Athens: Acropolis & Museum, Anafiotika

One goal of any tourist visiting Athens surely has to be a visit to the Acropolis. Even if history isn’t your thing, the views from such an elevated point demand attention. This day it was my turn. Everything I read said go early, I already had my combined ticket from the day before so I was ready.

Entry was simple and quick and before I knew it I was heading up to the entrance. On the way passing the Odeon Of Herodes Atticus, an ancient theatre still used today.

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I had my Rick Steves app again to guide me through the site. None of the glimpses you get from down below really prepare you for the enormity and grandeur of the structure, and that is just the entrance. The iconic building that we think of when we think of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, but there are actually several building atop the mount.

The first one that you encounter is the Propylaia, or the grand entry gate with the Temple of Athena to its right.

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Once through the entrance the two major buildings come into view, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon.

The Erechtheion is home to the spectacular Caryatids, replicas here, most of the originals reside in the Acropolis museum.

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The Parthenon, under restoration, a slow process that will take decades, is quite imposing. The restoration is being done with identical marble to the originally used and while it now looks strikingly different, as it ages over time it will age the same as the current structure. Much of the decorative sculptures have been removed, some of them to the Acropolis Museum, and a lot, quite controversially, reside in London. More about that once I get to the museum.

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The views are quite spectacular.

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Leaving the top of the Acropolis and making your way down towards the Acropolis Museum involves passing through a lot more ancient ruins until coming to the Theatre of Dionysus where you can sit on one of the rows of seats and imagine performances more than 2500 years ago.

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As I made my way down from the top of the Acropolis I understood why everything I had read said to go early. As I exited masses of groups flocked in and I wandered past them grateful for my research.

In awe of what I had seen at the Acropolis I made my way to the Acropolis Museum to really complete the experience. And have my first Baklava… There is an excavation site underneath the forecourt of the Museum.

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Much of the museum does not allow photographs. An exception is the Caryatids.

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The lower level of the museum contains an assortment of historic relics from the site, the upper level recreates the Parthenon and its marbles. It is quite extraordinary with the space surrounded by columns, presumably in the same layout as the actual Parthenon, then representation of the actual metopes, frieze and pediments. Any actual relics, or portions of relics, are in place with those missing represented as well. It is designed to recreate the actual space and is done very well. An extraordinary experience to visit.

There is frequent mention of missing marbles being in the British Museum, having been stolen by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s. There is also a video presentation documenting their theft. The resentment towards the British Museum is clear. And you can’t help leaving thinking that it is justified.

The view from the cafe back towards the site is priceless.

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I walked out of the gift shop with a stack of books to take home to my kids.

From the museum it is a simple stroll back towards Plaka to Anafiotika, a tiny pocket of Athens with architecture reminiscent of the islands. It really only takes a few minutes to wander, but it is very cute and I found a fabulous view of Mt Lycabettus.

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With my visit to Anafiotika complete my Athens list was complete. There was plenty more to see obviously but after about 22 days on the go I was understandably tired. The rest of the day I filled with a long lunch in Plaka, a rest, then a long dinner in Monastiraki. A much needed quieter afternoon.

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One full day left in Greece.

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