Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Athens: The 'Culture Shots'

I'm listening to Frank Ocean's album as I look almost mournfully upon these pictures.  The sad thing about holidays is that they always have to end; cue the inevitable post-sun blues and a typically grey drizzly England.  From a sleepy salty paradise, back into the alarmingly real, hectic world of uni, work, uni work and, heaven forbid, looking after myself again, it's been a sharp and clumsy fall for me.  I had such a bloody lovely time in Greece with Josh.  And this evening I want to share some of the more 'cultural' snaps I took while in Athens city... I'm saving the general mish-mash of photos for a separate post.

Athens is a goldmine of archaeological sites and ancient ruins and there is a pass you can get for €30 that gives you access into 7 or 8 (ah, my hazy memory) of the best.  And, the even better news for students is that if you have an NUS card you get the pass completely free.  We shortlisted a few sites that we wanted to prioritize, and top of the list was the Acropolis - perhaps the obvious choice.  Getting into Athens was, to my pleasant surprise, an absolute breeze.  The metro is great and buying tickets is easy and cheap.  

We got to the Acropolis quite early, around 10am, and there was only a small queue to get in, bearing in mind we visited early September and so we were slightly out of season anyway.  The site itself is pretty big, and features some fairly impressive inclines if you choose not to stick to the long and winding paths that slope gently up to the main event.  I would definitely recommend also going early if you do visit, as by 11am we were struggling with the heat, having already reached the top.  It was our first day in Athens and so we were also fairly unprepared - all I can say is it's worth taking some kind of sweat mopping accessory, so you don't have to end up using your clothes, as we did. 

The southwest slope of the Acropolis features the 'Herod Atticus Odeon', an impressive stone amphitheatre that is still used as a music venue.   

Reaching the top of the site, we were presented with towering arches and slippery stone underfoot worn from hordes of visitors over the years.  In comparison to my memory of vising stonehenge, where I could've done with some binoculars and there was certainly no touching, this felt like a far more immersive experience... we were literally climbing all over the ruins themselves. 

The views from the top were incredible; you really get a sense of the vastness of the city itself.

Sure enough, I found tourists draped over every perch-able surface, and cameras almost outnumbered bodies, but looking beyond the crowds, I felt I really was staring at something magnificent.

On our subsequent trips into Athens we also stopped off at the Roman Agora and the Ancient Agora, as well as peering in on Hadrian's library and a few other bits and bobs - Ancient Greece seems completely unavoidable in the city!

The Roman Agora is far smaller compared to the Acropolis site, and was also a lot less busy when we visited.

It features a little chapel with this beautiful roof, as well as your stock Ancient Greek arches and columns that are equally impressive each time you see them.

... and apparently Lego was around in Ancient Greece, too.

And finally, the Ancient Agora.  Much bigger than the Roman Agora, and well worth a look.  There's also a small museum section where you can browse pottery, jewellery, crockery etc.

One of the things I loved about Athens as a city, was the inescapable visual presence of the past.  It literally surrounded you.  From rooftop bar, to street side restaurant, to tram to hostel, there was always something to look at, sitting quietly and peacefully in the distance - a majestic reminder of so much before me.  

Ruby x