Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Athens is not the oldest continuously populated city in the world. That distinction belongs to Damascus, Varanasi, Cholula or any other depending on who or what you consult. However the thing about Athens is that driving or walking around, you find stones, ruins, building, baths, temples strewn all around. You can't throw a stone without it hitting another from the 4th or 5th century B.C.E. Athens is chock-a-block with ruins (the other thing it is chock-a-block with is traffic).

The Temple of Zeus which started off as a Doric structure in the 5th century B.C. finally turned Corinthian with its fluted columns 700 years later. One wonders if local constructions companies in India took some tips on how to delay projects from the ancient Greeks.

There is little to be said of the Acropolis that hasn't already been said. Representing the pinnacle both literally and metaphorically of the ancient Western world it is a structure that diminishes everything else around.

There are beautiful views of the city of Athens from the top.

Just before reaching the top where stands the Parthenon, you pass the Theatre of Dionysus, the womb from which all theatre in the ancient Western world is believed to have originated. Plays by Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes were performed here and it is still used for plays and concerts by famous artists.

What is more fascinating, though in a contemporary setting is the New Acropolis museum. Housing all the major finds -- statues, figurines, amphoras, clay tablets with paintings, coins found in excavations in and around Athens, everything that was not taken away by the British to their museums, the whole edifice is built over the in situ ruins of a Greek city dating variously from the 5th century B.C.E. to the 4th century C.E. The floor at ground level is made of glass allowing visitors a peek into this city, complete with the ruins of houses, walls, baths, temples and so on. It's a surreal and ultimately overwhelming feeling to be walking just above the ruins of a once flourishing culture.

Greece is a pleasant mix of the East and the West. It has the infrastructure of the Western world (well, almost) and yet, the people are warmer, friendlier, and just that little bit more chaotic than their Western and Northern European more individualistic cousins. I found them uniformly friendly and helpful, at least in my almost two-week long stay, though like many of our countries, taxi drivers try to fleece you as much as they can get away with. However, with Greece's headlong rush into the European community, I foresee that much that is intrinsic will change, and that will include substantially higher prices for tourists. This happened dramatically when they moved from the drachma to the euro and the trend will continue.

Update: All the Greece pictures are now here

1 comment:

AmOK said...

Wow! I must visit Georgia again. I didn't know all this was hidden there.