Weirdly, I'm not exactly sad about that. I need a break from airports and planes, honestly. This job, though terribly difficult, has afforded us wonderful opportunities to travel. So many, in fact, that we're now starting to take this privilege for granted. A little time to take a breath and reflect on a wonderful few years will be good and there's an awful lot of my own countr that I haven't seen.
When we regain financial stability in a couple years, we fully intend to take one trip abroad (or to an American city far from the left coast), but it's impossible to guess when we'll actually start traveling again.
But enough of that! Let's talk about the wonderful, wonderful city that is Athens.
We did a walking tour on our first day in the city with a man named George. George is an archaeologist and historian, so the tour was pretty phenomenal. He didn't shy away from politics and his passion for it and his incredible knowledge gave him the air of a college professor. Our group (of about 25-30 people) was also very engaged and, in George's words, our tour became somewhat of a walking, 3-hour seminar.
Two of my favorite topics from the tour were democracy and the importance of Marathon.
"Democracy requires education and participation," George said. He went on to tell us the etymology of the English word "idiot." Before the word took on the meaning of "an uneducated person," it meant "private citizen" in Greek. This is in opposition to a "public citizen" or one who participates in public/civic life. In short, if you don't perform your civic duties (read: staying informed on policy matters and voting), you're an idiot.
Hearing about the Battle of Marathon was fun for me, of course, because I like to run. And if Pheidippides hadn't made it back to Athens in time to give warning and ask for help, the course of Western history would have been completely different. Today, we run marathons to celebrate the human spirit and how awesome it is to be alive. But, it's pretty magical to think about how significant those 26.2 miles/ 46.2km really are.
In case you're like me, The Acropolis refers to the entire hill, or citadel, that the Parthenon (Athenian temple) was built upon. The Parthenon was finished in 432 BC, and though it seems appropriate that it's in disrepair given its age, it was actually mostly intact until the late 1600s. It was originally built to honor Athena (and built upon the site of another ruined temple dedicated to her), but it had a few different faces within its lifetime: a cult of young women may have resided there in its early years, in the 6th Century (BCE) it became a Christian church and then a mosque when the Ottoman Turks captured Athens in 1458. When the Venetians attacked in 1687, the Ottomans used the Parthenon as a shelter and armory, thinking the Venetians wouldn't target it. But they attacked with canons, igniting the gunpowder within and blowing up a large portion of the building. Looting began shortly after. The most famous looting was performed by Thomas Bruce, Britain's 7th Earl of Elgin. He told the city that he wanted to have a look and had a little more than a look. He took most of the remaining sculptures and friezes and shipped them to England, where they (controversially) remain in The British Museum.
During the Greeks' war far independence from the Ottoman Empire, it is said that the Ottomans were taking the lead from within the columns to make bullets. Rumor has it the Greeks sent them ammunition with a note that read something to the effect of "Here are your bullets, hands off the columns."
The Parthenon is currently under reconstruction. Upon reading the placards at the site, it seems like they're mostly undoing some shotty reconstruction work that took place in the late 1800s. Iron was used during this time and corroded, staining the marble and damaging the building's structural integrity. The current restoration will leave the Parthenon as a ruin to honor and celebrate its history.
Are you ready for the exam now?
Here are just a few photos from our museum visit (we saw a lot more, but I didn't take many photos):
Here are the last, maybe somewhat random, photos from our time there: