I’ve been fascinated with Greece since high school when my favourite English teacher brought photos of his visit to an ancient amphitheatre to class. When he explained how the incredible acoustics still worked, I knew I wanted to see it for myself. In university, I was lucky enough to take a classic Greek drama course as an elective, as well as two theatre electives that covered Greek tragedy and comedy.
I remained fascinated by the ancient Greeks’ emphasis on incorporating art and culture into every aspect of their lives.
So after a day of relaxing by the beach in Vouliagmeni, we decided to spend Sunday sightseeing in Athens.
We took the coastal tram from Glyfada, a short (7 euro) taxi ride from our hotel, right into the heart of Athens. The tram is not for the impatient as it takes about an hour. But at the cost of 1 euro per person, it’s an enjoyable trip and a cheap alternative to a 50 euro taxi ride.
The final tram stop puts you near Hadrian’s Arch; our first peek at ancient Greek architecture. As you look through the arch, you can see the Acropolis towering over the city.
We made our way up the pedestrian street to the base of the Acropolis, noting the strong police presence in the area. We trudged up the hill to the entrance and were greeted by this sign:
The new Acropolis Museum
Disappointed but undeterred, we headed back down the hill to the new Acropolis Museum which thankfully was open. This newly opened (in 2007) and stunningly designed museum sits above an on-going archaeological excavation.
The museum includes findings from the archaeological sites and original pieces of the architecture of the Acropolis. Many delicate features of the site, such as the sculptures from the Parthenon have been replaced with copies, the originals having been re-located to the museum for protection from the pollution that has been a constant problem for preservation works in Athens.
We ended our visit to the museum with coffee and a snack at the rooftop café where we had an excellent view of the Acropolis itself.
Visiting the Acropolis
We did eventually get to visit the Acropolis, when we returned to Athens, the following Tuesday. It was well worth the wait. In fact, visiting the museum before seeing the Acropolis gave us a better overview of the site and made our visit much more meaningful.
Even in the offseason, the Acropolis is crowded. There were bus tours, walking tours and groups of school children swarming the site when we arrived. But it was no less incredible walking in the footsteps of so much history.
But despite all of the history, one of the things I found the most fascinating was the use of modern technology in the restoration process. Marble was being cleaned with lasers, stones were being lifted with complicated cranes and pulley systems, and of course, every fragment was being catalogued electronically.
When we could tear our eyes away from the ruins, we were treated to an incredible 360degree view of the city of Athens. It was easy to see why the ancient Greeks built their temples here. The view was simply breathtaking.
Looking directly below the Acropolis, you can see more of the restoration and excavation works, laid out like a giant marble jigsaw puzzle.
As we descended the hillside I had one last mission to accomplish. I had to sit in an amphitheatre just as the ancient Greeks had. The details remaining in the theatre of Dionysus were amazing; from the checkerboard floor to the carved front row seats reserved for the gods.
Just beside the ancient theatre is the Herodes Atticus Odeum; a restored, modern version that still functions today. My only regret is not having the opportunity to watch one of the ancient tragedies performed on this stage.
But there is much more to Athens than the Acropolis. Visit our Greece page for more of the sights and tastes of this beautiful city and the surrounding area.
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