The tour kicked off with a rather routine start: 7 am wake-up, breakfast, then departure at 8. We caught the metro of Athens to visit what is perhaps the most well-known and most recognisable archaeological site of the city: the Acropolis. Exiting the metro, we were greeted by a wave of heat and harsh rays from the sun. Outside, near the base of the Acropolis, various vendors touted their souvenirs, artists advertised their works, performers showed off their skills.


Our first destination was the relatively new Acropolis Museum, located close to the Acropolis itself. The nine-year-old museum houses over 4,250 objects, all recovered from the Acropolis and nearby areas surrounding it. The period of the artefacts found range from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantinian Greece. The museum also lies over the ruins and excavations of a section of early Roman and Byzantinian Athens. The Acropolis Museum very notably is the host to replicas of the Parthenon Marbles, objects of much controversy, as they were stripped from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin from Britain. The real marbles currently reside in the British Museum  and are at the centre of a debate between Britain and Greece, both claiming to be the rightful owners of the marbles.

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After stopping by the museum’s gift shop, the tour group left to visit the real Acropolis. After a short walk up the hill, past seas of tourists, the gates of the Acropolis lay before us. Heading up polished, and therefore very slippery, marble stairs, we looked at the first temple, the Temple of Athena Nike. Athena Nike, a symbol of victory, was honoured in this temple as a way of commemorating the Persian Wars. Unusually, Athena Nike is depicted without wings here, to ensure that she does not ‘fly away’.

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Next, walking through an archway, the hilltop of the Acropolis was sprawled out ahead, with the Parthenon dominating the hill. Despite the fact that the Parthenon was built as a temple, and called a temple, and despite the fact that there originally was a 13-metre-tall statue of Athena inside, the Parthenon was more a store for collected treasure rather than a place of worship. The temple, however, is still heavily focused on the Greek gods. Pediments on the eastern and western sides depict the birth of Athena, and her competition against Poseidon for the patronage of the city of Athens.   


Another significant building located on the Acropolis is the Erechtheion, believed to have been dedicated to the legendary Greek king, Erechtheus. It is divided into four different compartments, each of them a different sacred precinct. The most notable feature of the Erechteion is the Porch of the Caryatids, with six statues of females (known as Caryatids) acting as supporting columns.


We headed down from the Acropolis after an hour of free time there, and headed to a busy street in search of lunch, mostly in the form of typical Greek food, such as souvlaki and gyro. 

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After lunch, the tour group headed for the ancient Agora of Athens, a place where Athenians would gather as well as shop. We toured the museum, a modest collection of pottery mixed with other interesting artefacts, such as shards of ostraka, used by the Greeks to vote for the exile of a civilian.


Finally, we visited the Pnyx, a hill where Athenians held popular assemblies and conducted democracy. All citizens were allowed to speak here, to propose ideas which they believed would better Athens.


After the Pnyx, the tour group caught the metro back to the hotel. The ancient sites of Athens were magnificent, and offered us a small glimpse of what life may have been like in ancient Athens. Visiting these sites was definitely worth our time, even despite the intense heat and exhaustion.

Jack Lu