As far as cities go, Athens does indeed reveal some economic stress like the wear and tear of my quality, though singular pair of jeans. Shop windows are papered over and vandalized with that iconic smear of wordless black spray-paint.
But up above this realistic visage is something completely unreal. High on the hill catching the first golden light of evening is the acropolis. Right there in the middle of this standard grid of buildings is something so ancient and significant it’s hard to give it appropriate awe.
We had the good fortune of forgetting our map yesterday and thus we came upon the Acropolis from a side entrance of sorts. We picked our way up a steep cliffside littered with little buildings, creeping through passageways so narrow they couldn’t possibly in any stretch be called “streets” or even “sidewalks.” The gaps between houses have been carved with stair steps to allow access to the acropolis but in passing through these passageways you feel quite like an intruder trespassing across the doorsteps of strangers while their lazy cats slip you looks of half-apathetic disapproval.
The Acropolis itself is something so historically significant…that it’s almost just as impressive to think about as it is to look at. I would not say this for things like Angkor Wat or Maccu Piccu. Those are monuments that seem to become more impressive as you physically explore them. The Acropolis on the other hand is so significant, (and so crowded I might add) that it’s hard to fathom what’s in front of you while you’re there. The stories and histories woven into my education since probably third grade have made it hard for me to bundle all of this into the ancient structure in view. Once I removed myself from the crowds, descended the slick marble hill, polished by thousands upon thousands of feet and found my way to the Agora (the old market place) I had an easier time wrapping my mind around the setting. I almost appreciated the parthenon more as I gazed upon it from the bottom of the hill than I did at its doorstep. Maybe the crowds made it hard for me to sit and think, which is what I would have liked to do.
Fortunately, the parthenon is the most visible thing in this city it seems. So now I can look back up at the Acropolis and just think.