(adapted from an actual email I wrote to someone. pardon the rambling).
Greece is wonderful. I spent about 5 days in Athens and its accompanying coastal beach areas with local friend Augustus, then Brenda came from Edinburgh and we toured the isles of Naxos and Santorini, in the Cyclades (Aegean Sea). The water could not be a prettier color blue.
Such a beautiful climate, very LA light, flavorful food, friendly, lively people. It's a funny place, bankrupt so lots of grime and half constructed buildings everywhere, but beautiful and real and gritty... Athens is quite like LA.
The Acropolis was fantastic. Surreal to see with my own 2 eyes. Structures that I've learned about and had somewhere in the back of my mind for god knows how long, through god knows how many boring "Surveys of Western Art" and "Histories of Western Civilization" lectures. There I was, sweating, in sandals and a panama hat.
It was interesting to learn that all the marble monuments were actually painted different colors - I had never thought about that. I always pictured them just white marble... for instance the top frieze of the parthenon was painted a bright cobalt blue and had little stars painted on the ceiling.
Most of the frieze was stolen by Lord Elgin and now housed in the British Museum. What a bastard. Hopefully they will be returned. But they do have some of the original, and some re-creations. They also have this massive flowery plant like abstract sculpture thing that was originally at the peak of the roof of the Parthenon. Never pictured that before either. Amazing how your ideas of what something is/was are just transformed with a little background knowledge.
There are two excellent museums - one of Archaeology and one brand new one, just for the Acropolis. The Acropolis one is at the foot of the hill and has a nice terrace where you can watch the sunset with your coffee. Also, they constructed these see-through walking floors to see the entire old city below your feet. You can learn about the ancients and see all sorts of loot that they dug up from the grounds. It's fascinating. Actually maybe more fascinating than the actual buildings on the hill are the stories about the "Slope People" ... the people who lived in the surrounding area, and the more humble temples they put up for worship. They weren't all allowed at the top, which was reserved for higher ups, so these temples were more community/public. It's funny. I tried asking the guards a lot of questions just about the life back then. So much of it is known, yet so much isn't. How, exactly, do you worship Athena? What was the role of women? What did they eat in the ceremonies? There's a lot of questions that I had to leave up to my imagination.
The big sculpture as you might know is called a kouros - a boy - they made them as funerary monuments mostly, buried them, and dedicated to the gods.... this is one of the most massive ones they have found, buried in the ground below a temple. These also would have been painted. I think they recreated the foot. They were supposed to represent some version of perfection of human form.
Anyway. Greece! culture, history, art, swimming pools and sun, and pretty cheap all together. highly recommended.