Back when I was looking at hotels in Athens I was all “ooooh, this one has a view of the Acropolis! Let’s stay there!” and then I got here and realized that everything in the city has a view of the Acropolis. It’s not quite the tallest thing in the city but almost.
And of course that begs, the question “How does one get up there and do we have to climb the whole way?” All you cliff climbers can definitely do the whole thing on foot but we took the Athens Happy Train, a tiny little intercity trolley that whips you past all the highlights of the city and is on a schedule I can only describe as erratic. It’s supposed to run every half hour… it doesn’t. As with most conveyances in Greece, it’s best to be patient and not in a hurry. Get a coffee. Settle in. You’ll get there eventually.
The Happy Train took us most of the way up that cliff top and dropped us off at the foot of this ticket line
But even though this looks like a crazy number of people pouring in through those massive gates
Once you actually get into the Acropolis, there’s space for days.
Of course we visited in not quite high season so I expect August to be wall to wall sweating bodies. I recommend the end of May.
The site itself is a stunning mass of scenic rubble. And I mean that in the best way possible.
For funsies, here’s some reality for the history nerds amongst you:
The Parthenon was constructed between 447-438BC.
Most massive sites around the world took centuries to complete (Sagrada Familia, I’m looking at you…) but these Parthenon guys just got it done.
This is all the more impressive considering each capital – that little frilly carved bit at the top – weighs 8-9 tons and the marble quarries were 16 miles away. Also, Athens is at sea level and the Acropolis is 490 feet up. There’s approximately 100,000 tons of marble in this building alone that was all dragged up this cliff by people and animals.
Imagine what they could have done with machinery…
On an artistic science-y level, these genius Greeks figured out that there’s a difference between a mathematical straight line and how the human eye perceives things. It bugged them that a long straight floor might be seen to sag as it recedes into the horizon so they crafted a subtle rise in the floor so that we see it as a straight line. And the columns were crafted individually of varying thicknesses and at a series of slants so that we see them as long straight lines. Allegedly if they go up high enough, they all meet at the top.
So much of the art and statuary of these sites has been removed into museums but these columns are originals and they’re serious works of art.
Down the slope from the Parthenon is this theatre, renovated enough to be useable but left wrecked enough to be scenic.
In strict contrast to the Theatre of Dionysus, which is just wrecked
Our ticket included the Agora but we did the Acropolis first and neglected to notice that the Agora closed at 3pm… The first of many random opening and closing times in Greece so for all future travelers, pay some attention to that when you visit.
Instead we saw Hadrian’s Arch, a Roman triumphal arch that once divided the city of Athens into the old city of Theseus and the new city of Hadrian. Would that all territory wars had such beautiful artistic divisions.
It’s separated by a fence from this Temple of Zeus.
You can see the Zeus Temple through the fence and we definitely saw Temple tourists photographing the Arch and Arch tourists photographing the Temple. So, that’s a possibility. The other option is to pay 6E and go through the fence and walk around the Temple. Which is what we opted for.
We did not get site tickets inclusive of all the Athens sites. I think if you want to do that, you have to go to smaller sites first because all small site tickets give you an option to include the Acropolis. But the Acropolis site has no inclusive tickets for the smaller sites. Strange but there it is.
I enjoyed this cracked up column, they call it “bottle caps,” that allows us to see how they put these massive pieces together.
This temple was once the largest in the Roman world but was “pillaged by barbarians” in 3AD and never repaired. That means it’s been a wreck longer than it was ever a temple.
I have a lot of thoughts on these ruins, as you might expect, but I’ll save them for another post because are we done with crashed out Greek temples? No my friends, we are not.
Up next, Delphi.