I spent 11 years in a school for fatherless boys in Philadelphia called Girard College. Founder’s Hall, the main building at Girard, is a full-sized copy of the famed Parthenon in Athens. Many times when I roamed through the massive structure at Girard, I wondered what visiting the ancient Greek original would be like.
Recently, more than 60 years after I last roamed those halls, I finally got my wish on a trip to Greece. I had a chance to experience the Parthenon atop Acropolis Hill, along with other nearby classic sites in Athens. Here are my top five historic sites to visit in Athens, Greece:
When I visited, the Parthenon was being restored, and there were all kinds of metal cranes and scaffolding around it. However, despite the modern equipment, the Parthenon was still the world’s most impressive example of ancient Greek architecture.
The guide told me the restoration would take another five years. He also said the Greek government is requesting the return of many statues and original parts taken in past centuries that are now in museums around the world.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Although much is in ruins, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was the largest of all Greek temples. Work began five centuries before the Christian era and wasn’t completed for another five centuries. Peering up at it and imagining that all 104 of its 56-foot high marble columns were standing instead of only the remaining 20, I could imagine its enormity.
The National Gardens of Athens
The National Gardens were once the private property of Greek royalty. Now, it’s a beautiful public park with well-kept lawns, hiking and biking paths, kids’ playground, placid ponds, and zoo. It’s near the Parliament, the Tomb of the Unknown Greek Soldier, and the Panathenaic Stadium and makes for a great place to escape the tourist crowds.
While there, I bought fresh souvlaki wrapped in pita and a cup of strong coffee from a street vendor. From another cart, I had pastel, a dessert of sesame seeds and honey. They cost about $3, and I enjoyed them on a bench near the zoo (Attica Zoological Park – also a great place to visit).
Philopappou Hill and Hill of the Pnyx
I climbed to the top of this historic area to get a 360-degree look over the city. This is where Aristides, Demosthenes, Pericles, and Themistocles spoke to the citizens 16 centuries ago. A guide said if you listen very closely, you can hear echoes of those famous orators as they impart their wisdom of the ancient world.
The Panathenaic Stadium is where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. The impressive marble stadium is on the grounds where an ancient Roman colosseum once featured chariot races and gladiators.
You can follow travel writer Ted Sherman on Twitter @travel4seniors and check out his blog travel4seniors.com.
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