I had studied Ancient Greece History at school and loved it. Naturally it was on my “to do” list when I went to Europe. My only reservations were that it might not measure up to the romantic illusions that I had created about Greece. I was proven profoundly incorrect when I stood looking at the Acropolis, and had an OMG moment. Yes, I had seen it in so many textbooks, in films and magazines, but to see it in person was so much better and wonderful.
So my trip to Athens was to see as much as I could. These are my suggestions of what you might also like to do.
National Archaeological Museum
This is the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. One of the first things you see on walking in, is the death mask of Agamemnon – good start. Then there are sculptures and statues displaying 200o years of Greek History – all perfectly and informatively labelled, in English as well. It is just unbelievable to think that they were so advanced, so long ago, in their techniques
This is the historic old town area of Athens. There are lots of tourist shops, selling kitsch ancient replicas and tasteless souvenirs and many moussaka restaurants. Yes, I know it is tacky but I love it. Yes, I do buy the most kitsch souvenir I could and yes I did have the moussaka – but heh, I am in Greece so why not. I did wander off the beaten track and found more picturesque and serene meandering streets leading up to the Acropolis. This was more about real life Athens and very enjoyable.
The Acropolis of Athens
This was my OMG moment despite that fact that I kept seeing it, it was just what I had imagined but better if you can understand this. This ancient citadel is located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, like the Temple of Hephaestus and the most famous being the Parthenon.
Monostriraki Flea Market
The Monastiraki flea market is full on. Every Athenian is here either buying or selling. There are massive crowds, which add to the ambience particularly if the Greeks are in a lively (and loud) discussion. You can wander around aimlessly or you can find someone who knows the flea market who can show you around if you are intent on buying something in particular. It is fun, it is noisy, it is lively, and it is fantastic.
This area is characterised by the old factory that used to produce gas for lighting the streets and houses of the city many decades ago. Luckily the city has preserved the old factory building and transformed it into the ‘Technopolis’ cultural centre – where concerts, exhibitions and festivals take place. The area is now a very trendy part of Athens and has many gay bars and clubs. Gazi is a great place to go to for entertainment and people watching. Pure fun.
So I am pleased I listened in class and Athens did not in the slightest ruin my romantic imagination. It just confirmed it and more.
Photo by azwegers on Flickr