Pireaus, our first seaport in Athens

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By Luci Lizares

www.winners

Saturday, March 8, 2014


OUR first port of call was Piraeus, the central commercial port of Athens. Greece has always been one of my favorite countries to visit. Perhaps, the Greek isles are so enchanting with all the whitewash homes, and Athens, the capital, with its glorious history that gave birth to the wisest of men from Plato, Socrates and Aristotle who tutored Alexander the Great, makes it so captivating.

Athens is named after its patron goddess, Athena. According to Greek mythology, there was a legendary contest between Poseidon and Athena. The prize would be the honor of the city named after the victor. The challenge was producing a gift, which the people will judge to be the most fitting for their city.

A powerful strike on the ground with his trident, Poseidon created a spring, giving them water and symbolizing naval power. Athena gave an olive tree symbolizing peace and prosperity. The Athenians voted for the olive tree and named the city after Athena. Athenians consider the olive tree sacred.

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Athens flourished during the 5th century B.C. with her victory over the Persians. Today, the economic graph is in steady decline. During our running tour around the city, this was so evident. Many shops have closed. Buildings with “To Let” signs were visibly plentiful. But the Greeks are hopeful that the end of this depression will soon be over, and happy and profitable times will come.

However, there is no stopping the number of tourists pouring into the city and the islands. This should be my fourth visit to Athens but what is Athens without a visit to the Acropolis, which dominates the Athenian sky? The sacred hill is a testimony of the religion, the eternal symbol of democracy, education and inspiration of Ancient Greece.

Being in Acropolis is exhilarating. Here, I am walking the very grounds where the wisest giants of ancient times have walked before.

Acropolis is a rocky, steep climb. This fortress guarding temples of worship and royal palaces has a total area shy of 3 hectares. It was Pericles who transformed the rocky hill into a unique monument of the human spirit and of art. Indeed, Acropolis is the greatest icon of ancient Athens. The collection of classic ruins depicts not only the elegance but the engineering prowess of its glorious heritage.

Among the monuments, the Parthenon is the most exalted. It is dedicated to the goddess Athena, the protector of the Ancient City of Athens. The Parthenon celebrates her as a virgin goddess. Its Dorian architectural style has inspired and has been copied by many buildings worldwide. We see a lot of that inspiration even in our own city, Bacolod.

My personal favorite is the Erechtheion Temple, with its Porch of the Maidens. Built during the Golden Age, it is believed that the olive tree Athena offered to the Athenians is found here. The South portico of the temple is supported by six sculptures of maidens called caryatids. The originals are kept in the National Archeological Museum.

Another monument, the Propylaea, was meant to have the same scale as the Parthenon, however, the Peloponnesian War interrupted its construction. It has both Doric and Ionic columns typical of Attic architecture.

There is a story behind the Greek flag at the tip of Acropolis. Konstantinos Koukidis was the Greek Evrone on flag guard duty on April 27, 1941, the beginning of the Axis occupation of Greece during WW II.

When the first Germans climbed up the Acropolis, an officer ordered him to surrender, give up the Greek flag and raise the Nazi swastika flag in its place. Koukidis hauled down the flag, but, instead of handing it over, wrapped the flag around his body and jumped from the Acropolis rock to his death. A commemorative plaque marks this event.

Just opposite the entrance to the Acropolis is a huge white rock hill called Areopagus Hill. On top of the Areopagus Hill is where St. Paul gave his first sermon "on an unknown God". He also had his first Greek convert here, Dionysos the Areopagitei, who is now the patron saint of Athens.

The “not to be missed” tourist spot is of course the Panathenaic Stadium which hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The Panathenaic Stadium means the "beautifully marbled". Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, the Panathenaic is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble from Mount Pentelli. It is also one of the oldest in the world.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 08, 2014.

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