Search This Blog

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ascending the Acropolis.

8:53 pm EET

Yesterday was fairly uneventful. I walked to the Olympieion (the Temple of Zeus) across the major street near the hostel and wandered around there a bit, but quickly the chill and my cold got to me and I decided to go back and rest. I bought some medicine at a pharmacy and got some snacks for later, and then I returned to the hostel where I slept for the rest of the day.

Today I woke feeling a lot better. I slept in a bit (which was wonderful) and left around ten. I walked the few minutes to the base of the Acropolis and started my climb upward. I took my time, deciding to take it slow and steady, paying attention to the other ruins that line the road to the peak, such as the Odeon of Herodes, the Stoa of Eumenes, and the Theatre of Dionysus, rather than just making a straight shot to the top. I'm glad I did, too, because otherwise I would have missed some beautiful relics. The theatre was like the other two I saw in Epidaurus and Delphi, albeit somewhat more affected by time. The Odeon (another theatre), however, was mostly restored and looked ready for a performance. As mixed as my feelings are about restoration using modern materials, I think that the Odeon really does look lovely. Hopefully the restoration of the Parthenon will meet a similar fate, and it won't look like a patchwork of ancient and newly-cut stones fused together.

When I made it to the top of the Acropolis, I was met with a wonderfully mind-blowing sight. The entrance to the temple complex, the Propylaea, is enormous and beautiful. Beside it is a small temple dedicated to Nike, the goddess of victory, who always accompanied Athena. Both the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike are being restored, but neither are quite finished yet. Anyway, after gaping at the Propylaea for a significant amount of time, I continued on toward the Parthenon. As a lover of mythology (and Athena being my favourite of the Greek pantheon), I felt I owed this towering place a certain reverence greater than the respect I already possess toward the structures of ancient Greece. Though I knew how much the temple has suffered since its construction more than two thousand years ago, I was immensely saddened by the its state; after countless raids and careless attacks, it is lacking much of its former glory. The glorious statue of Athena that once graced the inner sanctuary is long gone, and the decorations from the east and west pediments have also been almost completely destroyed. Compared to some of the other temples I've seen, though, the Parthenon is in good shape for its age. Its original beauty is easily reconstructed in one's mind, and, all things considered, some of that beauty and a different kind of otherworldly splendor exists still in its ever so slightly asymmetrical pillars.

Once I had sufficiently geeked out on the Acropolis, I made my way down to the Agora. I had hoped to find the Tower of the Winds in the Roman Forum within the Agora, but I couldn't locate it... maybe I'll go back tomorrow or Sunday to look for it. I walked a little through the site and exited on the other side into a very busy avenue filled with shops, street vendors, and restaurants. I walked all the way back around to the Plaka neighbourhood near my hostel and grabbed some lunch before heading over to the New Acropolis Museum. I was completely blown away; the museum is built on top of an archaeological site and the floors are glass so you can see through to the ancient buildings below, which scientists are excavating from time to time. The Museum is amazing! Within its walls are several artifacts recovered from the Acropolis temples; there are friezes and statues and bits and pieces from bronze shields and spears and sculptures. There are massive statues of dieties and mortals alike, and part of the The Porch of the Caryatids, all of which are absolutely gorgeous. The most impressive piece they have (I think, at least) is the relief known as the Pensive or Mourning Athena. It depicts Athena at what seems to be a gravestone, leaning on her spear and looking thoughtful and tired. I have seen it several times in books, but seeing it in person was incredible; it is one of the most well-known pieces of ancient Greek art, as it is one of the first to use emotion as its main focus, rather than an action. Seeing it made me exceptionally happy, and it was an even better find because I had forgotten that it was housed here in the New Acropolis Museum.

When I had finished the rounds in the Museum, I bought some more food for later and returned to the hostel where I have been hanging around since, chatting with a bunch of people who are also staying here. I've made friends (sort of) with a young psychologist from Uruguay, a crazy (but very entertaining) grad student from Buffalo, a Mexican student on holiday, an Australian taking a year off, and a kind of crude guy from London. They're all rather strange, and it's definitely interesting talking to them and sharing experiences.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to be going on a tour to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, so hopefully it works out and the weather will be nice (or, at least, nicer than the cold and cloudy the last couple days have been). It's starting to feel like Budapest here!

1 comment:

  1. Rachel,

    Sorry to be a creeper, but your blog popped up on my news feed and I saw that you were in Athens! I did my study abroad in Greece and if you want to see the Tower of the Winds, you won't find it in the Agora. The Roman Forum is close by the Agora, but separate from it. The best way to get there is south from the Monastiraki metro station. Wander around that area and you're bound to stumble upon it. One of the interesting things I remember from my Archeology of Athens class at the Roman Forum was that near the Tower of the Winds is a public latrine that had a communal sponge for everyone to wipe their butts. Thought you might enjoy that lil tidbit. Sounds like you are enjoying Greece! Hope you enjoy the rest of your study abroad!!

    Theresa Tejada