I traveled to Athens, Greece in October 2007, so a LOT has changed since then (well, not historically speaking). However, since this is my first post, I thought I’d start with one of my oldest trips.
One of the most ancient buildings in the world and by far the most famous acropolis, this site is a must-see for anyone traveling to Greece. When I traveled there, the Acropolis Restoration Project (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/restoring-parthenon.html) was ongoing, but since is nearing completion. As such, you won’t need to deal with all the construction debris that I encountered.
A quick side-note about Athens in general (which I plan to blog about in more detail later). When I visited, I found most parts of Athens to be filthy (think lots of pollution and packs of dogs running about) and a little dangerous (I had a “nice” man try to steal a ring off my finger while I was shopping near my hotel).
Most of the Athenians we encountered were quite rude – one travel guide told me to stop asking stupid questions (actually, he yelled that) because I was wondering about Athenian professions, places to live, etc. Another restaurant we visited gave us terrible service and the servers were laughing at us while we ate – I’m horrified to think now about what. But despite that I still recommend that you visit – at least once. First, there’s a chance things have changed since then. Second, as these pictures will show, the Acropolis and Parthenon are quite simply magnificent sights. And you have the opportunity to see history up close and personal.
Now back to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. BE CAREFUL. The Parthenon is built completely out of limestone and marble. Therefore it is incredibly slippery. I watched tons of people wipe out at their peril. I fortunately remained on terra firma, but from their reactions I could tell that limestone is not forgiving and pretty painful.
The Parthenon was originally built in the 5th Century BC, but many iterations have been resurrected since then. It is a classic remnant of Grecian architecture, and someone with a more prolific knowledge of history can tell you all about the columns, friezes, etc. But it really is a sight to see, and as you can tell, you have the opportunity to get right up close to it.
I could tell you to make sure to get up early and all that, but everyone else will tell you the same thing. What I will tell you is that it’s a hike. The Parthenon and the Acropolis are literally perched on top of a large hill. In fact, acropolis means settlement or citadel built on elevated ground. So if you look at the first picture I posted, you get a better understanding of how far you have to walk – that picture was taken right after we walked through the paid entry point. So if you’re not prepared for a long walk (or are out of shape, traveling with someone who has difficulty walking, etc.), then you’ll probably need to admire from afar. Unfortunately ancient Athens was not built with the ADA or special needs in mind.
Lastly, as ironic as this sounds, the Acropolis and Parthenon are extremely hard to find. Now I know that sounds ridiculous. You can see it from just about everywhere in the city. That doesn’t mean the ENTRANCE is easy to find.
When we arrived in Athens and got to our hotel, we had a beautiful view of the Parthenon at night – unfortunately my camera was limited to 2007 technology, so my night picture just isn’t post-able. But here’s a nice substitute from Wikipedia.
We therefore assumed the Acropolis was in walking distance – it was. However, it appears the Athenian government also takes for granted that everyone knows where the entrance is. THERE WERE NO SIGNS when we visited. (I could make some quip about the signs being “Greek” but that’s too easy of a joke.) That might have changed recently. But it took me and my travel partner a good hour to trek up several sides of the hill only to reach a dead end or walk into someone’s driveway. In retrospect I can appreciate the scenic route we took, but at the time I was mightily annoyed. I can laugh now about the random white conversion van that drove slowly and suspiciously past us as we hurriedly walked down an isolated alley. But at the time I was convinced we were going to be abducted by some fringe group. So learn from our mistake – don’t be afraid to map out the exact way to the entrance, and don’t be afraid to ask someone for directions.
In closing, I’ll post some pictures from my adventure. Later on I’ll post about hotel, food, location to stay and itinerary (two days were plenty sufficient to see the Acropolis, historical sights, museum, and have some completely authentic experiences). But for my first post I’ll leave with my sign off in Greek – Go travel the world! ΟΕ ταξιδέψτε στον κόσμο!