Seven days in Athens can be a blur if you do not pace yourself. The sheer amount of museums in Athens, sculpture after sculpture, and rooms filled with century old artifacts, can blend together if you rush through the museums. The bulk of my experience in Athens held some kind of museum or ruin. The city is a blend of old and new, with the old ruins and the new city built around it. I feel as though I missed out on the new by focusing solely on the old.
Though I spent a fair amount of time riding through the city on the metro, bus or train, I only whipped past places I would have liked to visit. The group that I traveled with had already made a strict itinerary that left little down time. Though the historical ruins of Athens are fantastic, I would suggest viewing some current attractionss such as the shopping district and Monastraiki. By the end of my journey I had made a list of places I had liked to go but was not able to make it. Often times the journey is not in the destination but how you get there, and I enjoyed getting to places more than I enjoyed being there.
The sites from the ruins are beautiful; there is no getting around that fact. There is a humbling presence that can be sensed by everyone on the premises. Once again there is the awe that people in ancient times could have the tools and the knowledge to build such artifacts. We have only tried to build and improve the objects they have already invented.
Not only did I get to view one of the most popular sites, the Acropolis, but I even had the chance to dine at a restaurant that had a wonderful view of it lit up at night. The food and the view were both once in a lifetime events. Though the food was higher on the price scale, it was worth the money to dine at the restaurant. It is not often that someone gets to travel across the globe and dine while viewing one of the greatest pieces of architecture known to man. The disheartening aspect was that for the first few days in Athens, I walked around the Acropolis from every angle but did not go inside until four days into the journey. It is best to go see the Acropolis as soon as possible because once you get used to seeing a sight the beauty and wonder diminishes, and it becomes a normal thing instead of a memory that should be cherished.
Each ruin is a museum in and of itself. It holds the history of what happened there and descriptions of how it was built. Information that was passed down from generation to generation and artifacts that were researched by archaeologists are told in informational pamphlets passed out during the entry process. It is easy to get dates and architects mixed up when the information is pushed into your brain in a short amount of time. I suggest viewing one museum every three days, just to spread out the information for retaining purposes.
The three museums I viewed within a short amount of time were the Acropolis Museum, the National Museum, and the Delphi Archaeological Museum. All were informational and intriguing. Archaeologists have dedicated their lives to finding ancient artifacts that have been buried for centuries under rocks or have been displaced in shipwrecks. Dedication in that form puts more value on the museum because their hard work is displayed. However, the frequency with which I visited the museums led to the experience being a blur. I cannot tell you what piece of information was from which museum, especially not specific details.
This is not to say that the museums were in any way boring or unimportant, or that the information was meaningless. I mean I would have retained more information and taken more from the museums if they were spread out. The tours were aspects in which I learned more about the culture from observing people. The victims of my observation were the tour guides. The guide for the Acropolis and the National museums was an older woman who spoke emphatically with her hands and had a large amount of Greek pride. She treated each person in the tour group as if they were her children, only she sugar-coated nothing and sometimes picked on members of the group. She had the perfect balance of caring yet not being too over-attentive. Her kindness did not seem fake in anyway and she was an honest woman, a traditional Greek mother. Coincidentally her niece was the guide for Delphi, and they shared similar traits. Both interacted with the group and made the tour personal. However, in talking with the younger guide, some generational differences were apparent. While the older guide was gentle yet stern, the younger guide had a fiery personality. She spoke about the financial crisis with passion and approached it as an open topic instead of a topic that should not be discussed in public. Her opinion was firm and revolutionary. The traditional Greek life and the new revolutionary Greek differences were apparent.
The adventure that separates itself from the pack was the view from Lycabettus Hill. This hill is the highest point in Athens and gives you a perfect view of all edges of the city. This was where old Athens met new Athens. The old marble from the ruins mixed with the new shiny communities that surrounded the Acropolis. Glimmering solar panels and water heaters sat on top of houses and apartments blocks away from the Acropolis. A new park was built surrounding the ruins of an old temple. A few streets away was the shopping district. The balance represented a change that was occurring in Greece. The old and the new had to find a way to coexist together, the generational gap and traditions had to make room for fresh ideas. That epiphany occurred thousands of feet above the city, above the noise of cars and loud Greek voices. Looking down at the differences in architecture and how the city was shape it became apparent that the city is still in transition and both the old and the new must come in moderation.