Our first day in Athens, we walked through a park to reach the acropolis site. Enroute we saw a ruin requiring admission. However, the agent told us if we waited till the next day, it would be a national holiday and all ruins and sites would be free.
Thinking frugally, we decided to wait on the real Acropolis and just go to the Acropolis Museum. But even though there was an entrance fee that day, we claimed to be EU Seniors and got in for 3E apiece. We had the place practically to ourselves! The gorgeous glass museum is at the base of the Acropolis with reflections and vistas throughout.
What we discovered in our two hour visit is that all the really beautiful statues, friezes and other archaeological treasures are kept in the museum, not at the Acropolis site. We thus could get up close and personal with Greek gods, famous citizens and mythological creatures. We learned a ton about the construction and restoration of the Acropolis, this seminal democratic complex, its society and its turbulent history. And all that delicious discovery took place in the beckoning shadow of the massive Acroplis which teased us from every window view.
Afterward, we visited the Monastriki area with its multicultural mix, great souvlaki joints, flea markets and secret passageways.
The next day, we set out for the Acropolis itself. As promised, there was free entry and we strolled right in. But even better, the grey skies made for extraordinary light and the threat of rain and the hilltop climb kept the holiday hordes to a manageable level.
I was blown away. You cannot imagine the scale of these buildings:the stately parthenon, the scenic Dionysian theatre or the sexy temple of Athena. The Acropolis is a huge hilltop fortress. It looks down on the city of Athens the way the gods looked down on humankind from Olympus. After yesterday’s deep orientation at the museum, the whole complex made total sense as we marched around, filling in the missing statues and friezes in our minds eye and taking pic after pic.
We were wandering the stones and steps of our most ancient democracy. I was humbled by the strength and also the fragility of their culture and its contradictions. While Athens valued only male leaders (and naked athletes), women mainly peeled the grapes and kept their clothes on!
Still it was a free and innovative society where drama, comedy, political parties, fitness and philosophy flourished. There are obvious parallels to our sad pre-election politics but i’m going to leave that up to you.
It couldn’t have been more beautiful and moving to be on top of this Athenian hill on the same day the whole city celebrated standing up to Italy in world war ll. They looked Mussolini in the eye and said no. They celebrate their freedom annually on Ochi Day.
Later we visited the wonderful boutique Museum of Cycladic Art where precious ancient fertility statues evoke modern masters like Modigliani and Moore. Back several milennia BC, the Cycladic ladies ruled the art scene! Plus, there was an exhibit by acclaimed dissident artist Ai Wei Wei with striking, provocative pieces reflecting Cycladic Art and modern political terrors.
Finally, we ended the day back where we started. At the base of the Acropolis at a fabulous restaurant called Strofi, recommended by our friends Steve and Judy. Talk about Dining with a view. It was breathtaking and the food was no slouch either.
Today we head for Santorini. But we’ll be back!