[citation needed] (from Mount Penteli) and is one of the oldest in the world.

In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honor of the GoddessAthena. During classical times, it had wooden seating. In 329 BC it was rebuilt in marble by the archon Lycurgus and in 140 AD was enlarged and renovated by Herodes Atticus, giving a seated capacity of 50,000.

Street in Athens

Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square (GreekΠλατεία ΣυντάγματοςGreek pronunciation: [plaˈtia sinˈdaɣmatos], English: Constitution Square) (sometimes spelled 'Syndagma Square'), is a town square located in central AthensGreece. The Square is named after theConstitution that King Otto was obliged to grant, after a popular and military uprising on September 3, 1843.[1] It is the oldest and socially most important square of modern Athens, at the epicentre of commercial activity during the nineteenth century.

Changing of Guards

Changing of Guards

One of the Guards

(All these are my mathematical & scientific symbols that I am very familiar)

Beautiful sunset at Lycabettus Hill
The Acropolis is sitting on the green hill in the middle.

Athens City
(There are no skyscraper 
Online debates on why there are no skyscraper.) 


Lycabettus Hill

Flag Lowering

Beautiful Sunset

On the way to Lycabettus Hill, I walked through a very nice part of town which reminded me of San Francisco. The hills, the neighborhood, the designers stores etc....

After the sunset, it was around 5pm. And I saw most of the shops were already closed and the cafes were packed with people at 5pm (Friday). Greeks are really laid back, I would never see such a scene in Asia. May be this is the reason why the Greek economy is in crisis.

Zara Store 
(Shirt price at 26 Euro - 60% discount to the price in Singapore)
Happy! =)

Day 2 - Athens (Greece)

Wiki: The Ancient Agora of Classical Athens (aka Forum of Athens in older texts) is the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora, located to the northwest of the Acropolis and bounded on the south by the hill of the Areopagus and on the west by the hill known as the Kolonus Agoraios, also called Market Hill.

The agora was probably laid out in the center of the city as a public space in the 6th century BC,[2] though Laurence Baurain-Rebillard has suggested that it dates to the 7th century.[3] Earlier, a more primitive agora may have existed elsewhere in Athens.[4] The final site was located at the intersection of three existing roads with the Panathenaic Way, the main road in Athens.[5] It was organized by Peisistratus, who removed private houses from the agora, closed wells, and made it the center of Athenian government. He also built a drainage system, fountains and a temple to the Olympian gods. In the 5th and 4th century BC there were temples constructed to HephaestusZeus and Apollo.[6]

The agora was the center of political and public life in Athens. It was a large open area surrounded by buildings of various functions. The agora was utilized for commerce, political, religious and military activity.[11] Meetings were held four times per month to enact legislation, to hear embassies, and deal with defense of the city-state.[12] In addition, some public forums to discuss ostracism were held in the agora. The law courts were located there, and anyone who happened to be in the agora when a case was being heard would probably have been able to view the spectacle, though only those adult male citizens appointed by lot would have been able to serve as jurors.

Roman Agora

Roman Agora of Athens is a large building measuring 111 x 98 m., comprising a spacious rectangular courtyard surrounded by stoas, shops and storerooms. It has an east, Ionic propylon and a west, Doric propylon, known as the Gate of Athena Archegetis. It was built between 19 and 11 B.C. with a donation of Julius Caesar and Augustus. During the reign of Hadrian the court was paved with slabs. After the invasion of the Herulae in A.D. 267 the city of Athens was restricted to the area within the Late Roman fortification wall, and the administrative and commercial centre of the city was transferred from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora and the Library of Hadrian. During the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation the area was covered with houses, workshops and churches along with the Fethiye Mosque. 

Part of Roman Agora

Part of Roman Agora

Compound of the Ancient Agora
(There was no tourist, so it was quite nice walking leisure in this complex)

While I was walking slowly in the complex, I was imaging the Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Descartes) debating about life. It should be really interesting and lively.

Ancient Coins
(Ancient Greeks are really impressive)

One of the remaining pillars

The Temple of Hephaestus

Wiki: The Temple of Hephaestus, also known as the Hephaisteion or earlier as the Theseion, is a well-preserved Greek temple; it remains standing largely as built. It is a Doric peripteral temple, and is located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George Akamates.

After the battle of Plataea, the Greeks swore never to rebuild their sanctuaries destroyed by the Persians during their invasion of Greece, but to leave them in ruins, as a perpetual reminder of the war. The Athenians directed their funds towards rebuilding their economy and strengthening their influence in the Delian League. When Pericles came to power, he envisioned a grand plan for transforming Athens into the centre of Greek power and culture. Construction started in 449 BC, and some scholars believe the building not to have been completed for some three decades, funds and workers having been redirected towards the Parthenon. The western frieze was completed between 445-440 BC, while the eastern frieze, the western pediment and several changes in the building's interior are dated by these scholars to 435-430 BC, largely on stylistic grounds. It was only during the Peace of Nicias (421-415 BC) that the roof was completed and the cult images were installed. The temple was officially inaugurated in 416-415 BC.

Wiki: The Acropolis of Athens (Greek: Ακρόπολη Αθηνών) is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athensand containing the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being theParthenon. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, "edge, extremity") and πόλις (polis, "city").[1] Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as "The Acropolis" without qualification.
While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site's most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, theErechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike.[2][3] The Parthenon and the other buildings were seriously damaged during the 1687 siege by the Venetians in the Morean War when the Parthenon was being used for gunpowder storage and was hit by a cannonball.[4]

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Wiki: The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a stone theatre structure located on the south slope of the Acropolis of Athens. It was built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-slopedamphitheater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive, cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venuefor music concerts with a capacity of 5,000.

The Erechtheion

Wiki: The Erechtheion (GreekἘρέχθειον) is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens in GreeceThe temple as seen today was built between 421 and 406 BC. Its architect may have been Mnesicles, and it derived its name from a shrine dedicated to the legendary Greek hero Erichthonius

Parthenon in restoration

The Parthenon

Wiki: The Parthenon (GreekΠαρθενών) is a temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the maiden goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron deity. Its construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC, although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient GreeceAthenian democracy, western civilization[3] and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a program of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure.[4]

The Parthenon itself replaced an older temple of Athena, which historians call the Pre-Parthenon or Older Parthenon, that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. The temple is archaeoastronomically aligned to the Hyades.[5] Like most Greek temples, the Parthenon was used as a treasury. For a time, it also served as the treasury of the Delian League, which later became theAthenian Empire. In the 5th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
After the Ottoman conquest, it was turned into a mosque in the early 1460s. On 26 September 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump inside the building was ignited by Venetian bombardment. The resulting explosion severely damaged the Parthenon and its sculptures. In 1806, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed some of the surviving sculptures, with the permission of the Ottoman Empire. These sculptures, now known as the Elgin Marbles or the Parthenon Marbles, were sold in 1816 to the British Museum in London, where they are now displayed. Since 1983 (on the initiative of Culture Minister Melina Mercouri), the Greek government has been committed to the return of the sculptures to Greece.[6]


The Porch of the Caryatids. (Replicate)

The small replicate of the ceiling of the Parthenon (Taken in the museum)

Acropolis & Parthenon

Another view of Athens

Strolling leisurely on the street of Athens.
It is quite a nice city to live in.

Grafitti as an Art

Grafitti as a pain in the Ass.

One of the ancient cemeteries in the middle of the city.

One of the nicest things about backpacking is meeting friends from all over the world.