Whilst traveling around Greece I only had one day to check out the capital, Athens. Top of the list was to explore all the famous Ancient Greek ruins and capture the history. As well as this I wanted to see the city briefly away from the historic sites as to be honest, I don’t know much about the city.
Well, I start with the bad but this shouldn’t put anyone off visiting Athens. I found the streets to be dirty, the buildings looking shabby and some (not all) of the people are rude. I was shocked about this as traveling around Greece I found the locals were very friendly. Walking outside the parliament I found there was a minor protest and I have to admit, apart from the ancient ruins, was there anything worth visiting and seeing in the city? There may well have been but I didn’t do enough research to find out.
After spending all day at the ancient sites, there is no time to do anything else. By the end of the day (and before my night bus to my next destination) I was glad to visit the city and see the ancient sites but I was a bit disheartened on my brief experience of Athens. Hopefully it will be better experience for me on my next visit.
Sounded a bit strange to write about my feelings of the city at the start of the post. Now the negative experience is out, I grant you the rest of this post will be more uplifting. If you’re reading this and haven’t been to Athens, hopefully this will make you book those flights to come. Here are all the ancient sites I visited in one day and this is how I did it.
A lot of visitors head to the Acropolis which is an ancient citadel located on top of a hill above the city and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The site has several building which have lots of historic and architectural significance. The heart of these being the Parthenon.
Well, this building is truly impressive despite being damaged in a war many centuries ago by the Venetians, to whom fired a cannonball towards it and with pot luck, hit a lot of gunpowder which was stored here and kaa-boom! The Parthenon we see today is from this explosion. Since then it has became a church, a mosque, some dodgy dealings took place with some Ancient Greek statues and marbles taken to the British Museum in London , UK (sorry guys but I am one of many thousands of Brits who want to see these returned to Athens) and a major restoration project commenced. Walking around the place I did have to keep an eye on where I was walking due to all the marble stones. Even in the dry heat of the sun they still can be slippery.
Walking around the Acropolis I managed to check out the other historic buildings located here like the Old Temple of Athena, Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus and Erechtheum. Despite the place being in ruins here, I could still see how the place is set out. What the buildings were used for (with the help of a guide book of course) and tried to picture how life was in the city. I spent a lot of time walking around, taking it all in and I also took in the wonderful views of Athens. It feels like the Acropolis is located in the very heart of Athens. Every time I turned my head, my eyes could see white buildings going beyond the horizon.
After walking down the hillside from the Acropolis, there is still a lot of ruins to see dotted about nearby. One of my favourites is the Temple of Olympian Zeus which has stood since 2AD. Construction, however, began eight centuries before that, so not sure what the hold up was but if I was an owner of a building which I wanted opening very soon and paid a lot of money to do the project, I be pretty dam cheesed off if I had to wait 638 years for its completion!.
I really do love the history behind this place. It was completed when the Romans were in charge. Once done, it had one hundred and four colossal columns and was known to be the largest temple in Greece. However, only after a century the Barbarian’s invaded the city. They pillaged everything from the temple and the place fell into disuse and never got repaired, eventually falling into ruins. Over time, the temple was quarried for building materials to supply material for other projects across the city but somehow most of the outer shell of the temple still stands today, including sixteen of the original columns.
Nearby is the Ancient Agora of Athens which is located northwest of the Acropolis. This is a place definitely worth hitting up. The Agora is made up of a large area full of ancient ruins. It is surrounded with lots of trees and bushes dotted about to give the place a more feel good factor. In the golden age of Ancient Greece, a lot of the juries and political gatherings would take place here. The area started out as houses before becoming land for the government. During this time, fountains, a drainage system and a temple dedicated to the Olympia gods were built. After they were built, they expanded the Agora by building more public buildings, more temples and went crazy planting trees (which is a good thing).
Over the centuries the Persians, the Romans, etc, had come and gone, sieging the place. It then become a residential area before falling into ruins (but in a lot better condition than the other sites around the city). It wasn’t until the 19th century that archaeologists started to excavate the area. However a huge discovery was made in the late 19th century when construction workers of the Athens-Piraeus railway found a large part of the Agora. Because of this discovery the project didn’t come through here and a lot of excavation took place. Work is still taking place today and the archaeologists believe that there is much more to find of the Agora.
Even though I only checked out three sites around Athens (and there are still plenty to do), these are the places which I saw on my day to the Greek capital and recommend them to all visitors. If anyone is coming here for a day before heading off to other parts of the country (or one of the countries many thousand islands) then these can all be done in one day.
In the summer months take a bottle of water as the heat of the sun can be very hot. You’ll also want to take a pair of sensible walking shoes for the uphill paths and walking on marbled stones. I remember seeing an American woman in high heels getting her heel jammed in between the marble stones and started to scream “Why did the Greeks use these stones to walk on?!?” – one funny moment I will always treasure forever up on the Acropolis. I seriously can’t wait to get back to Athens to check out the other sites and give the non-Ancient side of the city another chance.
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