Seeing the Acropolis up close was a dream come true for me. No matter how many times you view a place in photographs or videos, there’s nothing like experiencing it in person. And the Acropolis is particularly alluring because you catch sight of it from different angles as you stroll around the sprawling metropolis that is Athens. Day or night, it’s a joy to behold.
The Acropolis holds a series of treasures. The entry gate, called the Propylaea, was designed to inspire awe. Just beyond it is the Temple of Athena Nike, which represented the goddess as the victorious protector of her namesake city. Step further inside and you’ll find the Erechtheion — a temple famous for its six stone guardians, the Caryatids — and the Parthenon itself, dedicated to Athena the Virgin. Built between 450 BC and 440 BC, it was the largest Doric temple in Greece.
If you want to see the glorious statues and carved reliefs that once graced the Parthenon, there are two places to look. One is the British Museum, which houses the Elgin Marbles, a collection that includes friezes from the Parthenon and one of the Caryatids from the Erechtheion. (The return of this collection is the subject of ongoing debate and discussion between Greece and Britain.) The second place to look is the stunning modern museum at the foot of the Acropolis.
Built atop Roman and Byzantine ruins, the Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 to showcase both art and history. It does so beautifully, with original statues excavated from under the Parthenon, and with impeccable copies of the works that were removed by Lord Elgin. The top floor of the building is devoted to the carved marble panels of the Parthenon. Even though you know you are looking at copies (the museum is scrupulous about noting that), the scenes — depicting warring deities, centaurs, Amazons, and the fall of Troy — are breathtaking.
There was another wonder at the foot of the Acropolis, just across from the museum….