Week 13: Athens and Santorini

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Welcome to Greece! This past weekend I flew over to what some people have called “The Original Rome,” due to Rome’s history of occupation and adopting Greek culture.

First thing we did was walk up to the Acropolis to get an unparalleled view of Athens and examined some of the oldest buildings in the world. In UCEAP Rome I’m enrolled in a class called “Art Crime and Heritage Protection,” where we learned about the Acropolis and some controversy over the structure.

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Long story short: Greece was at one point occupied by the Ottoman Empire. Under Ottoman rule, Lord Elgin reigned and decided he wanted to take some of the Parthenon back to Scotland with him. He brazenly decided to take the famous Parthenon frieze with him, now dubbed the “Parthenon Marbles,” or if you are British, the “Elgin Marbles.” But as karma would have it, he soon went broke back in Scotland and had to sell the marbles to the British government. And that’s why these marbles are in the British Museum and not in their original spot.

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And that brings us to this museum. The glorious New Acropolis Museum was built to assuage any worries that the British Museum had about giving the marbles back to a city that couldn’t properly house or care for them. Unfortunately, the British Museum has yet to return the marbles to Athens. Juicy stuff, right?

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On the walk down from the Parthenon, we got a glimpse at a theater from 161AD called the “Odeon of Herodes Atticus.” The most incredible thing about this theater is that it’s still in use today! And thanks to the renovations in 1950, you can enjoy concerts the way Athenians did in 161AD. That is absolutely remarkable to me.

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Because I wasn’t allowed to take photos in most of the New Acropolis Museum, I offer you this Lego structure they had in the museum. The geniuses behind this Lego diorama tried to imitate the Parthenon and built this as if the Parthenon buildings were fully intact.

Even though Greece is in economic turmoil, the Athenians don’t let you see that; they are focused on eating, drinking, their history, and enjoying the pleasures of life that their city has to offer. Some middle aged people that mainly enter Athens from their plushy cruise ships have called Athens “a dump.” To them, I say you did not focus on the right things. Did you wander the streets? Get lost around the winding alleyways? Stumble by musicians soothingly strumming their guitars? Because, if you did that, I don’t think you would connect the word “dump” with Athens.

Athens at night is equally spectacular as Athens during the day. After winter rain spells, the street reflects the neon signs, colourful graffiti, and appropriately hung holiday lights, creating a magical looking street scene that I never wanted to walk away from. And after two days in one of my favorite cities I had the fortune of visiting, I hopped on a quick plane ride over to the island of Santorini.

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Santorini in winter is a bit unorthodox, but after hearing it described as an “artist’s paradise,” I didn’t mind not being able to swim in the clear blue waters down below me.

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We rented a car and drove all over the island, visiting Akrotiri, the Pompeii of Santorini, saw breathtaking views of the volcanoes, encountered hundreds of cats climbing blue and white buildings, and found my favorite  place in the entire world: Atlantis Books.

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This little bookstore was paradise in paradise that I browsed for over an hour. Opened about ten years ago,  the shop was filled with books, posters, special editions of books that they made from their own printing press (!!!!!), and dogs and cats wandering throughout the store. I jokingly told the girl working at the front desk that I wish I could live here, to which she showed me that she did.

She told me that Atlantis Books often takes volunteers to run the store, do inventory, and sleep with the books on a bed above the store. After buying a classic Greek novel (Zorba The Greek) and a couple souvenirs for my family, I continued walking around the town of Oia.

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Santorini in general, and Oia specifically, felt like a ghost town to me. Being practically alone on the island, I could wander the streets without crowds, enjoy the panoramic views without people obstructing them with their selfie sticks, and actually hear silence- a paradox I immensely enjoyed. Weekend trips to big cities are fast paced, educational, and loud. This trip to Santorini was deliberately slower and much needed before finals. Plus, the entire airfare to Athens and Santorini totalled to about 100 euro, and I couldn’t pass that up._MG_3107

 

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