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Athens - Day 3 - Acropolis and The Ancient Stuff

GREECE | Sunday, 22 July 2012 | Views [1414]

It's a Saturday today and it's only now occurred to me that my plan to do the Acropolis on a weekend was a huge mistake. So I'm resolved to get up as early as possible to get to the Acropolis for the 8am opening time. Imagine my happiness when I get to the entrance of the site to find less than 10 people in the queue for tickets. I opt for the ticket that gets me into all the major archaeological sites in Athens. The closest thing Athens has to a tourist pass and gets me into the Acropolis site, Ancient Agora and Thission, The Theatre of Dionysos, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Temple of Zeus. I'm so chuffed with myself, I take a leisurely walk through the Theatre of Dionysius before heading up the hill to the Acropolis.

Then my heart sink as I see the horde of tourists already at the summit. What the deuce, is there some other entrance? Where the heck did all these people come from? Nothing for it but to join the horde.

Built, destroyed, rebuilt, You just can't keep a good Acropolis down. Built in honour of Athena, the goddess of the city. The Persians burnt it in an act of sheer vandalism during the second Greco-Persian war. The great Athenian statesman, Pericles had it rebuilt after the Greeks were victorious. During the Ottoman occupation, the Parthenon was used as gunpowder storage. In 1687, the Venetians laid siege and the gunpowder were hit by an artillery shell causing a big kablooie. The Acropolis Museums prefers to emphasise that the greatest damage was done when Lord Elgin took the marbles, now kept in the British Museum. Politics aside, it's clear that there's a lot of damage done by the passage of tim, giving the site the look of a perennial construction site to go with the perennial restoration work. None of this detracts from the sheer beauty of this mini city. Beginning from the walk through the entrance, the Propylaea, seeing the massive stone columns as you pass. The Temple of Athena straight ahead and the Parthenon to the left are the most impressive buildings:

3 hours of exploring and admiring the views later and I head down to the Ancient Agora, a 15 minute sign-posted walk to the northwest. The Ancient Agora of Athens is probably the most famous agora in Greece and certainly the best preserved/restored of it's kind. In the 6th century BC, the agora was used as the administrative centre of the Athenian government. The area occupied by the agora is huge and gives an idea of the greatness of the Athenian civilisation. Whatever you see here, do not miss the Temple of Hephaestus and the Stoa of Attalus which contains a museum of artefacts from the agora.

From the Agora, it's a walk back to the Acropolis for the New Acropolis Museum. The museum itself is very new, very modern and focused on the artefacts from the Acropolis. Possibly too many museums over the last two days, but I'm underwhelmed by the displays. Having already seen much of the same things in the National Archaeological and Benaki Museums.

There is an impressive area on the top floor of the museum housing the surviving pieces of pediments and reliefs of the Parthenon. All laid out in a huge area to replicate the positions as if they sat upon the Parthenon. I look guiltily at the empty spaces left for the pieces held in the British Museum. The pieces sitting there, forlornly awaiting the return of their brothers and sisters.

It's well past 2pm now and I still haven't had lunch. Luckily, the Acropolis area is about as touristy as it can get with plenty of food shops to choose from. Finished with the museum, I walked down towards one such shop on the way to the Temple of Zeus when I'm stopped by some guy asking for help to take a photo.

A couple of photos later, we start talking. He's just arrived from Italy (oddly doesn't even have an Italian accent) and we exchange the usual pleasantries about Greece and Athens. Then finally he gets to the point, inviting me a really good music bar he knows (erm, didn't you say you just arrived yesterday???). I'm not really annoyed by these scammers anymore, having experienced my fair share. It's the sheer lack of sophistication that annoys me. In any case, I just keep giving him the polite no while having to justify myself.

There's not much to say about the Temple of Zeus. Much of the feelings of amazement have already been spent on Agora and Acropolis today. Especially as there's not much left except for some standing columns that would have formed the shell of the temple. I can't resist the Zeus pose:

The Acropolis is also visible from the Temple of Zeus:

It doesn't take long here, so it's back on to the underground to go see Hadrian's library, close to Monastiraki metro station. Again, the site is mostly a shell:

Tags: acropolis, agora, athens, greece, hadrians library, museums, scams, temple of zeus, unesco

 

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