For my final adventure in Greece (I was leaving a day earlier than everyone else), Haley and I took an afternoon trip to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon. It was an experience navigating the Greek bus system, but we managed to get on the right vehicle and had exactly the correct change to buy two tickets. We did have to switch buses halfway through, which was confusing until someone yelled in English that if we wanted Cape Sounion we needed to get off. We got there in the end, however, and the bus journey along the coast was absolutely stunning.
Because everyone on the bus immediately went straight to the temple, we decided to check out the cliffs nearby first to avoid the crowds. Everything was in bloom, creating a nice contrast against the sandy rock.
According to Greek mythology, Cape Sounion is the spot where Aegeus, King of Athens, had leapt to his death off a cliff, giving his name to the Aegean Sea. The myth goes that Aegus, anxiously looking out from the Cape, despaired when he saw the black sail on his son Theseus’s ship as it returned from Crete. Theseus had gone off to kill and Minotaur and he had agreed with his father that if he survived the contest, he would hoist a white sail on his return. Unfortunately, Theseus forgot this message and returned without changing the sail leading Aegus to believe him dead and commit suicide. From the Cape you could see various islands off the coast and ships crossing in between. There were also a few storms out in the ocean creating beautiful clouds.
After climbing down the cliffs, we headed to a local beach. Following the instructions of the cashier from the souvenir shop, we ended up walking a tiny trail between bushes and going through a gate before reaching the sand. There was a small dock that you could walk on and we both took the chance to touch the water which was incredibly clear. As it wasn’t quite tourist season, we were the only ones around.
We then decided to head to the Temple, figuring that most of the people had left by now. The Temple was constructed in 444-440 BC and was a venue where mariners could appease Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, by making animal sacrifices or leaving gifts. Surrounding the Temple was a walled defense, including multiple towers, and a small marina.
The site is structured with walking trails all around the base and all leading up to the Temple. We took time to explore, learning more about the structure of the complex.
Only 13 of the original 34 columns of the Temple survive today, but it still makes for a great sight. Unfortunately you cannot walk into the actual temple, but you can still get moderately close to it, especially on the ocean side.
Graffiti, in the form of names scratched into the marble, is a big problem, which is part of why the site is roped off. According to legend, the Romantic poet Lord Byron began this fad when he inscribed his name into one of the Temple’s columns.
Our plans were originally to stay for sunset, however as the last bus back to Athens was right before, we missed this chance. Luckily we had a straight ride back and used the two-hour drive to sleep. As we were dropped off in Syntagma Square, we just chose a restaurant in the area to get a late dinner before heading back to the Airbnb and meeting up with the rest of group.
The following morning, in the pouring rain, Haley went off to take a cruise of three Greek islands while the rest of us watched Harry Potter before I took off to the airport to catch my evening flight to Cyprus where I spent my second week of Spring Break with my father.