Okay so here I am in Rome! Have been having a lovely time with Serena and her folks...absolutely loving the Italian food and hospitality. So I believe I was in Athens for my last post but I don't think I had written any details yet.
Well I slept in pretty late on my first day in Athens and so ventured out into the city far later than I had planned. It was all good though because the Acropolis was actually closed due to strikes over money for the continued restoration of the monuments. Stopped first at the Roman Agora to look around (not too much actually left now) and at the Tower of the Winds. I wandered around trying to follow a walking tour in my Lonely Planet but got lost and ended up who knows where but I had lovely views of the city so it wasn't all bad! I eventually found my way to the entrance to the Theatre of Dionysius and the Acropolis only to discover their closure for the day so I continued walking around and saw the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (a large theatre) and then up to Areopagus Hill. From here were amazing views of Athens and up to the Acropolis. I ambled from here down through the Ancient Agora, stopping to look at the stunning statues in the Stoa of Attalos and at the Temple of Hephaistos - which is amazing but doesn't quite compare to what I've seen in Egypt! It was really interesting comparing the architecture and statues in Greece to what I've already seen in the Middle East. Got lost again trying to find the Temple of Olympeien Zeus and found myself back in Plaka so I walked through Monastiraki Flea Market (disappointing actually as it was really just a parade of expensive touristy shops - not really markety at all) and then back to the hotel. Had a nap for a couple of hours (I think the last 4 weeks of full-on travel has caught up with me) and called Mel to organise meeting her for dinner. Went to a local place with Mel and Hugh for a souvlaki dinner - interesting flavour but quite tasty - and had a pretty early night.
Slept in AGAIN...so not conducive to good sight-seeing. Walked over to Syntagma Square and Parliament, just missing the changing of the guards, and through the National Gardens to the Temple of Olympeien Zeus. Massive pillars (only 15 still standing out of dozens) and one collapsed one lying on the ground. Amazing as instead of being built from one stone they were made of loads of discs piled on top of each other so when they fell they splayed out like dominoes. Next was Hadrian's Arch which was beautiful and if you stand at a particular point you can see the Parthenon through the doorway! Checked at the base of the Acropolis if it was open and yes - YAY! Walked up the south slope to see various ruins including the Theatre of Dionysius and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from above and then up, up, up to the Acropolis. On the right is the Temple of Athena Nike (which I imagine is really beautiful but it is covered in plastic and scaffolding which detracts from the beauty but is necessary for preservation reasons) and through the Propylaia, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis. My first proper viewing of the Parthenon was amazing! It's massive and beautiful and some of the carvings are so intricate. Wandered around there for a while taking in the view (tried unsuccessfully to spot my hotel) as well as the Erechtheion before heading back down to the base. My next quest was to climb Filopappou Hill (which I did after getting lost on the myriad of pathways) to see the monument and view the Acropolis. Back down again and over to the Hill of the Pnyx and the old observatory. From here I had planned to follow a simple road to Keramikos (ancient cemetary) but once again I got hopelessly lost and ended up so far in the wrong direction I had to back-track for almost an hour! Eventually made it and had a good look around, particularly in the little attached museum which is excellent. Next on the agenda was a quick look in Hadrian's Library before climbing Lykavittos Hill to watch the sunset. Well...I made it to Hadrian's Library and then what did I do? That's right, got lost! Had no idea where I was and the sun had almost set so I gave up on the hill and went shopping instead. Fell asleep early as I had to wake up bright and early to get to the airport in time for my flight to Rome.
Woke at 4.30am to pack, shower and reach the metro station in time for the 6am train to the airport. Arrived before 7am only to discover my 9am flight had been cancelled and I was rebooked on the 5.30pm flight! Long boring day at the airport - read a book, quite good actually - and eventually made it to Rome at 6.30pm. Was met by Serena, Jeff and Serena's dad Giuseppe and we drove through pretty heavy traffic to Serena's place. Lovely sausages for dinner and then to bed.
Slept in the following morning, had a leisurely pasta lunch and then did a bit of shopping with Serena and her friend. Dinner of home-made lasagne (YUM!) and then we went salsa dancing with Serena, Jeff, Adelaide and Fibrizio which was loads of fun. Came home about 2.30am and then off to sleep.
Slept in a little (seems to be lots of that this week) and then off to do some sight-seeing. Caught the bus then subway to the Vatican. Went in extremely quickly (no lines at all) and then worked our way through the Vatican museums. All had such beautiful things in them...in particular sculptures and paintings. Interestingly enough there is even an Egyptian museum! Eventually made it to the Sistine Chapel (an infuriatingly long way away from the entrance) and it was literally mind-blowing! You really just want to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours. Absolutely stunning. We completed our walk through the Vatican and then around to St Peter's Basilica. Again just stunning! The outside of the building is amazing but the inside is phenomenal. Massive statues, paintings, carvings...there is something incredible in whatever direction you look! We wandered around in there for a while and then decided to venture up to the Dome. A tough climb (although it was nothing compared to Mt Sinai) but definitely worth it to see the views from the top. Harrowing climb back down and then a walk through the tombs underneath - beautiful. Next we looked through Castel Sant'Angelo which was lovely. Strange exhibitions throughout the castle though which I think detracted from the architectural magnificence of the place. Back home for a pizza dinner and then bed.
Woke up pretty early but didn't get going until late again... Caught the bus then subway into the central district to have a look around. Went first to Trevi Fountain which is just beautiful. Threw in my coin to ensure that one day I will return to Rome and then took loooads of photos - there's just so much going on in the fountain you can't fit it all in in one photo! We went into this lovely church right next to the fountain - all the churches here are just incredible, the detailing and beautiful frescoes on the walls, wow! We headed next to the Pantheon which is also amazing. The outside is very similar to the Parthenon with the columns and pointed top etc. but the inside is fantastic. The roof is open and apparently they can't close it which causes all sorts of problems when it rains. Once again there were statues, paintings and altars all around as well as the Tomb of Raphael and the Tomb of Victor Emanuel II. Down to Piazza Navona next which was actually my favourite spot of the day, not because of the historical significance or anythig but there was a Christmas carnival going on which was so fantastic. As everyone knows I love carnivals so I wandered around in there for a while and also got some fairyfloss!!! The fountain in the Piazza was stunning - there are four figures around the outside which represent the four major rivers of the four known continents at the time of building - Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plata. A lot of the statues have Egyptian obelisks at the top which is pretty cool, with the heiroglyphics and everything. Also had a look at the fountain at one end of the Piazza which is of Neptune slaying a sea monster, also incredibly detailed and magnificent. Back through the Piazza, past the Pantheon, taking in all the different characters dressed up along the footpath (you know the ones that are painted etc and when you put money in their tin they come to life). One of them was this drunk guy with a bottle collapsed on the rubbish bin (painted the same silver) and when you dropped in a coin he staggered around a bit slurring etc., it was hilarious. All the way down past a few more monuments and churches to the Spanish Steps. Ridiculously crowded but cool to have a look at. We walked to the top, took some photos and when in the Chiesa Della Trinita Dei Monti church which was again, unsurprisingly, beautiful, or bella as we say here in Rome :) Back home then and pizza for dinner (yum - very different to Australian pizza, there is much fewer toppings but it is just delicious!) and then to bed as big day tomorrow.
Going to the Colosseum and Palantino on tomorrow and hopefully the Roman catacombs on Monday before sadly beginning my journey home on Tuesday. Will hopefully have a chance to update before I leave but if not Buon Natale everyone! (Merry Christmas!) xxx