Robin's Adventures

Adventures in the Mediterranean and Middle East
Running through Ruins

Street of Facades

There are countless tombs in Petra. The more elaborate ones, such as the Royal Tombs, were for people who had more power or wealth. The Street of Facades contains a collection of tombs with impressive facades that were believed to be tombs of senior officials of the city.

There were also many caves nearby that were utilized by family members when visiting to pay their respects. The surrounding area is littered with smaller caves that provided tombs for people who were not in the upper or middle classes.

View from the Top

Behind the Royal Tombs is a long narrow steep path that leads to an overlook with wonderful views of many of the sites in Petra. It is a difficult trail and only part of it can be traversed using a mule.

There is a great view of the Treasury from above and of the amphitheater. In addition, the eagle eye view gives a whole new perspective to the Temple of Dushares, Colonnade Street, and the neighborhood of tombs and caves near the theater.

Back to Civilization

The time had come to hit the road again. We had a three and a half hour ride back to Amman where we would get very little sleep due to an early morning flight to Athens. As we looked out the window of our car and watched the sun slowly set across the desert, our thoughts were filled with the magnificence of Petra and the Nabataean people who lived there so very long ago.

An Athens Adventure

Athens, which is the capital and the largest city of Greece, is one of the world's oldest cities. The city was at various times part of the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire and there are layers of civilizations built one on top of the other.

The modern day city has its own unique style, but sprinkled throughout are a variety of ruins that provide a window into the city's rich heritage.

We wandered through the Plaka district and were delighted by the colorful shops and all of the activity going on around us. We saw ruins of the ancient agora, or gathering place, Hadrian's Library, the old Tzistarakis mosque, built by the Ottomans in 1759, and ever present on the hilltop looking down on the city we could see the ruins of the Parthenon.

Our lodgings in Athens was the Hotel Grande Bretagne.

The Acropolis Gateway and Theater

The Acropolis, which is an ancient citadel located on a hilltop above Athens, was built during a 50 year era of peace during the 5th century BC. Although its initial function was to provide the city with defense, many religious structures were also built on the site.

The first structure we saw, carved into the cliff face just below the entrance of the Acropolis, was the ruins of the Theater of Dionysus. Considered to be the world's first theater, this assembly hall, which could seat about 17,000 people, is thought to be the birthplace of Greek tragedy and it is said to have had excellent acoustics.

Next we passed through the Propylaea, a monumental gateway designed as an entrance portal that was used to screen access to the Acropolis. Entrance was denied to runaway slaves and to people who were not considered to be ritually clean.

The Acropolis Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike

The Parthenon, which is thought to be the most important surviving building from classical Greece, was built as a celebration of victory over Persian invaders. The building, which was completed in 438 BC, was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.

Over time the Parthenon has survived earthquakes, wars, looting, fire, and an explosion of gunpowder. Although the original building project took just less than a decade, restoration work has been going on for more than thirty years. Much of the artwork that adorned the building, however, is now in museums.

While the Parthenon is the largest structure at the Acropolis, the Temple dedicated to Athena Nike is the smallest. It was built during the Peloponnesian War in the hope that Athena would bring "Nike" or victory to Athens.

The Acropolis Erectheum Building

The Erectheum was a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. The building was believed to have been elaborately painted and decorated with bronze and colorful glass beads with detailed carvings around the windows and doors.

One noteworthy feature on the east side of the building is the Porch of Maidens which consists of six female sculptures that were used as supporting columns. Between 1800 and 1803, Lord Elgin of Scotland looted a great deal of the artwork from the Acropolis in order to decorate his Scottish mansion. He took one of the six maidens from the porch and legend has it that at night the remaining five could be heard wailing for their lost sister. Elgin later sold these treasures to the British Museum and Greece is still attempting to have the items returned.

The remaining five maidens were placed in the Acropolis Museum and the ones currently on the Erectheum are replicas.

Seen from the Acropolis

Athens is an old city that has many layers of civilization built one on top of the other. The view from the Acropolis provided a window through which we could see some of these layers.

There was a tall beautifully carved obelisk called Philopappos monument on the nearby Hill of Muses. The structure, which was built in 116, is a tomb built for a much beloved city magistrate named Philopappos. The surrounding area is now part of a nature preserve.

The Temple of Hephaestus, named for the patron god of metalworking, craftmanship and fire, was taken over by the Greek Orthodox Church in 700 and used by them until 1834.

The black domed National Observatory of Athens, which was founded in 1842, is the oldest research foundation in Greece.

Hadrian's Gate spanned an ancient road leading to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. The Temple ruins, which has unusually tall columns, was built over several centuries beginning in 174BC. It was one of the largest temples built in the ancient world.

The more modern parts of the city, with a very dense collection of structures, reveals an eclectic collection of old and new styles spread out as far as the eye can see.

The Acropolis Museum

The museum, which was completed in 2009, is a modern building which provides views, through plexiglass floors inside the museum and a raised cement walkway that leads up to the museum, of excavations going on beneath it. Floor to ceiling windows in the museum's galleries also provides views of the nearby Acropolis.

One exhibit that ticked our fancy was a model of the Acropolis made completely out of Legos.

More Acropolis Museum

The museum had on display a variety of artifacts and sculptures dating back to the Greek Bronze Age. There were also artifacts and sculptures from each of the Acropolis buildings, including the five maidens from the Erechtheum.

Most interesting to us, however, was the exhibit relating to the Parthenon. The rectangular core in the center of the gallery was the exact dimensions of the central part of the Parthenon and the friezes are mounted at eye level around the core in the order in which they originally appeared on the temple.

The 48 columns in the room are spaced exactly as they were in the Parthenon and create the effect of the building's colonnade. At each end of the hall are the marble artifacts from the pediments, also displayed at eye level. The floor to ceiling windows not only provide natural light, but also offer a view of the Parthenon that puts the museum artifacts in perspective. We were very impressed by all that we saw in this museum.