Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Glory That Was Greece*

* a line from Edgar Allen Poe's poem "To Helen"
When one writes about a trip, the challenge is—how to tell this story. I could use a chronological approach, going day by day. This is the most common pattern—after all, we humans frequently think in terms of chronology. Hour follows hour, day follows day, and year follows year. I could use a thematic approach—the foods we ate, the places we visited, the topography of the place, the people. Or I could use a description of each location, which is what I think I will do. You will no doubt spot smatterings of the other approaches, as chronology creeps in or themes rear up.

Most trips to Greece begin (or end) with Athens. In a country of some 10 million people, about 5 million of the people live in or immediately around Athens. Just 4 years ago, we all saw scenes of Athens if we watched the 2004 Summer Olympics. And since the city has been inhabited for some 3,000 years, it is not surprising to find a mix of ancient and modern side by side. Its name—Athens—indicates the patron god to whom the city was dedicated: Athena.

We flew into Athens and, during our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel, got our introduction. Our driver was most chatty, and went out of his way to show off his city. I confess—we were a little jet-lagged and weary so I didn’t pay close attention to all he said. However, on that trip we saw the major places we would see later: the Acropolis, the original Olympic Stadium from the 1890s, and the 2004 Olympic Stadium. We also saw the many hills on which Athens is built.

Herewith, photos of some of what we saw.

The Acropolis dominates the city, with its Parthenon and various other structures. The Parthenon has suffered deterioration over time (hence the ubiquitous cranes), including being partially blown up in 1687 when the Ottoman Empire, then occupying Greece, stored munitions there. They were fighting the Venetians, who bombarded the Parthenon, blowing up the munitions. Most famous of all insults to the Parthenon was the removal of the marble frieze work around the pediments. Lord Elgin, while he was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed them in 1801-2 with the approval of the Turkish authorities governing Greece. Eventually they were placed in the British Museum, where they are today. Greece, of course, wants them back.
More travels in Greece to come!
A brief word about the photos--the first 5 were taken by my husband, the last 7 by me.


Anonymous said...

Dang! Those Greeks could sure build. I know we'll go there someday, what with Greg being an architect and all. They are lovely.

I saw the Elgin marbles when we were in London in 2003. They were amazing. I can certainly see how Greece wants them back.

Beverly said...

I haven't been to Greece, but I remember being in Rome and being in awe of the antiquity.

NCmountainwoman said...

Let the adventures begin! Great introduction. We're eagerly awaiting more, however you decide to present it.

JeanMac said...

I got goose bumps just imaging being there - always have wanted to see Greece.

Mary said...

Welcome back, Donna. A country loaded with history and modern next to ancient must be breathtaking. I would have a case of the shivers standing near the original Olympic stadium. Thanks for sharing your trip and I look forward to more!

Ginnie said...

Wow. Don't you just love to travel? It opens up the world and lets me know that it hasn't always been as we see it now. I loved the pictures.

Ruth said...

It is incredible to think that ancient people could erect such impressive buildings as these. I wonder if they would still stand in North America? Our city has torn down most of its history.

RuthieJ said...

Gosh Donna, Greece is such an amazing place! I'm always dumbfounded by their structures--built in a time without electricity or any other modern conveniences we utilize today.