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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Georgina Illingworth: Travelling in Greece

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    01 Sep

    My two Classics friends and I headed there at the earliest opportunity on Tuesday morning, after we had arrived on Monday afternoon. The Acropolis, glimpsed from all over the city, is a constant reminder of the city’s age and cultural significance. Seeing up close the Parthenon, the surrounding temples, and the theatre of Dionysus, after studying Greek for many years, was incredible. This past year, we read three dramas, all performed at the theatre that I was then seeing before my eyes. It definitely added a new layer to my understanding of their performative contexts. The stunning Acropolis museum showcases the statues and monuments, and has helped me to understand more why the Greeks want the Elgin marbles, currently in London, back there.

    For the time we were in Athens, we used the Metro for transportation. Not being a seasoned tube user, the Metro was surprisingly easy to use, and cheap for students- sixty cents for a seventy minute ticket. Not only do the Greeks treat students well in travel, but also in visiting their classical sites- all entrances to ancient sites were free to EU students. This small point added to a sense of how much Greece would change if it is withdrawn from the EU. Whilst we were there, we checked the BBC news online, and it was interesting to compare reports about the state of Athens to what we saw actually happening. The BBC told of queues outside ATMs; we saw none.  As regards to the Athenians, it was difficult to assess how they were reacting to the foreboding crisis, since we had no concept of them previously. Physically, there were many boarded up shops, and political graffiti covered all types of building but again, since we did not know Athens before, how much of it was recent remains unknown to us.

    We left Athens for our three day classical tour of Greece, which had a completely different atmosphere to Athens. The sites were quieter, and surrounded by the beautiful Greek countryside, which was more mountainous than I had expected. Under the guidance of Leila, the tour company had packed in a lot for the thirty or so people on the tour (comprising of Americans and us). The theatre at Epidaurus, known for its acoustics, still shocked me by its effectiveness: from the top we could hear paper being torn at the stage. Running along the stadium at Olympia was exhilarating- as close as I am ever going to get to the Olympics! Delphi, described by some as numinous, certainly lives up to that adjective. Not only is the temple of Apollo cradled in the mountains, but treasuries, a theatre and a stadium. Looking back over my photos of both parts of my trip, I want to thank Gateway for giving me the privilege to visit this special country.