Acropolis (and partial view of the scaffolding)
I mentioned a while back that Patrick and I weren't all that impressed with Greece. A large part of that unenthusiasm related to Athens and the Acropolis. If you'd asked me before I went to Greece what is the number-one-must-see attraction in the country, I would have said the Acropolis of Athens. Right? It's the one Greek monument that everyone knows. It's the one attraction we were most excited to see.
Views from the Acropolis
You have to understand that Patrick and I love, love, love ruined architecture. I can see the place as it once was, so many years ago, with the walls standing, the floors in bright mosaics and tiles.
Amphitheatre outside the Acropolis
At Pompeii, we walked amongst the ancient common man, so much like us though long since dead. At Ephesus, we marvelled at the splendors of the ancients. And, in the tiny town of Ivailovgrad, Bulgaria, we were amazed by intricate floor tiles created centuries ago. We love ruins, even when nature takes over, destroying the artistry of man.
Acropolis restoration (note the reconstructed Temple of Athena Nike, with the integration of the original stones)
But, the Acropolis in Athens is no testament to ancient man's work. Right now, it's very much a work in progress. Cranes and scaffolding cover most of the buildings and tourists are prevented from entering the interior. Several of the surrounding temples have been dismantled and are being reassembled.
Acropolis restoration and scaffolding and a restored temple
There are a lot of issues surrounding the restoration project, not least of which whether or not the Greek government has the funds to finish the work. So far, the UN has paid for 50% of the restoration project (currently running around $90 million.)
Friezes at the Acropolis Museum
Half of the great marble friezes at the top of the Acropolis are hotly contested because they're sitting in the British Museum in London. They're the British Museum's most valuable pieces and the other half of the friezes left at the Acropolis Museum aren't nearly as beautiful. The Greek government claims that England needs to turn over the friezes, while the British government claims that they were rightfully given from the Ottomans to the British. And all that means that the friezes on the Acropolis itself --- that is, the pictures most tourists are taking --- are simply replications made in the last twenty years.
And, then, there are also the aesthetic and theoretical considerations: does it make sense to reconstruct the building, knowing that the reconstruction may not be exactly right? When the marbles weather at different ages (as seen as above), doesn't the change in color and gradation take away from the beauty of the building? Is it better to leave ruins as ruins?
Ultimately, like much of Athens, the Acropolis is in a state of modern-day disrepair, in the midst of 30 long years of restoration with at least another 20 years of restoration left. The restoration process isn't pretty. Maybe we'll go back to Athens when we're senior citizens and enoying the retired life to see the Acropolis in its splendor. But, for now, I wouldn't recommend this ancient ruin.
*I'm writing this, knowing that as I speak, hordes of travel bloggers are converging on Athens for the TBEX conference. I'll be interested to see how Athens spins its city and its attractions to bloggers.