The Ancient Agora from Areopgus. Modern Athens in the background.
I went to the Acropolis and I saw Norah Jones. This was actually my highlight of the day. The Acropolis was as I expected: large columns and lots of stone. A large portion of the main structure was surrounded by scaffolding. Seeing Norah Jones practice a few songs while checking sound for her concert at the Herodes Atticus Theater (just below the Parthenon) was not something I expected to see, but it was most definitely wonderful. The venue, a large semicircular amphitheater, is an awesome place for any concert, but on a sweltering hot afternoon after a long day of travel, hearing the smooth sounds of Norah Jones resonating through the theater was a refreshing surprise.
Norah Jones, warming up in the ancient Theater of Herodes Atticus
Ancient Greekness didn’t leave me disappointed though. Matt and I went to the National Museum of Archeology in Athens, and I was impressed by the good condition of many of the sculptures and other works there. Additionally, this museum had interesting and informative descriptions about the pieces and different stages in Greek history. I learned that many sculptors would make copies of popular masterpiece statues and saw the originals they copied, and I saw the gold mask of Agamemnon, something I recognized from a history book and never thought I would actually see in person. On our second day in Athens we also saw the Agora, which I enjoyed more than the Parthenon the day before. There were more plants in this section of the ruins—pomegranates and olive trees, and the Agora itself was in pretty good shape.
As Matt and I walked down the hill to view the structure up close I tried to imagine what it was like back in Ancient Greece. You know—togas, people sitting on the streets talking, kids running around. Before this trip I hadn’t been to too many old places and one of the things that I have enjoyed about all the sightseeing isn’t just seeing the site but allowing me being there to help me to better imagine what it was like before the places were tourist destinations.
Two H-words can adequately describe my Athenian experience: hot and history. We began our day early to avoid the day’s heat. First, we stopped by the famous Theatre of Dionysios, at the base of the Acropolis. It was in pretty bad disrepair, but it was cool to see the size of the amphitheater- I believe it sat 17,000. Then we strolled through the Ancient Agora, which was the town center of ancient Athens. I enjoyed the Agora, because unlike the Acropolis temple complex, the Agora was where life took place- the markets, forums, and homes. Like I wrote yesterday, it was amazing to think about all the history as we walked around. The main path we walked on was the main boulevard (I forgot the name of the street though) of Athens for 800 years. Any ancient Greek worth their salt walked those steps. As a Christian, I’m delving into the Biblical history of all places we’re seeing, trying to read passages that relate or take place where we’re going. For instance, we took pictures from a hill called the Areo Pageous (aka Areopagus), which was the site where Paul preached to the Athens in the New Testament Book of Acts (Acts 17:16-34). In a way, this part of the trip is a pilgrimage of sorts. Besides the history, it was impressive to see the size and scale of a city built over 2500 years ago.
Joylani and I spent the afternoon checking out the National Archaeological Museum, while Jackie and Alex hit the beach. Both Joylani and I were impressed with and enjoyed the museum. It was simple, yet more informative and educational than places like the Louvre. The museum had English translations on everything, something the French would never do. Plus, I’d say the museum had the best collection of Greek sculptures I’ve ever seen, although the museum is famous for its unsurpassed collection of funerary works.
After meeting up, the four of us headed to Piraeus (Athen’s port) to catch our ferry to Chios. We had “airplane style seats” in a huge room with hundreds of other passengers. We were on our way to Chios, while others took it all the way to Lesbos (Mytilene) or connected to Samos. I found that interesting as well, because I read that Paul also stopped at all three of those islands on a journey from Troas to Jerusalem (Acts 20:13-16). Anyways, we’ll only be stopping on Chios for a few hours until we can catch a ferry to Turkey.