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THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS – GREECE

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This summer was full of adventures in Greece . And indeed, Greece can captivate you not only with beaches, but also with heaps of history and beautiful places. For the second year now, we have been doing a cruise with Celestyal Cruises around the Aegean Sea , which we recommend every time, as it is affordable and super cool. In summer 2023 we had the amazing Idyllic Aegean cruise with children. And along the cruise we collected stories about some of the most curious places. But what stories about Greece will we could tell if we haven’t seen the Acropolis?!

Arrival in Athens

It’s not the first time I’ve been to Athens, once there was a direct train from Sofia to Athens, with which I ended up in the capital of Greece, shortly after some of the Olympic Games, but this route no longer exists and now it’s much more convenient to fly to reach Athens . Since then, I have visited Athens several times and it is always pleasant and interesting, although this large and cosmopolitan city is outside the favorite small-town peace and comfort that I seek. But this time we decided to take an organized walk here, and we were with the two children .

Many airlines fly to Athens. From Sofia we used Aegean , they are the national Greek carrier and the biggest airline, it was a very pleasant flight. In fact, it was on this flight that we reached Athens for our first cruise that started here. And the following year we took the Idyllic Aegean cruise from Thessaloniki, and in Athens we took the organized excursion with a Bulgarian guide to visit the Acropolis. Generally, the excursions from the cruise ship can be organized in various languages, as soon as there is large enough group speaking the same language different than English. Otherwise, you can always join an English-speaking tour.

So, we actually arrived at Piraeus, the largest port of Athens. We got off and hopped on the bus. There were other Bulgarians on the ship and they had provided us with a Bulgarian-speaking guide. The lady was colorful and filled every second of silence with stories about Athens and life there. But in this article we are not going to wander all over Athens, we are going to go up to the Acropolis.

The setting – July, some inhuman heat. Red Cross volunteers are everywhere, handing out water. The sun is shining, although it is still early. The bus stops at the foot of the Acropolis hill. The day is such that there are many cruise ships and the crowd for the Acropolis is staggering. Somehow we sneak in quickly and enter. But it’s always good to anticipate that you may have to wait longer, and there are shadows, but not enough.

It might be a good idea to buy tickets online if you are not a part of a tour with pre-bought tickets. Here I leave you a link to an option for buying tickets (not tested, but I looked at the prices here). You can also find tickets on other popular attraction ticket sites, so use the ones you trust. EU citizens under the age of 25 have free entry to the Acropolis.

The Acropolis of Athens

The word “acropolis” is not exactly reserved for this place. The Acropolis of Athens is simply the most famous acropolis. From the ancient Greek “Acropolis” – Ἀκρόπολις means “city on a hill” (akropolis). If you travel around Greece you will come across other acropolises: Mycenae, Corinth, but the most famous is the one in Athens, and if somewhere only “Acropolis” is mentioned, they probably mean the one built on the hill in Athens.

Cecrops

On the small plateau of the hill was the initial site of Athens when it was founded by the mythical Greek king Cecrops , or at least that is one of the legends about the creation of Athens. There are several legends about the founding of Athens. But here we will “sketch” the most famous one, according to which Athens was founded by the mythical king Cecrops. Cecrops was born from the earth and was considered the progenitor of the Athenians. He was chosen by the gods to be king of the city and to determine which of them would be its patron. Poseidon, god of the sea, and Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, competed for the favor of Cecrops. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a spring of salt water erupted. Athena gave Cecrops an olive tree. Cecrops chose the olive tree as a more valuable gift, and so Athena became the patroness of the city.

After Cecrops, Athens was ruled by various kings and dynasties. Among the famous kings of the city is Aegeus, who, if you’ve been interested in Greek myths, you’ll know how the Aegean Sea got its name. After him is his son, Theseus, who united the city and made it a powerful force in Greece. Theseus is known for his many exploits, including slaying the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Crete.

In the VI century BC Athens became a republic and began to develop as a democracy. One of the most significant figures of this era was Solon, who introduced a number of reforms that strengthened democracy in Athens. Solon also encouraged art and culture, and Athens began to flourish as a center of Greek culture.

And so we reach the 5th century BC, when Athens reached its “Golden Age of Pericles”, when the more significant buildings of the Acropolis complex were built.

Walk around the Acropolis

After passing through the visitor entrance, you will climb up and pass through the ‘Propylae’. The Propylaea is the monumental entrance built during the time of Pericles. They are decorated with sculptures and reliefs depicting scenes from Greek mythology and history.

After passing through the Propylaea, you will find yourself on the Acropolis plateau. On your right you will see the Temple of Athena Nike. This small temple was built in the Ionic style and is dedicated to the goddess of victory.

To the left of the Propylaea is the Erechtheion. This temple was built in the Doric and Ionic style and bears the name of Erechtheus, one of the kings of Athens, later deified. The temple is known for its unique columns which are of different sizes and shapes. The temple is said to be on the spot where Poseidon, in his contest with Athena for the dominion of Attica, in the time of King Cecrops, struck the rock to make the sea-water flow.

In the center of the plateau is the Parthenon. This magnificent temple is dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos. The Parthenon was built in the Doric style and is one of the most famous monuments of the ancient Greek civilization.

The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens
The largest temple of the Acropolis – the Parthenon

Besides these main sights, other ruins can be seen on the Acropolis, including:

The Little Parthenon – a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena

The remains of the temple of Hephaestus – god of fire and metallurgy

Remains of the temple of Zeus – king of the gods

The remains of the temple of Asclepius – god of medicine

With children on the Acropolis

As our story began, we were with Anna and Adriana on a walk around Athens. For children aged 8 and 4, who had not yet encountered Greek mythology and history, I am not sure how interesting the stories about Athena, Poseidon, Pericles and others were.

But they were impressed by the size and everything, and we kept explaining things to them that we thought were interesting. But we also tried to protect the thousand-year-old buildings from being climbed by them. I am sure that the walk made an impression on them and now, looking at pictures or coming across a story related to Athens, they imagine the place more realistically.

Along the Acropolis

In addition to the top famous sights of the Acropolis, you will also see other ancient structures at its foot that were built later. Theater of Dionysus (the current remains are from Roman times), Herod’s Odeon and a magnificent view over all of Athens.

One of the places with a magnificent view of the Acropolis is the Areopagus hill .

From the Acropolis you can go down to the old part of Athens and enjoy a walk through its streets. Or stop by the New Acropolis Museum located on the southeast slope. With the construction of the museum, Greece also hopes to get back the marble statues from the Parthenon, which are currently in Britain, but this dispute has not yet been resolved.

Where to stay and be close to the Acropolis ? Perhaps in the picturesque district of Plaka at the foot of the Acropolis you will find cozy places to stay and many family restaurants. But Athens is a big city and has a metro, so you can look for exactly what you like further away from the Acropolis.

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And yet, don’t forget the option of taking a cruise around the Aegean Sea !

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