The Acropolis, Athens, Greece
It’s always a bit strange, I find, actually going to one of the world’s most famous landmarks. There’s so much expectation there. You’ve seen so many photos – often making the place look better than it could ever be in real life – that you fear the actual thing couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. I was worried the Acropolis in Athens would be one of those.
Climbing the steps, it is hot. A steep cliff rises above me, a scattering of ruins lies around. Nothing to write home about yet. Tourists are paused along the path, taking photos of… I’m not really sure. One Japanese visitor is told off by the guards for using a tripod but I’m not really sure why. There’s no need for him to be using the assistance to photograph the unmoving objects in the hot sunlight – so there’s no real point in stopping him. But so be it. I walk further on and leave him to his sweaty mutterings, imagining speech bubbles of angry kanji characters.
Up the final set of stairs it’s starting the get slippery. Climbing on marble in flip flops makes you wonder if the stones are perspiring themselves. Perhaps it’s the strain of supporting so many visitors over so many thousands of years. I imagine it’s always been tiring, even if the material of the sandals have changed over the generations.
Getting to the top, I pause for breath. Not because of the steep incline I’ve just climbed, but because the beauty of the Acropolis has finally revealed itself. Everything that had been visible from a distance is in front of me but close up it takes on a new dimension.
I had wondered if it would live up to expectations. It does.
The Parthenon at the Acropolis
The columns tower above, the scale something that could not be imagined. Unlike many ruins in Greece, it’s easy to picture the original form. The temple for Athena is a tribute which merges the human and the divine. All of Athens, her city, lies flat below but up here, closer to the heavens, you feel displaced from the minutiae of everyday life. There is a spirituality to standing atop the Acropolis that neither time nor cynicism can destroy.
It seems even hotter up here. Are we closer to the sun? Is there a reflected heat from all the stone? Is it just a lack of shade? Under one of the few trees on top of the hill, bubblers of water allow visitors to quench the thirst and refill their bottles. One family has commandeered them all, though, like foreign invaders conquering and hydrating. Their small children use it as a bath, splashing around in the shallow basin. Really, it’s not that hot! And it’s my turn!
It’s funny how the grandest of sites can be so impressive, despite the expectation. The most religious of places can be almost transcendental. But the little things somehow always creep in. A ban on tripods; slippery stairs; a queue for the drinking water. We are but mere mortals.