Athens is big, full of antiquities (that even provide navigational aids if you can find them from the dark canyons between the multistoried buildings) and is in a dynamic geologic environment (a building condemned by recent earthquakes). It also, I feel, has some unfortunate foreign intrusions and a great diversity of people (some of are clearly struggling for an existence). Athens was the first city in which I had a personal experience with a pickpocket. On a very crowded Metro line and fortunate for me, a small boy didn't get away with my digital camera but he had the case on my belt unzipped and was working at it when I fortunately noticed the attempt. He and his pals quickly disappeared in the crowd of the metro car. The guidebooks are correct...heed them! Although it was clear that ancient Greeks revered the opium poppy(poppy on ceramics, poppy sculpted out of rock crystal, and poppy on statue), I was still a bit shocked to see two fellows with their heroin materials placed out on the sideway preparing to take a hit...life is certainly right in your face here. A communist rally and mock trial of Bill Clinton completed my introduction to Greece and its' politics (the setup, one of the supporters, group and banner #1, banner #2, and banner #3
It is absolutely worth the visit. The antiquities are preserved in various ways. As historical reminders (an ancient uniform on a modern guard, even if it has Turkish overtones), as preserved structures (here the Tower of the Winds, a water driven clock tower that also functioned as a sundial, support for a weather vane and compass...built by an astronomer)) and within museums.
Obviously the Acropolis is a must. The major features, the Parthenon and the Erichtheion, the constant struggle to keep them standing as a valuable tourist attraction (young workers repairing the marble of the Propylaia, the new and old portions of the Erichtheion(outer wall, inner wall) and the reconstructions of the Parthenon's southeastern eastern pediment clearly show the variations in the building materials age), the setting and the view (even of the slippery when wet marble bedrock) are more than worth the price of admittance.
I was disappointed to learn that due to the recent earthquake in the Athens area and some damage to the museum second story, they decided that this would be a good time to return the Thera frescos to Santorini. I may never get to see the real fisherman fresco...but the National Museum is still mind numbing...bronzes (horse and jockey; Poseidon), Roman sculptures (grave stones, Poseidon), sculptures recovered from shipwrecks (front, back) and a wonderful temporary exhibit, "Flavors of their Time" on the biochemical and chemical evidence contained in the bones of Minoans and Myceanean people and the organic residues on their cooking implements. They found evidence of wine compounds in various containers (including resinated wine...retsina has a long history in this area!), as well as evidence of stews of vegetable and meat in this large baking dish (Apostola could have used this!) and meat from this souvalaki cooking surface. Conclusions derived from the bone analyses that they ate very little if any marine foods was striking to me.
And of course there were representations of mining activities...perhaps mining copper in Cyprus?
On to Istanbul