Named after the goddess Athena, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city prides itself for being the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, Olympic Games, western literature and major mathematical principles. Many notable rulers, philosophers, writers, politicians, and scientists, including Alexander the Great, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato, belonged to this historic city of Greece. It is very well-known that Athens was the intellectual beacon of the ancient world.
However, Greece has been in the world headlines lately due to its economic crisis. One would think that with the Greek’s financial catastrophe and unemployment at record highs, the mood would be depressing but it was the complete opposite. I was surprised that the vibe was warm- no signs of the massive financial crisis or even street protests when I was there. Life goes on for all the Greeks.
I have always wanted to go to Athens. Given the chance who wouldn’t want to see the temple of the Gods and the land of epic battles? Although before this trip, I have read blog post after blog post that Athens is a dirty city, full of graffiti, decaying buildings and stray dogs. Despite the criticisms, I wanted to see for myself. Thankfully, I didn’t judge a book by its cover– because I loved Athens! Actually, I loved the whole country of Greece! I think people need to see beyond its gritty exterior in order to enjoy it. This goes to show you, you can’t judge a place based on someone else’s experiences, that each experience has to be your own.
People sometimes use the names Acropolis and Parthenon interchangeably, which is not right. The Acropolis is the hill upon that rises above the great city of Athens on which the Parthenon sits. The Parthenon is a gigantic temple that has been the center of Athenian life for millennia. It was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who defeated Poseidon to become the patroness of the city. As I emerged from the scorching heat of the city, there it was, the ancient temple in all of its glory. And a lot of scaffolding. And cranes too. Haha! I remember 10 years ago, while looking through the photos of the ruins online, I said to myself that the restoration might be finished before I go to Athens, but after 10 years, the cranes were still there. Nevertheless, it was amazing to see these structures that were built so long before modern technology, standing strong in the middle of such a modern city. The Parthenon is known to have endured all natural calamities, attacks and invasions. From the top of the hill I had a 360 degree view of the city while glistening under the bright sun. It’s a good thing that despite Greece’s economic woes, the Acropolis is still receiving meticulous care so that generations to come can enjoy it.
After visiting the ruins, we spent time to cool down to the New Acropolis Museum, a state-of-the-art museum showcasing all the artifacts found in the centuries of excavation at the Acropolis. We walked to the historic neighborhood of Plaka afterwards. The whole place is full of beautiful old buildings, incredible street art, and tons of trendy bars and cafes.
Athens can seem like an extreme city that somewhat has rough edges that you pass through on your way to Santorini, Mykonos or Zakynthos. Yet there is so much depth, history and richness to it, travelers shouldn’t skip through too quickly.