On a warm, sunny morning in February fellow Travel Bloggers Greece members and I stood outside the giant marble columns of the temple of the Olympic Zeus in Zappeion, Athens. We listened as our tour guide, Ioanna, wove a tale about the city’s ancient beginnings.
“It was here,” Ioanna said, pointing to the rocky, chamomile-covered earth, “…where the first Greeks were born.”
This bit of mythology was new to me. Having lived in Greece for seven years, I’d visited Athens’ ruins several times but never with a tour guide or group. When Alternative Athens invited TBG members to join their Mythological Tour of Athens—a three-hour, guided walking tour of all city’s major sites—I welcomed the chance to learn more about the ancient sites that had become part of my life.
As the birthplace of the Greek people, Ioanna explained, the land where we stood had been sacred to the Ancients. It was here where, after great floods brought on by Zeus to destroy humanity, Deucalion and his wife (the only survivors) repopulated the Earth by throwing stones behind their backs. The rocks transformed into women and men who called themselves Ellines, people of light and rock.
As we left our starting point, we passed Hadrion’s Arch, and learned why the Greeks built it for a Roman Emperor.
Steps from the Acropolis we sat in the Ancient Theater of Dionysus, god of wine, ritual madness, and merry making. Joanna explained Dionysus’s birth and why his name means ‘born twice.’
As we approached the Parthenon, my breath quickened. The marble columns against the cornflower sky always look alight to me, as though they’re trying to touch the heavens. About the ruins, Johanna said, “The Ancient Greeks built a perfect temple for their perfect Goddess.” Their perfect goddess was Athena, Zeus’s daughter, whom the Athenians choose as their protector.
The tour’s end brought us outside the ancient City and into the Kerameikos cemetery, Hades’s realm where the Ancients buried their dead. We saw tombstones like this one:
It was here too where Joanna touched on the decline of Greece and spoke about what was most dear to the Athenians, their beloved democracy.
Why not discover Athens’s mythology yourself? The English-language tour costs 56 Euros per person and includes entrance to all the major sites along with commentary from a licensed tour guide. In my opinion, it’s a great way to learn about the city’s ancient past.
A few tips:
-wear comfortable, sturdy walking shoes (the rocks at the Acropolis are slippery!)
-bring a bottle of water
– wear hats and sunscreen, if it’s a sunny day
-bring your camera
-take a notepad—the stories are so interesting, it’s worth taking notes!
* TBG members were guests of Alternative Athens; all opinions are my own.