Monday, February 23, 2015

Grecian Beauty

For President's Day weekend, my friend Natalie and I traveled to Athens, where I had a mini-A-100 reunion with my friend Manish.  I have to say one of my favorite things about Frankfurt is the number of cheap options for last minute travel.  Using the Google flights website, I can search for flights on a specific weekend with the destination variable and see dozens of options.  There are almost always several flights under $300 available.  Just looking for this weekend, I could fly anywhere from Lisbon to Kyiv from Tunis to Oslo.  I am really going to miss the last-minute travel options.

Anyway, back in Athens last weekend.  We landed late on Friday and headed to see the Acropolis Saturday morning.  I've always struggled with viewing ancient ruins - the ruins on their own don't inspire me the way more modern buildings can.  Too much has been lost to time.  Maybe I simply don't have the imagination to see the lost beauty through the visible bones.  And on its own, the Acropolis and the Parthenon fall into this same camp.  The building is huge and imposing, but for me its missing whatever made it magical for generations.
Still a fixer-upper if you ask me.

Yet the building still impresses for one magnificent reason - location, location, location.  The hill of the Acropolis rises majestically above Athens and provides amazing views from and of the city below.  I see why the ancient Greeks built and worshiped there.  One could definitely feel closer to the gods atop the wind-whipped hill.

After a delicious lunch and walking around downtown a little, we headed south along the Aegean coast to a spit of land called Sounio.  The peninsula offers amazing views of the seas, the islands and a sunset to die for.
Natalie doing her best impression of a Grecian statue

Sunset over Sounio

Sun setting into the Aegean
Saturday night we went out for a late dinner (more delicious food) and then a drink on a rooftop bar with an amazing view of the Acropolis lit up at night.  That was impressive.  Sunday morning we slept in and went for a short run.  Then we set out for a day trip towards the ancient ruins of Delphi.  We didn't actually stop at the ruins (which was fine with me - see my feelings about ruins above), but we stopped at two nearby towns.  The first was a summertime seaside resort town where we had  seafood lunch and walked along the mostly deserted promenade.  Then we went back up into the very nearby mountains to a ski town, which was packed on a sunny but cold winter's day.  The views from this town were amazing.  We stopped for some hot chocolate and pastries in this cafe built into the side of the mountain.

The seaside town

The ruins of Delphi

Another beautify sunset in the mountains

I did not climb these steps
On Monday morning, Natalie and I headed back downtown to visit the Acropolis Museum.  This fantastic museum stores many of the statues and other relics found on the Acropolis site and does a fantastic job of recreating the scale and beauty of the Acropolis.  For others, I would recommend visiting the museum BEFORE going to the Acropolis as it helps give you a better idea of what you are looking at.  They do a great job or reconstructing from fragments to give you a picture of what the whole would have looked like. I have new found respect for archaeologists - they must be really good at puzzles.
The drawings definitely help envision the whole piece.

How archaeologists determined the position of this statue is fascinating

View of the Parthenon from some other ruins below

The original modern Olympic stadium.  Note the podiums.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Morocco in pictures

Last weekend, I traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco with four friends for a long weekend. Great trip and a fantastic weekend.  A few photos.

Food stalls at Jemma El Fnaa

Herb shop we visited - lots of spices and homeopathic products

Mini-tajines used for sauces and condiments

Tajine chicken - the ubiquitous dish of Morocco

First ever camel ride

Waterfall in Ourike Valley

This truck apparently forgot to set its parking break and went into the river the day before we were there.

Full moon in Marrakesh

This spa may want to change its name


Tanning factory

This graffiti was all over Marrakesh

There were cats everywhere

The Bidi Palace had dozens of rooms with beautiful mosaic tiles

Bidi palace

Bidi Palace - they used to be shorter.

The Bahia Palace once was the most beautiful palace in Africa.  Now, mostly in ruins.

Natalie practicing yoga poses in ancient ruins.  It's kind of her thing.

My best attempt

Rent-a-car in the main square

Jemma El Fna at sunset

Jemma el fna at sunset

Camel selfie

Lunch along the river valley

I hiked up to this same waterfall 9 years ago
9 years (and 50 lbs) ago

The whole valley is full of these restaurants along the riverbed.  This was one of the nicer ones.