Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Finds Old

Athens! Home of philosophy, democracy (possibly the two most important ideas that Western civilisation has given the world) and other such worthy ideas. No other city epitomises classical civilisation as much as Athens and the Parthenon, which presides loftily above the city, is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. The city itself is generally clean and pleasant, having been spruced up for the 2004 Olympics, with plenty of streetside cafes for al fresco espresso-sipping and leisurely people-watching. On the whole though Athens is rather generic and unassuming (without the Parthenon it could be any prosperous, large Western city) since it lost its pre-eminence and became a provincial backwater in the Middle Ages; most of the buildings have sprung up since World War II. A few antique columns can still be seen here and there in parks and below the Acropolis and indicate a more illustrious past. And indeed, if you scratch the surface you will be rewarded, as many recent developers have found out. As you wander around downtown you may notice modern buildings performing contortions around ancient remains that were only brought to light during their construction. It's one of the reasons why the city almost wasn't prepared for the Olympics on time, as building plans had to be altered in light of new archaeological finds. The new museum being built to house the Parthenon exhibition is behind schedule because an ancient neighbourhood was discovered on the site and so the design had to be altered to incorporate it into the display (at least now you get two museums for the price of one). And even some of the new metro stations contain in situ remains that are more interesting than some sites I've had to pay to visit. But apart from the old relics Athens doesn't hold much fascination for me, so it's off into the Greek hinterland today.

1 comment:

Inihtar said...

You've been tagged