The Athens I never saw and will never see again. (May 2012)

The first time I visited Athens you could climb all over the Acropolis, even the Parthenon, and there wasn’t a crane in sight.

Today it’s a work in progress, with scaffolding, cranes and even a small railroad to move large chunks of marble around the construction sight.

Everywhere you look there is new marble. Columns have been straightened, new pieces put in place and new pediments added. There’s even wheelchair access, via a lift, that runs up the cliff on the north side.

This restoration project has been going on since 1975 and is due for completion soon.

Restoration works aren’t just happening on the big rock, they are all over Athens. Every time they dig a hole, they seem to discover another ancient artifact.

That’s no more evident than with the new Acropolis Museum.

This amazing addition to the world of archaeology is a living display, being built over an archeological dig that’s happening right under your feet. Much of the ground floor and courtyard is made of glass, so you can see the work as it happens.

There is even space in the new museum for the frieze that Lord Elgin purloined all those years ago.

The top floor is dedicated to the Parthenon and built to the same size and proportions, with sweeping views up to the Acropolis. As they find more of the original monument they slot them into place in the display.

Restoration work has been going on in Athens for millennia and in fact the city has always been changing and redefining itself.

Apart from the current work on the Acropolis, the Stoa of Attalos, in the Ancient Agora, was completely rebuilt in the 1950s’.

Even the meat market on Athinus Street has undergone change since I was last here. Now instead of sides of lamb sitting out in the Athenian heat, they are all refrigerated and some are even wrapped in plastic.

Most of the Plaka and Monastiraki are entirely made up of walking streets and the little cafes with bain maries full of moussaka and Greek potatoes are all gone.

Athens is different to what I remember and I am sure that if ever I return, it will be different again.


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