Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation
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Day 22: Athens, Greece
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Day 22: Athens, Greece
Day 23: Athens, Greece
Day 24: Cruise Begins
Day 25: Cruise at Sea
Day 26: Varna, Bulagaria
Day 27: Odessa, Ukraine
Day 28: Constanta, Romania




Best Western Pythagorion Hotel


Mostly sunny with a high of 24°C

Day 22: Tuesday, September 26, 2006     Athens, Greece

Three Seats is a Good Thing

We slept in today until checkout time because our flight didn't leave until 5:00 pm. We put our luggage into storage and went back to our coffee shop at Checkpoint Charlie for breakfast.  We came back to the hotel and wandered around the neighbourhood and came across the Gendarmenmarkt The harmonious Gendarmenmarkt is known as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It was created at the end of the 17th century as a market place, the Linden Markt. The current name is derived from the Regiment Gens d'Armes who had their stables here from 1736 to 1773.  It is now a quiet place surrounded by three landmark buildings, the Französischer Dom, Deutscher Dom and the Konzerthaus. In the center of the square is a statue of Friedrich Schiller, a famous German poet.

The Konzerthaus or Concert Hall is the most recent building on the Gendarmenmarkt. It was built in 1821 as the Schauspielhaus by Berlin's famous architect Karl-Friedrich Schinkel. The Konzerthaus was built on the ruins of the National Theater, which was destroyed by fire in 1817. Schinkel reused the columns and some outside walls from this 1802 building. Like the other buildings on the Gendarmenmarkt, the Konzerthaus was badly damaged during the second World War. The reconstruction, which was finished in 1984, turned the theater into a concert hall. It is now home to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Kathryn in front of the Concert Hall

he Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom are two seemingly identical churches opposite each other. The oldest of the two is the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral). It was built between 1701 and 1705 by the Huguenot community. Persecuted in France, they sought refuge in Protestant Berlin. The church was modeled after the Huguenot church in Charenton, destroyed in 1688. In 1785 the tower and porticos, designed by Carl von Gontard, were added to the building. It actually turned the church into a twin sister of the Deutscher Dom. The Französischer Dom contains a Huguenot museum, a restaurant on the top floor and a viewing platform.

The French Cathedral

The Deutscher Dom or German Cathedral is the most southern building at the Gendarmenmarkt. The pentagonal structure was designed by Martin Grünberg and built in 1708 by Giovanni Simonetti and modified in 1785 after a design by Carl von Gontard, who added the domed tower. The Deutscher Dom was completely destroyed by fire in 1945. It wasn't rebuilt until 1993 and reopened in 1996 as a museum with exhibits on German history.  We had lunch on the tables in the plaza.

Gendarmen plaza showing the Concert Hall and the French Cathedral

The German Cathedral

We had a cab scheduled for 2:45 pm - Kathryn is a little anal about being late - but it arrived at 2:30 pm.   We headed southeast past the huge Treptow Park and passed through several poorer neighbourhoods.  There was tons of graffiti everywhere, then we would pass through gentrified neighbourhoods and there would be none.  We reached
Schoenfeld Airport at about 3:15 pm and had an hour and a half to kill.  Kathryn had found us a flight to Athens on Easy Jet.  The flight was really cheap but they have more strict regulations on baggage weight.  Kathryn knew before we left that our bags (two large ones plus a carry-on each) would be full.  She thought it would be cheaper to buy a third

Leipziger Strasse in front of our hotel.  The left side is an old East Berlin building while the right side is modern

ticket than to pay the pricey overweight tariff. Easy Jet flies all over Europe and has scores of daily flights.  There was a huge board listing about twenty flights with their departure times.  They would not even let us check in until our flight had a green light beside it.  We waited over 30 minutes for our flight to show up on the board and then another 20 minutes for it to be green-lighted.  When we checked in, Kathryn told them that we booked the third flight because I had had knee surgery and needed the extra room.  They must have felt sorry for us because, even though we were both over the weight limit, they did not charge us.  They also stamped our boarding passes with "Board assistance required".  When we finally got to the boarding area, we were moved to the front of a long line into a special area and, with Ken faking a limp, we were allowed to board the plane first.  It was a small plane with 3 seats on one side of the aisle and two on the other, so we had lots of space with an empty space in between us.

With a three hour flight and an hour time change, we arrived in Athens just after 9:00 pm.  Because Greece is a member of the European Union, we did not have to clear Customs and just walked off the plane and retrieved our luggage.  Athens International Airport is located 33km southeast of Athens and the cab fare was supposed to be 36€.  It took us almost an hour to get there and the cabbie charged us 50€ (he complained that he had to pay the toll fees but we found out later that there should have been included in the price).  We were supposed to have a street view room at the Best Western Pythagorion Hotel but because we were so late arriving, it was given to someone else and we got a small room facing the alley.  This turned out to be a good thing when we heard the traffic noise the next day from one of our friends room.  We had to catch another small elevator up to our room.  We tried to find a Greek meal to eat around the hotel but all the restaurants were closed.  We settled on panini sandwiches which we ate at an outdoor cafe.  We came back to the hotel and off to bed.

We did not take any other photos on this day.

Day 23

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