My recent journey to the Ancient Capitals

2012-05-12 11.21.122012-05-12 08.41.34I have just returned from an incredible journey to the heart of ancient civilization: Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, and Turkey.  It ranks as one of the highlight trips of my 30+ years of traveling!  From a geo-political, archeological, antiquities, and ancient history perspective the trip exceeded my expectations in everyway.

The journey for our sympatico group of 15, began in Athens…renowned as one of the greatest cities of the ancient world and the birthplace of western civilization.   I have visited Athens many times, but the thrill of stepping out on my balcony to a magnificient view of the Acropolis is reason enough to return to this city time and time again.

Our expert guide escorted us to many of the world’s masterpieces….the Temple of Apteros Nike, the Erechtheum and the eternal Parthenon.  These marble monuments and temples built in the classical times remind us that the Acropolis is more than the living history of Greece, it is the western world’s prototype of aesthetics.  To walk in the steps of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates is mightly powerful (old friends from college as a Philosophy major).

A highlight for three of the runners in our group, was to run some laps around the track at the beautiful Panathenaikon Stadium early one morning before any tour buses arrived. In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honor of the Goddess Athena. During classical times, it had wooden seating. In 329 BC it was rebuilt in marble.  In 1895 the stadium was refurbished a second time for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.  Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek  stadium, the Panathenaic is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble.

Lovely all city view from atop Lycabettus Hill, which is basically the center of Athens, where the beautiful white stucco Agios Girogis Church sits.

Another highlight was a visit to the recently completed New Acropolis Museum. The museum is located by the southeastern slope of the Acropolis hill, on the ancient road that led up to the “sacred rock” in classical times.  The winning design revolves around three concepts: light, movement, and a tectonic and programmatic element. Together these characteristics “turn the constraints of the site into an architectural opportunity, offering a simple and precise museum” with the mathematical and conceptual clarity of ancient Greek buildings. The museum itself is elevated on pillars over an extensive archeological site.  The structure is remarkable.  It opened in summer of 2009 and houses artifacts from the Acropolis and is prepared to house more when they are returned to Athens from other museums around the world.     Check out my next post, Next stop on my Ancient Capitals journey – Egypt


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