Greece Blog: Athens City Tour and Acropolis Visit

June 6th, 2017

Today we took a bus tour around the city of Athens and then visited the Acropolis. During the tour around Athens, our extremely knowledgeable tour guide, Anna, had our bus driver stop at various sites while she told us about the history and significance of each landmark. Before we started the tour, we were treated with a beautiful four course lunch. I was able to try all these strange, interesting, and delicious foods that I never have tried in the past. We were also treated at dinner with an ample amount of food that seemed never ending. We were started with several appetizers of all different sorts, from breads, to salads, to cheese, to vegetables. Then we had a shared dish of several different types of meats, and for dessert, a chocolate brownie and fresh fruit. Trying new foods like this is all part of the cultural experience, so I was so glad we were able to have these authentic Greek meals. Personally, I am a bit of a picky eater so I was a little worried, but I had no reason to be because every meal I was able to find something I liked (and often really liked).

 My favorite place that we stopped at was the temple of Zeus. This was once a colossal temple with many, sky-high marble columns when it was first built in the 5th century B.C.E.; however, now it is in ruins and only a few columns remain. Originally, the temple had a large statue of Zeus that was used in worship of the Greek God. The entrance to the temple is decorated with the beautiful Hadrian’s Arch, also made of marble. No longer in use for worship, the temple is now just a tourist attraction and impressive piece of history.

We also visited the Academy of Athens, which was another one of my favorite buildings. It stands next to the University of Athens and the National Library of Greece. The Academy of Athens is a beautiful building with marble columns and statues of many important Greek figures adorning it. Socrates, an ancient Greek philosopher, was one of the statutes. There are two statues of him, sitting in front of the building itself. Then, on top of one of two large pillars next to the building, is a statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. On the other pillar stands a statue of Apollo, god of music and art. Then engraved onto the building are several more gods and goddesses, all with significance to Greek culture. As I said, this building stood next to the University of Athens and the National Library of Greece. The University of Athens was a nice building; however, the Library was phenomenal. With winding marble staircases and statues, it was the perfect place to stop and take a group photo.

            Another site we saw was the first modern Olympic stadium, which is the only stadium in the world made of marble. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that large, but it holds and impressive 70,000 people. While the Olympic Games themselves originated in Olympia, Greece, this stadium is the home of the first modern Olympic games. Outside of the stadium stands several flags, including the Greek flag and the Olympic flag with the 5 interlocking circles, which represent the 5 original participating continents.

            The house of Parliament was an interesting site. In front of the house stand two guards that change out every hour. For the one hour they stand there, they do not move at all. The building itself is beautiful with large marble columns, so it is a nice site to see. This is not the original Parliament building, however, as the original one still stands in Athens but it is no longer used to house parliament. It is now used to house the National Historical Museum. 

After touring Athens, we visited Acropolis. “Acropolis” loosely translates to “on top of the city,” which is fitting because it is on top of one of the largest hills in Athens. This hill holds the Parthenon, possibly one of the most famous Greek monuments. The Parthenon was a temple built to honor the goddess Athena, for whom the city of Athens was named after. This was originally built in 5th century B.C.E., and still stands strong to this day with the help of some construction and intervention when necessary. Overall, it is preserved very well for such an old building. It was built a very specific way, with the entrance in the East, so that the sun would glorify the statue of Athena that used to reside there. Currently, all of the statues that are in the Parthenon are remakes of the originals. One question I have about this is what happened to the originals? I don’t know if they have been destroyed over time or if they are being held somewhere to be preserved. The Parthenon consists of many optical illusions. For example, none of the horizontal or vertical lines are actually straight as they appear to be. The horizontal lines curve and the vertical lines create a wave-like figure. Also, the columns are smaller at the top than at the bottom, and are not evenly spaced. The Acropolis also houses some other ancient ruins besides the Parthenon, including the old temple of Athena, several amphitheaters which are actually still in use, the temple of Athena Nike, and arch-like structures. Since these are on such a large hill, the view of Athens is phenomenal. We were able to see the hill that is considered the birthplace of democracy, where townspeople would gather and vote on issues. We also saw a rocky hill that was used as what would be equivalent to a modern-day court house, where judges ruled on cases and how to punish criminals. Overall, it was a beautiful view and I learned so much from this visit. 

Danielle Fay

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