Go ahead, I can take it.
It is just that at some point I stopped being impressed, or wowed, by some of the most popular sites in the world. In Jordan, I was entirely underwhelmed by Petra, in part because of the cost of entry, but also because of the hype. It is just that after so many countries, and so many European and international cities, and so many must-see landmarks, it is starting to take a lot more to wow us.
I have always wanted to go to Greece. It was one of the gaping holes in our European map. I have been to Montenegro, but not to Greece. Kind of strange. I always imagined that I would fly into Athens, stop to see the Acropolis, and then scoot out to some islands. I never imagined spending over a week in Athens and its surrounding area.
Do We Have to Go?
But, there we were, in town for TBEX, the travel bloggers’ conference. And, despite being a history and political science major, and despite the fact that I studied art history, with classes that started even before the classical Greeks and Romans, I was not all that thrilled to go see the Acropolis. Perhaps it was that we were just tired and stuffed after our two weeks in Italy. I am sure in some way it was on a bucket list of mine, but once I was there, in country, something changed in me.
When it came to actually being in Athens, I felt like we had to go. And, I tend to shy away from things that I HAVE to do. Including world-famous historical attractions. We sat at a cafe at the base of the Acropolis, watching the hordes of tourists walk by, asking “Do we have to go?”
So, after our Alternative Athens lunch in an Athenian home, with a few glasses of wine and a generous shot of ouzo under our belts, we made our way back to the tourist heart of Athens. We had been given two free passes to see the Acropolis and they were only good that day, and one more. Normally, entrance to the Acropolis would have been 12 Euros (but included a few other sites as well). It was a gorgeous day in Athens, what turned out to be our last beautiful day of the trip.
We had stunning weather, a free ticket, were standing at the base of the Acropolis, and we questioned again “Do we have to go”?
Climbing the Acropolis
Eric was more hesitant than I was. I think he would have rather done anything other than hanging with the other tourists climbing the Acropolis stairs. After all, we could see the Parthenon from down below, as well as from numerous vantage points across the city. Doesn’t that count as “seeing it.”
In the end, I kind of forced Eric to go. I was waiting for a fight, either before hand or after.
And so we climbed.
There weren’t that many tourists, and it was not that hot. Most importantly, I can say that we saw it. We finished our walk around the grounds by both of us saying to each other “check,” like another thing off of the list; we have completed the checklist item “climbing the Acropolis.”
So, what did we see?
A lot of old stuff. Although there were more signs and explanations than what we saw at Petra, we at least knew what we were looking at.
More interestingly, we also saw a lot of new stuff, namely, shiny slabs of brand new marble for use in restoration and reconstruction. It is a debate I did not wish to enter with any Greek, but we wondered about the effectiveness of this level of restoration. What evolved from our trip climbing the Acropolis was a heated discussion between Eric and I about the benefits and drawbacks of this level of restoration, or is it reconstruction. Or, is it new construction?
I understand the importance of saving historical sites, and this one happens to be one of the older ones. And, I understand the importance of having a national identity and pride in such a site. But, when is restoration too much?
The Plight of Perpetual Travelers
Am I happy we climbed to the top (in the end, it only took about 10 minutes)? Probably. As much as I hemmed and hawed with Eric, and talked him into going, I was well aware that I had to see the Acropolis, so that is what we did. I have just reached the point in my life, and as a traveler, where I know what I like and I know what I don’t (I’m sure there is a grandfather telling his grandkids the same life lesson….”when you are as old as me kids…”).
In this case, I forced us to go, and was happy that we saw the Acropolis. Maybe I do still have something left to learn.
We were hosted by the City of Athens Convention and Tourism Board with free tickets to the Acropolis, but, obviously, my views are my own.