Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tough Trail to the Acropolis

Continuing the Greek leg of our cruise of the Mediterranean, we awoke to see the amazing sight of Athens coming into view. It is so different to what we had imagined… very large and very white! There seemed to be hardly any greenery in the city itself with a mass of white washed buildings from the shore to the mountains. As we looked toward the mountains in the distance we could see the unmistakable sight of the Acropolis, which is of course the ‘must see’ tourist attraction of this great city. While the other ‘cruisers’ chose to travel there by coach and taxi, Jules and I decided to mix it with the locals and opt for the train (Jules is the master of railway systems). While others were stuck in a monster Greek traffic jam, we made our way up the mountain within 45 minutes after leaving the ship. We naively imagined that we would be the only ones up there when we reach the top…boy, were we wrong! Of course people come from all parts of the world to see this great monument and the pilgrimage begins very early. Weaving our way past camera-laden tourists, speaking a myriad of languages, we gradually made our way to the top. The scene was almost biblical in scale, as the massive crowd clung to the ruins in an attempt to get a view of the iconic Parthenon. Attendants encouraged us to move along and resist the temptation to take photos, which would inevitably slow down the procession. We eventually made it, but with a huge crowd kicking up ancient dust and combining it with a brisk warm breeze, it wasn’t particularly pleasant. We took a moment to catch our breath and have a drink of water and for a moment we were tempted to just head straight back down. This was not at all what we imagined! I eventually found a relatively quiet spot to pull out the sketchbook, only to be soon invaded by tourists who were buzzing around me to see what I was drawing. Eventually, with dust in our eyes and our hats blowing off, we gave up and headed back down. The Parthenon certainly looked as picturesque as you would imagine, but the postcards just don’t take into account the mass of people that come with it. An hour later, a little less hassled, we found ourselves walking the picturesque streets of the old town of Athens. Feeling hot, dry and dusty, we looked up toward the ancient mountain and reflected upon our experience. We both agreed that it was great to see it in the flesh, but we couldn’t help think that in the height of summer, the Acropolis was tourism out of control!

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