ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Acropolis

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.

ACROPOLIS OF PERGAMON, Bergama, Turkey

2006.05.04

At 19:00 we bid farewell to the hostel staff and left Sultan Hostel of Istanbul.  We took the T4 bus from Hagia Sophia to the Taksim Square.  We headed over to the office of Kamil Koc and waited for the departure of our first night bus in Turkey.  At 09:00 the next day we arrived at Izmir, where we transferred to another bus for Bergama, the town where the famous Classical Greek city of Pergamon once stood in the 3rd century BC.  We hired a taxi from Bergama’s otogar (bus station) to the acropolis archaeological park.  I was quite excited for arriving at the ruined acropolis of Pergamon, largely due to my 2003 visit of Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, where the Great Altar of Pergamon was restored and displayed for the past 90 years.  Seeing the Great Altar of Pergamon in Berlin’ three years prior to the trip was probably the main reason why I chose to stop by Bergama on our way to Selcuk from Istanbul.  In the archaeological park, the acropolis where the high altar once stood was pretty much in ruins.  A few notable structures, including the Trajaneum (where a headless marble statue in Roman armor stood in a courtyard) and the Greek Theatre, claimed to be the steepest theatre in the ancient world, represented the highlights.  Near the base of the theatre lower, we stopped by the ruined Temple of Dionysus to pay a little respect to the God of pleasure and wine.

As the capital of Kingdom of Pergamon during the Attalid dynasty (281-133 BC), Pergamon was one of the major cultural centres in the Greek world.  After 133 BC, Pergamon became part of the Roman Empire, and assigned as the capital city of province Asia.  As trading routes shifted to Constantinople during the Byzantine era, the once Greek and Roman metropolis was transformed into a medium size city, but maintained its religious importance as it was mentioned in the Book of Revelations as one of Seven Churches of Asia.  Then came the Ottomans who transformed Pergamon into a Turkish city with mosques and bath houses that we know today.  From the first visit of German engineer Carl Humann in 1864 to WWI, the Germans had made numerous expeditions and archaeological excavations at Pergamon.  Most of their findings are now on display at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.  After WWI, artefacts found on site were being restored and exhibited at Istanbul or the Bergama Museum.

03EU37-22Probably the most famous Classical artefact in Berlin, the Great Altar of Pergamon has been moved to and reconstructed in the German capital about a century ago.

03EU37-24The statue of Athena Parthenos was found in the ruins of Library of Pergamon in 1880.

06ME10-17Today, the most prominent remaining structure at the Acropolis of Pergamon is the Greek Theatre.  With a seating capacity of 10,000, the theatre was the steepest in the world.

06ME10-18Below the theatre lies the town of Bergama.

06ME11-02Off to the side at the base of the theatre once stood the Temple of Dionysus.

06ME11-07Looking up the theatre from the Temple of Dionysus allowed us to fully appreciate the scale and steepness of the theatre.

acropolis 1A series of stepped walkways allowed the ancient audience to disperse efficiently.

06ME11-09Fragments of classical cornice and frieze could be found all over the archaeological park.

06ME10-24One of the most remarkable structures in the acropolis is Trajaneum, the only Roman building on site.

06ME10-25Completed by Emperor Hadrian, the Trajaneum was used to worship Zeus as well as  Emperor Trajan, Hadrian’s predecessor.

06ME10-29Occupying the summit of the acropolis, Trajaneum sent a clear message to the citizens of Pergamon that the Romans were fully in charge of the once Hellenistic city.

06ME10-26The Corinthian column capitals still look spectacular after 2000 years.

column base at acropolisIt was a pleasure to wander around the ruined acropolis and looked for the remaining architectural details.

hadrian at acropolisThe statue of Hadrian could still be found in the acropolis.