Coming to Athens I expected a lot of Spartan stuff, and of course as a Wolverine this makes me sad. Additionally, I poorly timed this trip to coincide with the sting of the Big Ten Tournament… At least there is a relief sculpture of a fallen Spartan which made me smile.
Obviously the main attraction of Athens is the Acropolis. The Parthenon is the most well-known part of this archeological site and is probably what you picture when you think of Athens. Renovation and reconstruction efforts are under way, which unfortunately means cranes and scaffolding are clouding all of my pretty pictures. Short architectural lesson time… There is a slight bulge of the columns of the Parthenon, which gives the impression that they are bending under the weight of the roof. And according to my guide book: “the secret of the harmony of the Parthenon is that there is a not a straight line in the design”. I don’t get it – probably why I’m an engineer and not an architect…
The Erechtheion is in much better condition and is considered the most holy site of the Acropolis. This is where the goddess Athena planted her olive tree. Apparently there was a contest for the naming of the city between Poseidon and Athena. Poseidon struck his trident in the ground and a spring gushed forth. The citizens were not impressed because it was salt water, like the waters of the sea that he ruled. Athena planted a seed in the ground that grew into an olive tree. She won.
Another obviously iconic image of Greece is the Olympics. The first “Olympics” were known as the festival of Panathenaea. Every four years the ancient Athenians celebrated the Megala (great) Panathenaea which included horse racing, athletic contests, competitions in music and other activities. Originally, in 330 BC, a stadium was made of wood. However, the Panathenaikon Stadium, which stands today, was the venue of the first modern Olympic Games in modern history (1896). It is pretty spectacular to see a stadium made of white marble. It still has nothing one the Big House though; it only holds 60,000 people…
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is basically just columns. Apparently 16 of the original 104 columns have been preserved and sits right next to a tennis club. The nearby Hadrian’s Arch was constructed in 131 AD in honor of the Emperor Hadrian. The arch sits only about 100 feet from a major roadway. It’s weird to be walking down the road and then boom, there is a 2000 year old monument. I think my favorite archeological “find” was a really old looking church (no description) right in the middle of a major shopping street. Walking along there is a church, and then right behind it is an H&M.
Unfortunately for your Wolverine fans there isn’t an ancient city which celebrates a large rodent that eats dead animals and looks like a big skunk.