ultramarinus – beyond the sea

CLASSICAL FINALE, Athens, Greece

2006.06.06.

After reunited with my two travel buddies in Cairo, our homeward odyssey official began. From Cairo, we flew to Athens, then to Zurich, before crossing the Atlantic back to Canada. In Greece, our plan was to spend a few hours to visit the Acropolis, had supper, and took a bit of rest before heading out to the airport. We expected to see some crowds at the world famous Acropolis, but watching hundreds if not thousands of cruise ship tourists wearing the same cap marching up the citadel hill right below us was still a shock. Despite the crowds, seeing one of the most recognizable icons of Western civilization was definitely an impressive experience.

The Acropolis is home to some of the most recognizable Classical Greek structures: the Parthenon, Propylaea, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, etc. Most of the Acropolis was constructed under Pericles during the golden age of Athens in the 5th century BC, the century that saw Athen’s victory against the Persians. The Acropolis was a magnificent collaborative work by architects including Iktinos, Kallikrates, and Mnesikles, and sculptors such as Pheidias, Alkamenes, and Agorakritos. This iconic hill was also the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and theatre art of the Western world.

After seeing the Classical ruins, we headed down the northern slope to the Plaka quarter, a colourful and lovely neighbourhood full of lively restaurants, souvenir shops, and eye catching street art. In the evening, we picked a cosy restaurant for dinner. With English menus in hand, we ordered our dishes and I chose sirloin steak. The server tried his best to match our selections from his Greek menu. Somehow my sirloin steak was lost in translation and I ended up getting a whole grilled squid. It was a pleasant surprise and I had zero intention to swap it back to beef. The Mediterranean squid was fresh and delicious, and lived long in my memory. If it was a typical steak dinner, I would definitely not remember a single thing from that particular meal after all these years.

For 2500 years, the Acropolis has been the centrepiece of the Greek capital.
Monastiraki Square, the main shopping area in the old town of Athens, with Tzistarakis Mosque (left hand side) and the Acropolis hill (middle) at the background.
Excavation and restoration work of the archaeological sites on the Acropolis has been ongoing since 1933.
Aesthetic perfection, architectural genius, cultural icon, symbol of Western civilization, house of the Goddess of Wisdom, this is the legendary Parthenon, the building that is seen as the perfect Classical architecture .
The impressive Parthenon has gone through series of damages caused from earthquakes to explosives. Thanks to generations of conservationists, the remarkable building is still standing today.
Above the Doric columns, one of the biggest controversies of the building remains to be whether the frieze sculptures should be returned from the British Museum.
The most striking feature of the Erechtheion is definitely the Porch of the Maidens. The six caryatids (sculpted female supports) on site are actually modern replicas, while the originals are on display in the Acropolis Museum and British Museum.
Since independence, Greece has removed most of the additions dated from the Byzantine era and onwards, in attempt to return the Acropolis to its original form.
Below the Acropolis once stood the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction of the temple took over 600 years after it was initiated in the 6th century BC, but was abandoned just a century after completion due to barbarian invasion.
One of the six original caryatids of Erechtheion’s Porch of the Maidens has long been on display in the British Museum, and the rest of the group are displayed in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
Below the Acropolis, the quarter of Plaka maintains a village ambience that attracts tourists from around the world.
There are many Greek Orthodox churches in Plaka worth visiting.
With the abundance of 10th to 11th century churches, a stroll in Plaka reminded us the Medieval history of Athens.
Vivid street art, on the other hand, showed us some contemporary touches to the historical neighborhood.
The relatively clear walls in Plaka seemed to become the perfect canvas for street art.
Some may find the street art as a kind of freedom of expression, while some may find them eyesore in a relatively pictuesque community.
Most of the street art we saw were delightful and relative cute.
No matter one likes the art or not, they did attract our attention and many frames of my film camera.

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