National Gardens, Panathenaic Stadium & the Olympieion!

Today we woke to sunny, clear skies and we enjoyed a walk through the National Gardens, which are a park in the middle of Athens that contain ancient ruins and a zoo! During the Ottoman Empire, Otto von Bismark’s wife Queen Sophia attempted to get a tree from every country in the world with the intention of setting up an arboretum. Because of this there was a lot of interesting foliage to look at. We were also able to see various animals such as peacocks, rabbits, ducks, and a special type of goat native to Crete known as the kri kri.

There were many creative uses for ruins from antiquity in the park. One thing we noticed was that the remnants of a Roman bath (columns and capitols) were now recycled into permanent park benches!

We continued our walk out of the gardens and stopped at a building called the Zappeion exhibition hall. This was built during the neoclassical period by german architects who copied the building after the previous classical style under Otto von Bismark. Today this area is populated on weekends by many Greeks who are in search for entertainment.

One of the highlights of the day was our visit to the Panathenaic Stadium, also known as the Marble Olympic stadium that was the host of the 1st modern Olympics in 1894. We were able to go on an auditory walking tour where we stopped at 12 various stations around the stadium to learn of our history, providing an abundance of information. Some of us also took a jog around the track and then enjoyed taking celebratory pictures on the podium.

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Finally we finished off our day with a visit to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. This was an Ionian greek temple that had several layers of columns surrounding the building before you actually entered the temple. The building was never completed and was left half done for around 800 years until it was completed during the Roman empire. While we were there we also saw the arch of Hadrian, that has an inscription on one side of the arch that faces the acropolis which says “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus”, and on the reverse, “This is the city of Hadrian”.

We ended the day all together with a dinner in a lovely restaurant called la Pasteria, where we enjoyed an Italian family-style meal and talked about our time in Athens while looking forward to our journey to Delphi tomorrow. As the greeks say, herete (goodbye)!

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