The Hills, Bombardier Saint, Prison, Theater, An Unusual Museum, and a Well-deserved Ouzo

Continuing from the previous post, when I had just reached the other end of the pedestrian street I was walking on, from where I could either go to the Philopappos Hill (Hills of Muses, Pnyx, Nymphs) or towards the Acropolis. I am actually wondering now how did I end up there – was that street parallel to the street leading to the Philopappos Hill? Must be so because otherwise I cannot explain it. During the walking tour on the first day, we were both that pedestrian street and the Philopappos Hill but I cannot recall where we took the detour that day.

Once there, I was torn between going towards the Acropolis which was gleaming in the Sun and towards the Hill. Why did I want to go back to the hill? I wanted to see this church that I had seen during the walk but hadn’t gone in to see how it looks from inside. The church of “Bombardier” Saint Demetrios. Cool – a bombardier saint – huh!

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Church of Agio Demetrios Loubardiaris

So the story goes that sometime during the Ottoman rule of Athens in the 1600’s, on 25th of October – St. Demetrios day, a Turk officer thought of destroying the church by firing a cannon from his post at the Acropolis. But surprise surprise, before the cannon could be fired, a thunderstorm broke out and the cannon exploded at the Acropolis itself and destroyed the artillery and probably the officer too and the church and the worshippers were saved! Since then, as would be the natural consequence, the church got the nickname of “Loubardiaris” – Bombardier. (Unfortunately parts of Acropolis also got destroyed in that explosion but that’s not the point here). As my luck had been that day – this church was also closed when I reached there – so I couldn’t see it from inside.

But you know, I found another cool place close to this church – the place famous today as the Prison of Socrates. There are other caves around with the same claim but I saw the board with the name at this place. If you don’t know the story of Socrates, here it is. Socrates’ philosophical ideas didn’t sit well with some of the influential people of Athens. So they put him on trial for misleading the youth of Athens and sentenced him to death. This cave is believed to be where he was imprisoned.

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Prison of Socrates

Later when I was strolling in the shopping area and chatted up with one shopkeeper, we concluded that we have come 180 degrees from the times of Socrates. Why? Well, in Socrates’ time, 399 BC, it seems it was not right to execute someone but committing suicide was fine (Socrates had to consume poison – carry out the sentence himself). And today – executing someone is fine but trying to commit suicide is punishable by law! Sounds so ironic. Also interesting is the fact that even after more than 2000 years, you can get killed for having a different philosophy than that of others around you, however logical your philosophy might be!

Then I returned back towards that junction that I mentioned earlier. This time, it was to move on towards the Acropolis. What I was looking for, was the Theater of Dionysus, presumably world’s first theater, built in the 5th century BC, with a capacity to hold 17000 people! I had glimpsed it while I was on the Acropolis a few days ago, and clicking pictures of the sights down from there. But on this day when I was searching for it, I just couldn’t find it. Google maps was making me go in circles. I rather reached the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and may be because I was tired, one part of my brain convinced the other curious part, that the same place must be having two names! I assumed that the place I had photographed from the Acropolis, was some other site! Anyway, so this Odeon was built in 161 AD and had a capacity to seat 5000 people. The Odeon has seen concerts from a lot of celebrities since after the renovation of 1950’s, most notably Yanni due to which people still call it Yanni’s theater! Interesting to note is that in India, in the city I grew up, there used to be a cinema hall with the name of Odeon. I didn’t know back then that the word had Greek origin and one day I would be seeing a real Odeon!

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Odeon of Herodes Atticus
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Inside the Odeon as the Sun is receding

After sitting there for a bit and imagining the concerts that would have enthralled the audience in the old days and the new, and getting a bit sad that I had to leave this lovely city the next day, I gave out a sigh and decided to move on and make the most of the last day of my trip there. I went in search of Anafiotika – a neighborhood on the foot of the Acropolis, that has houses like those on a Greek island, in the middle of the city! It was setup by the people who had come to Athens from Anafi, an island, hence the name Anafiotika, “little Anafi”. I had tried to find that on another day too but didn’t find the whitewashed houses that I’d seen in the photos. This time, I looked at the maps and decided to follow the path to Anafiotika cafe, assuming that would definitely lead me to the right place. I was taken through the same staircases as the previous time (google maps) and so once again, no sign of those whitewashed houses. I believe I was close by but may be like in the Harry Potter world, the houses had a charm on them that made them invisible to me! It was still nice to see the cafes on the staircases doing brisk business, with patrons enjoying the outdoors while it is still comfortable to stay out (although I guess in Athens, there would never be a time when people won’t be sitting outside!).

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Cafe in probably Anafiotika neighborhood

And while I was making my way down from there, I found a red train make its way on the street! It had lots of kids inside, probably a school picnic. Some kids waved at me, so I waved back. Some naughty ones in the last car made faces at me, so I….no, I didn’t make faces back at them.

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A train coming out on the street!

Then as I made my way down, I looked at the maps again and found that I was close to one place I had heard about the previous day during the boat tour from co-travelers. So I made my way to that but in between something else caught my eye. It was a museum but not just any museum. It was the Museum of School Life and Education! Ever heard of something like that? I hadn’t. I went into the door briefly, found a courtyard, took a few pictures and came out. But then the curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go inside and find out more. It was around 4:45 PM and it was to be open until 6:00. So I bought the ticket and proceeded to learn more about the school life and education in Greece from the 17th century onward. I think I’ll write another post to detail that out, to do justice to it, just like I have to write a complete post about the Acropolis, about the Laiki Agora (farmer’s market), about another museum, about so many things!

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A model classroom in the museum

Once done from there, I was quite nostalgic – about my own school days when there used to be chalk and duster in the classrooms and even though I liked school, the sound of the  bell signaling the end of the class was always welcome!

Then I moved on to the place which I was on my way for 40 minutes earlier – a pub called Brettos. It is the oldest or one of the oldest distilleries in Athens. It’s there since 1909! Today the distillery has moved away from here but still, they make their own liqueurs. The colorful bottles on the walls gave it a different charm. It was just nice to be there and to slowly enjoy an ouzo.

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Brettos

After that I spent a lot of time in shopping nearby (only small things that I could take with me in the hand luggage although I wanted to buy soooooooooo many things!) and then decided to call it a day. What did I have for dinner? Ah yes, it was vegetable rice noodles with Satay sauce from a wok place on the way. Last time I was there, it was packed as if things were being given for free! This evening it was much better. I ordered, received my takeaway within minutes and I was on my way. For one last time in the trip, I boarded the bus which I had taken back to the apartment a couple of times in the previous days. And then once back, I enjoyed my dinner with my feet up and watching some television (English channels!). The packing could wait..

“One thing I know is that I know nothing.” – Socrates

 

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