A business trip to attend a conference in Athens… fantastic! The organisers of this conference chose the location wisely:
- I’m guessing it must have been quite cheap to organise it, considering sorry state of the Greek economy
- Athens is sort of halfway between Western Europe and Saudi Arabia, from where most attendees were coming
- Athens being a cradle of European culture!
One afternoon, after a day full of slides and discussions, there was an organised sightseeing trip. We were bussed around the city for 2 hours and had a terrific opportunity to see many famous landmarks. I had heard of many of them in the past and was excited to see with my own eyes. For instance, the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, or the magnificent marble Olympic stadium Kalimarmaro where the first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896. We also took a walk around the Acropolis and enjoyed a panorama of Athens from the Areopagus Hill. From there, allegedly, St Paul the Apostle preached his sermon to the Athenians.
On the second day’s afternoon, I managed to find 2 hours to visit Athens’ first and foremost attraction: The Acropolis with its magnificent temple dedicated to goddess Athena, the Parthenon. I was awestruck and impressed having realised that the Parthenon had stood there pretty much intact for over 2100 years, i.e. since 438 BC until 1687. During that time, it resisted earthquakes and other elements. In 1687 it was severely damaged by Venetian bombardment of the Ottoman ammunition dump held inside the temple. Despite the damage and passage of time, the monument is still impressive and beautiful!
Mingling with celebrities
Just after the visit to Acropolis A fantastic thing happened: I met Dean Karnazes, a famous ultrarunner, a sort of a celebrity in the ultrarunning world and the author of a bestseller ‘Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner’. This was one of the first running books I read a few years ago. I loved it, I loved his story and I must say this book has been an important inspiration that got me running ultra-long distances. The ultrarunning community perceives Dean as more of a showman rather than top athlete, but this doesn’t change the fact that he has done a fantastic job popularising ultrarunning. I had a brief chat with him and I think that privately he is a super nice guy. When I told him that I also run ultras, he immediately asked me, why I am not running at the moment?. He made a good point!
On the third and last day, bearing Dean’s words in mind, I woke up early and went for a short run to the nearby Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in Athens. The run was supposed to be short, due to the just recently completed 102-mile journey at the Cotswold Way Century. With a mix of jogging and walking uphill, after 20 minutes I reached the top of the hill, from where I could relish the beautiful panorama of Athens and the Saronic Gulf, where in 480 BC, the momentous Battle of Salamis took place.
There are a few more places in and around Athens where I’d love to go for a run, such as the Filopappou Hill, or Mount Hymettus. These will have to wait for another time; however, I don’t expect to visit Athens for business in the foreseeable future again ?.
All the best,