Athens, so many mixed feelings

I fully recognized that some of what I am about to write will seem extremely ungrateful, privileged, and may offend some.

But the truth is we are extremely grateful to be able to travel and to be able to see different cultures and get a glimpse into their daily lives.

Coming up to our departure date, I still had not done much research at all on Athens or Greece.  Besides the lovely pictures of Santorini and the Acropolis, I really knew nothing at all except gyros and “opah”!

As we rode in the car from the airport to our airbnb, I felt this feeling of regret and disappointment.  Athens was nothing like I had imagined.  I envisioned an old city with great old buildings and interesting architecture.  We had just come from London, which is a beautiful city and one of my favorite cities is Rome.  I thought that since Athens was such an ancient city that we would be treated to an overload of architectural charm.  The reality is the buildings in Athens are 3-4 story rectangular boxes of concrete that are mostly BLAH.

Except, Plaka.

Our airbnb for our 3 night stay in Athens was in the old city area of Plaka.  As soon as we drove into Plaka I could FEEL the difference in the city.  Yes, it is the touristy area of Athens, but it is also the heart of Athens.  I have no other experience of Athens and know very little of the life people lead here, so I am completely unqualified to make this claim, but I really do feel it is the heart of the city.  There is a reason the ancient Greeks built the Acropolis in this area.

The streets of Plaka are narrow and the buildings old and beautiful, even the crumbling abandoned ones.

We did a half-day tour of what was suppose to be a Mythology tour of Athens, but it was long winded and boring and HOT.  Not a good recipe for an 8-year old.

The ruins are magnificent and the ancient architecture amazing and I will need to research it more to understand what happened with the rest of the city.  Maybe it was the multiple conquerings that took place and the destruction that happened during those wars.  We were told that much of the destruction of the ancient art and architecture was during the reign of the Byzantine Empire who did not respect the sculptures of Greek gods and the buildings that celebrated them.

It saddens me to see what people do when they are intolerant of others.  So many wars, so much destruction, so much strife, all because of politics, religion, economy, hubris and fear.

Meeta and I always have the debate on restoration versus preservation when we see ancient ruins.  While I understand her point of restoring these site to their former glory to honor the cultures and past accomplishments, I fall on the side of preservation and doing what is need to prevent further damage.  To me, restorations would erase the history of how this damage occured, and also risks us repeating this history again.

Leave a Reply