Sunday we woke up and had a nice breakfast at the hotel while awaiting the arrival of the bus for our “Best of Athens” tour.
Both 2500 years ago and today, this marble stairway remains the main entrance into the site. The steps quickly become clogged with picture takers, awestruck visitors and folks just exhausted from the climb up the hill.
The Parthenon was huge and impressive. In essence, this is just a bunch of beautifully carved stones piled up on each other. Some of the facade and other parts were cemented in place, of course, but most of the structural integrity is dependent on gravity and inertia.
The Parthenon functioned as a pagan temple, a Christian church and a Mosque, depending on whoever was the latest conqueror. It also burned a couple of times and was pillaged by pirates and bandits and British antiquity hunters. Each subsequent rebuilding lost a little more of the original. Then, in 1687, the Ottomans used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine during their war with Venice. A direct hit by a Venetian mortar killed 300 Turks and left the Parthenon pretty much as we see it now.
Each of the hills that you see from the Acropolis has some kind of ancient structure on it. It seems everywhere you turn in the old town, there is an ancient something-or-other poking up through the street.
Wikipedia: The Erechtheion or Erechtheum is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.
These are the Caryatids on the south porch of the Erechtheion. A Caryatid is “a stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building” (Wikipedia). These are reproductions as the fragile originals have been moved into the adjacent Acropolis Museum. The holes you see chiseled into the walls everywhere show where looters dug out the metal fasteners holding the blocks together.
We could look down on the Theater of Dionysus Eluthereus, which dates to the 4th century BCE. Since our guide told us our tickets would be honored again tomorrow (and the hotel is only a ten minute walk away) Betty and I decided to skip climbing down to see it and come back tomorrow.
We reboarded the bus to travel to the Acropolis Museum, but then got stuck in a traffic jam. The police had blocked the main street in front of the Greek Parliament for this:
The Greek soldiers made quite an impression, with their traditional costumes and their hobnailed boots scratching against the pavement as they marched. We just caught the end of the ceremony, which happens every Sunday morning at 11.
The barriers came down, traffic started honking and moving, and we scrambled back on the bus to head for the museum.
When the new museum was being built here at the foot of the Acropolis, it was a sure bet that the excavations would uncover many interesting things. This is the remains of a church from the early days of Christianity. The entrance area to the museum was constructed as a bridgeway with glass floors to allow viewing of the newly discovered ruins.
The museum itself was very interesting. It displayed many of the original artworks from the Parthenon and other Acropolis temples in a controlled environment with lots of explanatory signage. But photography was only allowed in a few rooms.
This is a model of the sculptures originally on the west pediment of the Parthenon. Wikipedia: The west pediment depicted Athena and Poseidon during their competition for the honor of becoming the city’s patron. Athena and Poseidon appear at the center of the composition, diverging from one another in strong diagonal forms, with the goddess holding the olive tree and the god of the sea raising his trident to strike the earth. At their flanks, they are framed by two active groups of horses pulling chariots, while a crowd of legendary personalities from Athenian mythology fills the space out to the acute corners of the pediment.
Well, that’s enough cultural uplift for one day. We left the tour and walked back into Plaka, “our” neighborhood.
Like many places in Europe, graffiti seems to be still all the rage. Back home, it seems out of fashion now.
Soon it was time to call it a day. Tomorrow we hope to see the Theater of Dionysus, ride the subway and check out the rest of the city.