Today was all about the Acropolis! I got up and went (in the wrong direction of the Acropolis) to a bakery because I knew where it was! I got my pastry and made my (leisurely) way to the Acropolis Museum. Lots of tourist shops along the way.
I decided I would do the Acropolis Museum first, in the morning, to get a better sense of the history. I’ve been reading my Greece triposo app (one of the only things that works offline!), so I know a good bit about it, but I still thought it would be best to start there. It was really cool. Before you even go inside, underneath the entrance walkway is an archaeological site. It was ancient Athenian roads, etc. They have been preserved in situ, but are still being worked on. Apparently someday soon visitors will be able to walk down there as well.
The entrance to the actual museum starts with a slope, as the Acropolis was reached by slopes as well, called the “Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis.” Alongside the slope are glass cases with relics found on the slopes of the Acropolis. It was fascinating. Now, I’m not one to look at each little thing in minute detail, so mostly I looked at what was eye level. (Note to museum curators: the stuff on the bottom shelves would get more attention if the legend wasn’t placed up so high it is hidden by the second shelf. I’m not kneeling down to see what number 33 is. Unless it looks really interesting!) I saw a jug or ewer that was 3500 years old. Seriously. It was dated to 1500 BC. Are. You. Kidding Me?? 3500 years old? It had been in a few pieces, but they glued it together, better than ever! It’s craziness.
The first floor is called the “Archaic Gallery.” It had a lot of statues, busts, adornments, etc. Many of these things had been offerings to Athena that people brought to the Parthenon, hoping for good favor upon them. Again, this stuff is 2500 years old. But I read that a lot of it was so well-preserved because after one of the sacks (Athens was sacked so many times, I lost count), the Athenians came back and saw everything in the Acropolis in ruins. Because these were idols or idol-offerings, they wanted to preserve the religious nature of the objects, so they buried them in the walls (or something) of the rebuilt parts of the Parthenon. So imagine the archaeologists’ surprise in the 1800’s when they came upon the treasure trove of items from the 500’s BC so well-preserved. On some of them you could still see the color that they had been painted because it wasn’t subjected to the light and elements. Pretty amazing!
Then you go up to the third floor, which is called the “Parthenon Gallery” before finishing the first floor. The Parthenon Gallery was slightly confusing to me. My booklet says: “The relief sculptures of the Parthenon frieze depicting the Panathenaic procession are exhibited in continuous sequence along the perimeter.” But many of these looked like plaster casts. Not the real thing. And I thought, but wouldn’t the entire frieze still be up on the Parthenon? This area also has the metopes, or marble slabs with Greek mythology reliefs. Again, some looked authentic, some didn’t. And you would think, “well they redid the ones that were lost or destroyed.” Not so. In that case, it would say, this block is missing. And under some of them, it says “temporary cast”, but in many of those cases, the space was empty. So confusing!
I watched the video that they have on this floor after I had looked at the entire floor (twice, because there are two “rings”) because there were a lot of schoolchildren there and I didn’t want to sit through the video with a bunch of 8 year olds. I learned in the video that Lord Elgin, sneaky Brit, came in the 1800’s when Acropolis was being excavated and he stole everything. I now remember seeing all of this in the British Museum last year. Jaime and I both were commenting that it all belongs back in Greece and why hasn’t that happened yet? Well, good thing Mrs. Clooney’s on the case. Shortly after her wedding, she was back at work trying to help broker a deal between GB and Greece for that very thing. I hope it works, because that stuff belongs here.
Once back down on the first floor, you see things that were added after the Parthenon was built. Namely, the Propylaia (the monumental gateway serving as the entrance to the Acropolis), the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheoin (the temple on the side of the Parthenon, which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon).
After the museum, I got a gyro for lunch and then attacked the Rock itself. I made my way up, stopping at Dionysus’ Theater. You can actually sit on some of the rows of seats. That was pretty cool! Then just other ruins as you make your way up, up, up. The entrance is very cool, as you enter through the Propylaia. There are really cool marbles here, as well, especially on the ground. As you pass through it, the Parthenon dominates to the right. But I couldn’t help getting lost in the views of Athens. I mean, what a 360-degree view of the metropolitan area. Athens is huge! (At least quite spread out!)
I took some photos of the Parthenon, even though from this view it’s under construction. Which right by a sign saying reconstruction finished in 2004. Um, ok. I wonder if that thing will ever be done with reconstruction. Somehow, I doubt it. I saw some people who looked like archaeologists working in one area, actually.
Off to the left is the Erechtheoin, which I went to first. You could get closer to this than you can the Parthenon, but you still can’t touch the marble. And why not? It’s out there in the elements and everything, why can’t I touch it? What’s the harm? But, as the good little rule-follower I am, I didn’t touch. I wanted to say I touched something 2500 years old. Ah, well.
Then I approached the big guy. And it is huge! And just such a wonder. I feel like a broken record here, but again, the size, the scope, the antiquity. How did they do it? In 500 BC! The walk up the rock is no picnic in 2014 (I mean, it’s not that hard, and I went “off-roading” a bit, but it’s steep!), what would it have been like back then? I’m just in awe! And having watched the video and learning a bit about its construction and architecture. It wasn’t built perfectly symmetrical. But it was like it needed to be built the way it was in order for it to survive (although I’m quite mad at the Turks for housing gun powder inside, which went up in an explosion, otherwise it would be relatively intact!).
After spending a decent amount of time there, I decided I would move on to other points. I walked down, but didn’t know what direction I needed to go to find the Agoras (Ancient and Roman). Eventually I came across a guy locking a gate, which I saw was the Ancient Agora and it was closing. Boo. So I kept walking and saw the Pied Piper of cats. Seriously, dude was playing a recorder and had close to 20 feral cats around him. I lost count at 20. It was ridiculous. Lots of stray dogs here, too. Big ones. That don’t obey the “authorized personnel only” signs.
I just kept walking down and eventually in the direction I thought I needed to go. Couldn’t come across any English street signs. But I came across the Roman Agora. It was 2:36 and it closed at 3:00. I decided to take a pass, knowing I would be back over there tomorrow. (The ticketing is pretty cool…12 euro and it’s good for entrance into 6 things over 4 days). I eventually came to the bottom of the Ancient Agora and walked parallel to it for a while. Then I pulled off to the side to refer to my map when I saw a man slightly behind me snorting someone off of the sidewalk. Awesome. I moved along.
Shortly I saw that I was on a street I knew, but realized I was going in the wrong direction. So I turned around. It was the fancy street from yesterday, but in the decidedly un-fancy portion. Lots of junk for sale all over sidewalks. It did not have a first-world feel to it. Then I came to a giant toy store, and went in because I saw they had legos. I thought maybe I could get my brother something there, but nothing was clearly European (i.e. unavailable in the States) and still as expensive.
I came out and realized I was in the middle of a square. So I thought I would explore the square a bit, when I saw that it was in the middle of the Athens Flea Market. Cool. So I checked it out. I went down one end, didn’t see much I wanted, so I went down the other end. I saw a cool Olive Wood store, with beautiful handmade goods. I kept walking, knowing I was getting closer to the shopping part of the other street, when a man working at a t-shirt shop said, “I like your shoes, where did you get them?” OK, if I were at home, cool. Totally understand the shoe compliment. I’m wearing Keens. Come on. As I looked down, wondering how to say “REI” to someone in Athens, Greece, he says, “in the States?” Yes, I said. Then he asked, was I from California? No, I said, Minnesota. He lit up. He said, Minneapolis? St. Paul? Come here! And he brought me inside his shop and asked had I ever been to Rochester? Sure, I have. He showed me a business card from a Greek restaurant in Rochester, “across from Mayo Clinic!” He had tons of business cards from Greek restaurants in the States. So fun. He told me he used to live in California (though he is Greek) and still has some family in the States. He gave me a “lucky” penny, told me it will ensure I marry a good man, and gave me the double-cheek kiss. Then he commented about how we need to be nice to people and I am a nice person and that Europeans can be so mean to Americans, but “they talk American, they eat American, they wear American” and I said, but they hate Americans. He agreed and said, but they confuse the politics with the people and, “politics is bullshit wherever you go” (quote of the day right there!), you have to know the people. He was very kind and wished me well “in the Land of 10,000 lakes!” I was shocked and told him he really knows a lot about MN! He then told me he had a long layover there last year and got to see some of the cities and that he knows someone in Duluth (!). As I was leaving, he shook my hand, told me I was beautiful, a Greek Goddess, and to have a good day. Laying it on a bit thick, but it was an awesome interaction!
Then I made my way to the “fancy” shopping street, bought a bread thing that I saw numerous vendors selling, and went in search of a burgundy coat. Unfortunately, I came up empty. And the Hondos Center? I don’t know why my app described it as a department store. It’s a massive drugstore. Probably record-setting! Tons of make-up, perfumes, beauty products, etc. So I thought this was probably my best bet on getting gel, but they didn’t have my kind. I got something else, which will have to do!
My feet were quite sore by this time, so I came back to my room to rest before dinner. Again, before dinner I was feeling cold, upset tummy, and incredibly tired. But I forced myself to go eat. I picked a place that, once I sat down and looked at the menu, I realized was like the TGI Friday’s of Athens! No matter, give me a big, beautiful salad, please! I ordered something a little different, though, so it was still something new. And I got a scoop of Strawberry sorbet at Chillbox again. (I think I forgot to say I got one last night…) It’s like the gelato in Italy. I could have it every day. Another big day tomorrow, but I’m definitely glad I decided again Delphi and just to take in all of Athens!