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Greece: Acropolis

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Acropolis | Greece | Europe

[Visited: September 2011 and several times before]

The sun had just started to chase away the darkness of the night when I stepped outside. The temperature was pleasant, there was almost no traffic, and I started walking towards the most famous spot of the country. The first sunrays were already touching the centuries-old landmark of the city, and I walked as fast as I could. The hike inevitably involved going up, and when I reached the entrance, I found out it was still closed. I decided to walk around the base of the Acropolis, which allowed me great views of the citadel, in addition to seeing the theatres and other buildings at the base of the Acropolis. I ended up in the upper streets of Plaka, where I only saw cats, heard voices from inside the white houses, and was surprised by some colourful, modern-day graffiti on a wall. Coming from the other side, I arrived when the gate was opened, and walked up. I tried to remember my first time to walk here, on these exact same stones, but I could not - it was simply a long time ago. Some places just continue to attract.

Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Frontal view of the Parthenon, one of the best-known landmarks of the world

The first tour buses were on their way up, and I knew I had to stay ahead of the pack. Passing through the entrance gate, I walked the worn stones that were slippery in some parts, stopped at the Erechteum, a modest temple on the north side of the citadel, best known for its six maiden statues, the Caryatids. While the early morning sunlight was still playing with these pieces of marble, copies of the originals which, like most precious parts of the Acropolis, can be found in museums in Athens and beyond, I once again realized how each statue has a unique appearance. From here, the majestic Parthenon was literally around the corner. As I hoped, the massive Doric columns on the east side were beautifully lit by the rays of morning sunlight. Walking around the classical building, I noticed the many cranes, and even rails for a small train, all testimonies of the efforts to restore the Parthenon to its former glory. A very meticulous undertaking that has been going on for many years, I wondered if the project would ever be finished in our life time. A Greek official assured me that work was still going on, despite the dire problems of the economy. Fact is, I did not see anyone at work. More people were now arriving on this beautiful plateau, high above the city, and I walked to the far side of it, next to the Greek flag. When ordered to take the flag down, the soldier guarding it when the Nazis occupied the city in World War II, took the flag, wrapped himself inside, and jumped from these same cliffs to his certain death. A plaque commemorates other Greek war heroes; the strategic position of this citadel has remained. With an increasing number of tourists on the Acropolis, I walked down, to the new Olympic stadium from where I enjoyed a good view of the ancient landmark.

Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Every statue of these maidens or Caryatids in the Erechteum

The history of the Acropolis of Athens starts in the early Neolithic period, back in the 6th millennium BCE, and this obvious location for defensive purposes, some 150m above the plains below, was recognized in an early stage. It was defended also by a massive wall, but it was from the 6th century BCE that construction became increasingly serious. Temples for Athena, the protectress of the city and of course, the goddess from which the city derives its name, arose, along with others, on this prominent place. Most of the buildings of which we can still see the ruins today, were built under Pericles in the 5th century BCE, the so-called Golden Age of Athens. The Parthenon, the most famous building and another temple in honour of Athena, was built in this period, too. Already in those times, the building was seen as one of the finest ever built. Much later, it was converted to a christian church, and, in the late Middle Ages, even to a mosque with a minaret. Unfortunately, a bombardment by Venetians hit an ammunition dump which caused much of the destruction we see today. In our times, the Parthenon has gained such popularity around the world that many confuse it for the Acropolis itself. Given the monumental value of the Acropolis, and in particular the Parthenon, symbol of ancient Greece and, indeed, the democracy for which the Greeks are still regarded the founders, it is obvious that reconstruction of this site is highly regarded.

Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Characteristic Doric column of the Erechteum with moon in the background
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Shadows on the Doric columns of the Parthenon
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Eastern side of the Erechteum with early morning light
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Looking up the Parthenon with one of the marble columns
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Parthenon towering over the worn, slippery stones
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Looking over the Acropolis plateau from the east, with the Parthenon and a shadow of the Greek flag
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Sculpture in the frieze of the Parthenon
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): The Parthenon seen from the southeast corner
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): The porch of the Caryatids can be found on the southern side of the Erechteum
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Colossal marble columns define the well-known image of the Acropolis
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): The Parthenon seen from above the Olympic stadium
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Sculpted figures in a frieze on one of the sanctuaries of the Acropolis
Picture of Acropolis (Greece): Orange sunlight falling on the Parthenon at sunrise

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