At the risk of sounding cliché-ish, time does go by so fast you will hardly notice it.
Two years ago to this day, I was in Prague, overwhelmed to be in the City of 100 Spires, only taking comfort in my walks around the Old Town and in the company of my Couchsurfing host.
There had been a lot of memorable moments from my European trip, with many stories and experiences that ran the gamut of emotions—from ecstatically happy to depressingly sad. In most cases, my experiences were banal, although I’m glad to say that a few of them had been pretty unforgettable.
Indeed, when you are faced with the fact that you’re in one of the world’s most famous landmarks—like the Colosseum in Rome, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or the Acropolis in Athens—it’s hard to feel anything other than disbelief.
You’re seeing places you’ve only dreamed about, read about, or fantasized about your whole life. How can it be more than just a dream?
Take the Acropolis, for instance. Who hasn’t heard of it, or of the Parthenon? For anyone who had studied (or been forced to study) the classics in school, or watched movies (e.g., Hercules, Percy Jackson, Pompeii, 300), it’s hard to forget the Greek gods, with their awesome power and concurrent conceit, and their everlasting meddling in the affairs of mortals that more often than not went awry.
The Acropolis is one such place where you can “feel” the presence of the Greek gods. It’s a grand complex with structures that are thousands of years old, reeking of history and generations of human piety to the powers above.
Of the buildings in the Acropolis, the Parthenon is the most famous. All over the world, there are thousands and thousands of photographs of it standing tall and proud, a proven testament to the power of man who made something study enough to survive centuries of human violence and even indifference.
Prior to entering the Acropolis, however, remove any expectations you may have about the Parthenon.
Because when I came out between the huge stone columns of the Propylaea which served as the gateway to the Acropolis, I was shocked when I saw the Parthenon for the first time. There were cranes in front of it, and it was criss-crossed with metal railings.
Where was the Parthenon of the postcards, the picture books, and the countless photographs? Where was the centuries-old huge temple dedicated to the maiden goddess Athena?
Actually, it’s still there, but it—together with all the structures in the Acropolis—was being meticulously restored. Every single piece of stone or marble that comprised the Parthenon was being dismantled and taken to the Acropolis Museum, to be replaced in site by stone copies of the original.
The restoration project had been going on for years, with everyone involved committing to preserve the structure as it had looked thousands of years ago.
The same was being done to the Erechtheion, the ancient Greek temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon with six figures holding up the roof. Called the Porch of the Caryatids, only five statues remain.
One had been sent to the British Museum while the original five statues were in the Acropolis Museum.
I went around snapping pictures left and right of the grand structures inside the Acropolis, and even though I didn’t expect it, I began to slowly feel the magic of the place and appreciate its beauty. I was glad to be there by myself (there was only one guy near me, the Couchsurfing sticker on his backpack clearly visible); I needed the solitude to reflect and process what I was seeing and what I was feeling that moment in the presence of so much history.
In the end, despite knowing that most of the blocks that comprise the impressive structures in the Acropolis were all just copies of the original, I still couldn’t help feeling awed by it all.
I was in the middle of the Acropolis, with the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike around me. These grand structures, built by Athenians centuries ago to honor and worship the gods, especially their protector, Athena, demanded of them their admiration, respect, and reverence, and I found myself giving the same.
Indeed, up there in the Acropolis way up high in Athens, it was so easy to feel that we were closer to the gods and were blessed by them all.
The €12 ticket you will buy to see the Acropolis will be good for three days. With it, you can also visit other archaeological sites, namely the Acropolis Museum (a must!), the Ancient Agora, the Theater of Dionysus, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Roman Agora.
Buy it at the entrance to the Acropolis.