They say you haven’t been to Athens if you haven’t been up top to the 5th century limestone citadel commonly know as the Acropolis. This colossal structure erected to mark the triumph of democracy is by all accounts the most iconic edifice of western civilisation. A visit there routinely elicits a torrent of emotion most usually manifested through tears of joy and ecstasy. Its ecumenical appeal is widely attributed to it’s visceral image as one of humanity, harmony and the pursuit of happiness. The very values of western ideals are inculcated in it’s fabric.
The history of the western world is mapped out all over the Attica basin like a real life game of thrones. From the battles of marathon and Thermopylae, which paved the way for democracy, to the ancient agora and the port of Piraeus, where ancient trade routes made their port of call, Athens is an open history book that traces the stories, histories and myths of the past. Heck, the theatre of Dionysus, the world’s first ever theatre is located on the south slope of the acropolis. The world’s first ever meteorological station? The tower of the winds located in Plaka. The world’s first ever analogue computer? The Antikythera Mechanism located in the National archaeological Museum in the district of Exarchia. You see where i’m going with this?
A heck of a lot more is within Athens’s vast complex of museums and galleries. Go no further than the Cycladic Museum if you want to pull at the string. There, amongst other things, one can find the creative muse to Picasso’s and Giacometti’s characteristic sculptures and forms in the shape of thousand year old clay figurines found in the Cycladic island sprawl. The impressive Acropolis Museum, adjacent to the Acropolis itself, is a marvel of architectural ingenuity, as it incorporates the ancient structures into the fold. Walking around town, one finds old roman columns standing next to trees on a pavement, a testament both to the city’s hallowed past and its chaotic modern urban planning.
Venture east and one finds, unceremoniously, the grounds of Plato’s Academy near Kerameikos, the old pottery district of ancient Athens.
The joke in Athens is a long running one. If the city were ever to unearth all its treasures, it’s public debt would be wiped out with a snap of the finger. One wonders what the Goddess Athena would’ve made of all this in her infinite wisdom.