Exploring the Acropolis was a bit of a dream come true on my recent trip to Athens with Discover Greece. Ancient ruins and places evoke a strong sense of rooting and connection for me. I remember being moved to tears walking around Carthage for the first time, and seeing the Parthenon up close was a similar experience…
Completed in 438BC, when the Athenian Empire was at its peak, this temple to Diana (the city of Athen’s protectress) was the perfect execution of classical Greek architecture; the fluted strong Doric columns responding to the light was magical. We arrived mid-afternoon – lucky for us the opening times had changed for summer and instead of closing at 4pm we had until 8pm; always worth checking with the guy on the ticket desk as opening times can change quite quickly! – when it was still quite bright, despite a little cloud. It was a kind of wonderful panic figuring out what camera settings worked best to capture the ruins in all their glory as we wound our way up the Acropolis summit. The Pen F’s new black and white mode with a touch of filmic grain really does evoke the experience of what it was like to be there. I had in my head old print photos taken by my parents on their visit back in the 70s – both over-saturated colour and monochrome – and really wanted to try and recreate the look and feel of those images.
As you can see, the Parthenon is under some quite extensive reparation work. This started in 1975 to address damage over the centuries including during the Venetian War in 1687 and sadly, the alarming removal of the Elgin marbles in 1801-03. All the current reparations made are reversible in case future techniques differ but it is possible to see what parts are the original within the reconstruction; previous C19th restoration used iron pins (now replaced with titanium) that corroded and cracked the marble.
We made the approach to the Parthenon through the south-facing entrance across from the Acropolis Museum where we had a fantastic lunch, getting our first taste of the awe-inspiring space and old stones with the Theatre of Dionysus, the first stone theatre ever built seating up to 17,000 with incredible acoustics. Winding your way past the Sanctuary of Asclepius and the second, smaller theatre – but with such incredible views of the city – Odeon of Herodes Atticus, you then swing a right north to approach the Propylaea, the huge gateway to the Acropolis. This was teaming with visitors and was an incredible area in its own right with its beautifully soft marble steps, colonnades and walkways.
Enjoy the photos – they take you backwards from the Parthenon, through the Propylaea and back past the ancient amphitheatres!
WHEN TO GO
(Photo: Looking back through the Propylaea gateway)
We arrived late on a Monday afternoon, but we were lucky as normally the Acropolis would have been shut by 4pm. But opening hours had just switched to summer schedule and we had until 8pm. We wanted the late afternoon sunlight for our photos. The alternative and safer option (we now realise!) would have been to go at 8am when it opens. Midday we wanted to avoid as the bright sun is tough to photograph in; it was even almost too bright at 4pm!
The Parthenon gateway has fared well over the centuries, even serving as a palace at one time, in the 14th century. The marble steps are so beautifully soft and weathered and we walked and sat around the different levels for ages – despite these people-free pics it was pretty busy!
ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS
The stone theatre Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built 161 BC, with its incredible city views. The juxtaposition of this ancient temple with its view of modern day Athens really was breathtaking. You peer down into it, taking in the mind-blowing architecture, the perfect curves of the seating and shape of the stone stage and then through the arched windows forever framing what lies beyond…
BLACK & WHITE SERIES
Couldn’t get enough of photographing this theatre! Especially good in the black and white modes…
THEATRE OF DIONYSUS
Seating up to 17,000, the Theatre of Dionysus was the first stone theatre ever built – at the foot of the Acropolis hill. Used as a theatre since 6th century BC, the existing structure dates back til the 4th century BC. Just imagine the great comedies and tragedies being played out here…
All photos taken on the Olympus Pen F with 17mm 1.8 and 45mm 1.8 lenses | For more on Greece, vist Discover Greece and Aegean Airways for making this trip possible. Check out the tags #discoverGreece and #blogtrottersGR to see more stunning pictures.