Monumental Athens

“Athens, ere we part,

Give, oh give me back my heart!”

– Lord Byron

A day in Athens, that’s all we had. A mistake. A mistake in planning. A mistake in listening to others; “Athens is dirty, it’s crowded, it’s polluted, it’s….” Geez, so is New York City, but do you think you could possibly see it in a day? A day wasn’t nearly enough. It was a fantastic day, but I want to, need to, plan to go back…there’s just soooo much to take in…

Sure, if you can breeze through the Acropolis and Agora and Plaka in a few hours, (not to mention everything else there is to see here) good for you. But not me. Seeing and walking through the Acropolis was almost surreal…the glory of ancient Greece was personified here. Mythic battles against the Centaurs and Amazons play out on friezes while over the centuries, Greece battled against the Persians, the Romans, the Turks…

A 40-foot statue of Athena, the city’s patron goddess, stood in the Parthenon where she reigned and protIMG_2783ected her domain. What a glorious site she must have been embellished in gold and ivory. The likes of Socrates, Plato, Pericles and so many of the greatest philosophers and thinkers walked here, Pomp and ceremony, struggles and drama, myth and legend, greatness and defeat, epic battles, astounding art and literature…thousands of years of history…it must have been something to behold…it still is.

Sitting in heart of Athens, it is difficult to envision the size and scope of the entire Acropolis and the surrounding area until you get there. It’s so iconic, so familiar that even when you are really there,  it’s hard to believe. (Similar flashes of disbelief can happen at the first sighting of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of David, the Colosseum…they are just so much more than the images we’re used to.)

Surprisingly there was no audio tour of the Acropolis or Agora. There are plenty of guides for hire, but we opted to listen to a podcast guide we brought with us (which was okay but could be confusing). Next time, I will have my little book with overlays and a site map. And next time I will get there earlier before the crowds and midday heat take their toll.

The Acropolis…IMG_2782

All that said, since we only had a day, we made the most of it. We poured over the Acropolis, gaping and gawking in a sense of pure amazement. Only in photos where there is scaffolding (restoration work is ongoing) or someone standing nearby, do you truly get a sense of the size and scope.  Impressive, mind-boggling…

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” 

– Pericles

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The Agora and a Reluctant Good Bye…

The Agora surrounded the Acropolis and was where the shops and daily activities and social life centered. Today one of porticos, the Stoa of Attalos, has been rebuilt by archaeologists and houses the Agora Museum. Its symmetry and simplicity are testimony to the Greeks love of beauty. As you stroll in the shade of this elegant edifice you are welcomed by stunning statues of goddesses and warriors of the past.

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At the exit we are across the way from the Plaka. We have just enough time to refresh with some dolmas and a cold Greek beer. Walking through the Plaka is a delight! Tempting local shops and cafe bars line the narrow streets.  We have just enough time to feel teased. Our evening will end watching the sun set upon the Acropolis…also a must. And a vow, to return…

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