Friday, April 3, 2015

The Acropolis and Agora

The main historical site in Athens is the Acropolis, several ancient buildings preserved upon a tall hill in the center of the city. Some of these buildings date back to the 5th century B.C., so it is incredible to walk amongst the ruins and imagine what the scene would have looked like so long ago. 

There is an admission fee to gain access to the hill. We got a unified pass, which allowed entrance to multiple historic sites for 12 euros over 4 days. If you are interested in the specific archaeological details of the Acropolis, you should visit the Acropolis Museum, located at the base of the hill. The museum is extremely well-curated and actually stands atop of some old ruins, which you can see through parts of the floor made of glass. 

As we made our way up to the Parthenon at the top of the Acropolis, we passed by this beautiful site called the Theater of Dionysus. It was lovely to see the city extending out in the background beyond the ruins.

At the top of the hill lay the Parthenon. It was undergoing some renovation, which is to be expected in the low tourist season, but at least there were not crowds of people everywhere. That's the trade-off for coming in the winter. 

There was a big gate, or propylaia, at the western entrance to the top. 

The Parthenon itself was enormous. It was amazing to go and look at the intricate construction of the massive columns, so heavy yet seemingly so delicately built at the same time. This temple dates back to around 400 B.C., so it obviously has weathered relatively well. 

Just at the base of the Acropolis is a large, sloping area called the Agora, which contains the ruins of the center of life in ancient Athens. Here were the libraries, businesses, offices, and courts that the Athenians used on a daily basis.

The Agora was in use for over a thousand years, so there are so many layers of history here that are difficult for a casual visitor like me to understand. I liked that visitors were allowed to roam around the area at our leisure, and even stray off the path if we wanted to. There were even people sitting on some old stones and having a picnic!  

The Agora is quite large, with several buildings and temples to see, so it would be wise to dedicate at least 1-2 hours to roam the place. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful and sunny day, perfect for exploring this ancient site.

Seeing both the Acropolis and the Agora in one day is possible, but I would recommend splitting up the trip into two days in order to fully appreciate each site without getting tired out. Right outside the Acropolis is the lovely neighborhood of Monastiraki, with lots of shops and a big flea market on Sundays, if you need to take a break from looking at all these ancient sites!

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