One of the coolest things about Athens is that you can walk through a modern city and get a great insight into what it would have felt to walk the same street 2,500 years ago. There are not many places around the world where you can see the same man-made structures that people walked past centuries ago.
We found that to be the case as we strolled through the Athenian Agora. The Agora was the ancient open-air marketplace of the Athenians. This was the heart and soul of Athenian social life; if you wanted to talk politics, buy something, or just be around people, the Agora was the place to go. Now, you can go today to see the ruins of the marketplace, which is nestled in the shadow of the looming Acropolis. The new Agora Museum, which is built as a replica of one of the old buildings that lined the ancient market, houses many artifacts of the ancient civilization and the democracy that was born here.
We had two of our most humorous moments of the trip at the Agora, as well. These two events helped us to really understand Greek culture a bit more.
First of all, seeing the ruins of the ancient marketplace made us realize just how many ancient ruins Greece has. In the United States, if a 200-year old Native American arrowhead is found, it’s a big deal, and it’s placed in a museum. In the Agora, we would walk around and see so many ancient relics, it became second nature. In fact, it seemed almost overwhelming to the Greeks. The city was so riddled with ancient artifacts that they had a large, crate-like storage unit on the border of the Agora filled with hundreds of ancient items. What’s more, there were a bunch of old columns and pots just laying around the sides of the Agora! It’s almost as if the city officials said, “Yeah…we have too many ruins to comb through…so we’re just going to throw them over here and take care of them when we have some more time.”
Our second humorous “a-ha” moment regarding Greece: Around 12:30 PM., we heard voices calling out frantically. We looked up to see several security guards quickly moving – yes, running – around the Agora complex! They were ushering people out of the Agora! What was happening? An emergency evacuation? A bomb threat? We were approached by a guard, about to herd us out. We asked why we were being escorted out – we know that the Agora was open for a couple more hours. “We are closing for lunch.” Uh…okay? The fact that a national monument closed down for lunch, paired with the manner in which it was done, made us chuckle. While it may help to explain Greece’s debt crisis, it also made us reflect on the benefits of living by the seat of your pants every once in a while. And, of course, to eat some lunch.
After a bite, we headed back. Right by the Agora, we encountered a cool little Byzantine-style church called the Church of the Holy Apostles.
Our favorite old ruin was the Temple of Hephaestus. Completed in 415 B.C., the Temple of Hephaestus is considered the most well-preserved Greek building from the ancient era. It’s like a mini-Parthenon, except in far better shape. It’s truly hard to believe that you’re standing next to a 2,500 year old building.
Of course, Athens is not all ancient ruins. While you’re there, take some time to stroll around the Plaka district, a cool old neighborhood just off the side of the Acropolis.
Tomorrow, we would be on a flight home to the United States. Thank you, Greece, for the most memorable honeymoon we could imagine. It is truly an amazing country!