This day was just too good not to share ASAP. Greece found it’s way into my heart when I was first exposed to Greek Mythology in third grade and has since been my number one desired destination. I have always felt well traveled because of the time I spent reading about the world and specifically the Mediterranean but I hadn’t even left North America until landing in Europe a little over a month ago. Anyone who has spent more than fifteen minutes with me knows how much I LOVE what I study and how much I crave to witness the beauty of what I have read about (even my peers here knew how much I was looking forward to this trip). But I am HERE! Most times I can’t even believe I made it to this country with all the chaos and freak-outs and close calls that lead up to my departure, but it’s real! I am living in Greece. Living my dream. I am so incredibly blessed.
The past several days of one of my classes have been a tease. We would start exploring the eastern slope of the Acropolis and then end for the day. Then we would go a little farther, having class in the Theatre of Dionysus but again ending class without venturing to the top. Today was the day that we FINALLY made it to the Athens’ main attraction and one of the world’s wonders. Acropolis means the top or edge of the city and they exist in many ancient cities. And the Acropolis of Athens is an exceptional example. Last night we received an email from our professor stating “Tomorrow there is 24 hours strike of the guards working in the archaeological sites. I hope that there is no strike taking place at the Acropolis. We meet at 9.00 am, at the Acropolis Metro Station. Wear comfortable shoes, please.” Needless to say, I was worried that the trip would need to be saved for another day. Obviously it wasn’t, much to my great (understatement) pleasure. We had completely clear blue skies and about 68 degree weather, gorgeous.
I could go into emphatic detail about the following monuments, but I will restrain myself and keep to few words. Disclaimer: No words nor pictures could ever do justice to the beauty. Trust me. I know from experience now.
Most remains on the Acropolis are from the Classical Era (5th and 4th century BC) and were commissioned by Pericles and his sketchy source of funding. While in antiquity everything but the columns you see was painted colors of dark blues, greens, and purples now we have just the pentelic marble ruins. At one point in time the marble would have appeared golden in the sunlight, but now it is a strange yellowish hue.
The Propylaea is the monumental gateway to the Acropolis. Here Athenians would process once every four years during the Panathenaic festival (a dedication to Athena) where they would only be able to peek inside.
Here we have the Erechtheion. An elegant building constructed in the Ionic order during the late fourth century BC. It is built on the ground where the mythical king, Erechtheus, was buried and is dedicated to Athena and Poseidon.
This is the location in which Athena and Poseidon had a contest to win the name of patron over Athens. Poseidon is said to have produced a spring by striking the ground with his trident (the three holes can still be seen today) and Athena gave the first olive tree. Athena came forth victorious, hence the name of the city.
Balancing the Acropolis in classic “metron” style, is the Parthenon. Constructed in mid 4th century BC, this doric style temple is more masculine (by architectural terms) and consists of not one straight line creating magnificent optical illusions. It was dedicated to Athena Parthenos (Maiden Athena) and once held a cult statue that was made with marble, wood, and ivory until it was stolen and probably dismembered for dispersal of the precious materials. This temple actually maintained pieces of it’s original wooden roof made from the Persian ships defeated at the Battle of Salamis up until it was bombed in 1687 when the Venetians “liberated” Greece from the Ottomans. Welcome to the world of angles.
Way back when these temples would have been surrounded by statues of minor gods. Just imagine! Looking around from the Acropolis was another kind of beautiful as well.
Thankfully we had a healthy amount of time to spend at the site and weren’t rushed. Think about how magical it was to visit Disney World (if you have ever been); the lights twinkling in the trees as you wandered with a sense of wonder through the parks. I don’t know about you, but as a somewhat of a Disney fanatic, I was breathless. Well that wonder and magic is similar (in a different way) to how I felt as I walked the ground so many people of the past have tread before me and seeing the sights of which I have literally dreamed. And I surprisingly only teared up once.
Upon my return to school to find letters from friends and learned a song in Greek class. It’s hard to beat a day where your childhood dream is fulfilled.
For a period of time last year I debated whether or not I was going to study abroad. Everyday I am reaffirmed in my decision; and I am beyond thankful to have been placed here.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson