Saturday, January 22, 2011

Athens, Day 1: The Acropolis & museum

Dandelions growing in Acropolis ruins. How cool would it be to give someone dandelion jelly made from ones growing atop the Acropolis??

We were on a tour, starting at 8:45 a.m. (That was 1:45 a.m. our time.) The traffic and noise didn’t stop all night but we were too tired to care.
Affie was our tour guide and our first stop was the site of Athens’ first Olympics, held in 1896. We couldn’t go into the stadium and run around unless we paid a fee. Phooey.We passed places we made note to see later in the day. Affie told us Athens has a moratorium on building anything taller than 8 stories except for one building that was built in the 80s prior to this law. It’s a country of about 12 million and 5 million of those live in Athens. It is an enormously populated city.We passed Parliament where two guards are always on duty and change on the hour. Greek law requires all men to serve in the military for 9 months and the tallest ones are pegged for the guard positions. They must stand there absolutely still, except for a small moving break 30 minutes in, for one hour.We stopped to tour the New Museum of the Acropolis built in an all glass building, whose dimensions match that of the Acropolis. It is built over excavation sites of wealthy family home sites from the 5th century and a glass floor allows you to walk over and see into the excavation. I do think this was my favorite part.
Inside we saw many of the sculptures that had been part of the Acropolis as offerings to the goddess Athena. There were reproductions of what had been part of the Parthenon but were stolen or destroyed over time. I particularly liked the frieze above the Parthenon of all the gods and goddesses showing the evolution of the day – I wish I could have found a postcard that depicted this since we couldn’t take pictures.
At Affie’s recommendation, we watched a video about the Parthenon – how it was built, its evolution into different uses through the centuries, intentional destruction of its reliefs and columns. I usually don’t bother with these things and was glad I’d taken her advice to see it. This was a the only picture I could get from inside the museum, all because Ramon was a bad influence and did it first:Afterwards, we met as a tour group again to walk up to the Acropolis. This presented an incredible view of the city itself and how enormous it is. You could also see the sea from this vantage – I’d hoped to get some water from the Aegean Sea, but it was too far to go. We passed the Theater of Dionysus on the way up, which has been refurbished and upgraded to be used for modern concerns.It was impressive to stand next to the Parthenon – something you’ve studied and seen in pictures and now here you are.

Modifications are being made to keep it intact since an explosion of the columns on its west side in the 1600s caused the other columns to lose integrity.The marble was carved and hauled over from a nearby mountain and handles carved onto the marble itself were used to pull it up onto the Acropolis (meaning the highest point in Athens). Most of the handles were carved off but invasions caused workers to get these in place in a hurry and forego aesthetics.Now I forget the name of this particular structure but that there are five female statues holding it up. There were six but one is in the British Museum and they won't give it back - we quickly figured out this is an issue for the Greek people (and the Egyptians too, but more about that later). Seems the British Museum has a thing about hoarding ancient artifacts that belong to other countries. (Now watch me get all sorts of nasty comments from British Museum people once this hits Google's search engine.)

I'm always taking flower pics. Some people take cat pictures, I take the flowers. Ahem.

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