One of the many wonderful benefits of Easter break is the chance to go on a vacation, especially in pursuit of some sunshine! This year we decided to go somewhere where no family member had been before, which is a harder task in the modern world then one would think. Greece sounded like a wonderful destination that ticked all the boxes and we decided to visit Athens and Santorini. We arrived in Athens on Easter Sunday and embarked on our city tour the next morning with our first destination being the Acropolis of Athens. Pictures do not do the ancient citadel perched atop the city of Athens justice – the ancient buildings are a magnificent sight to behold as is the sprawl of modern Athens below. Amongst the many buildings on the Acropolis are the Parthenon, The Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. The Erechtheion is an ancient temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon supported by a porch on its South side called the ‘The Porch Of The Maidens’. This porch is supported by six caryatids (sculpted female figures that serve as architectural support in place of a column or pillar) and their unusual and tragic story had me intrigued!
It all started with the guide asking us if we thought these caryatids were original or replicas. I guessed original and I was wrong – the six caryatids supporting the ancient temple are replicas. Five of the original six sisters have been moved to the New Acropolis Museum, which was our next destination. Where is the sixth sister you may ask? The sixth caryatid sister was removed by Lord Elgin, a Scottish nobleman diplomat, who was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. He took this sixth sister, along with various other marble antiquities (known collectively as the ‘Elgin Marbles’) back to Scotland to decorate his mansion. Later, he sold these antiques to the British Museum for 35,000 pounds to repay his increasing debts. The sixth caryatid remains in England, and can be seen at the British Museum.
As we headed towards the New Acropolis Museum I couldn’t wait to see the five sisters. They stand together, tall and glorious, but I felt a great sadness as I looked up to view them. In the middle of the group of sisters, stands an empty space for their sixth sister and this continuing geographical separation has all the hallmarks of a Greek tragedy. Legend has it, that when the sixth statue was removed, the other sisters could be heard wailing at night for their sibling!
I am fully aware of the ongoing debate about whether the United Kingdom should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. It stands as one of the most prominent repatriation cases in this domain and I have read the arguments for and against returning the antiquities taken by Lord Elgin all those years ago. Standing at the Parthenon, looking across at the six sisters that represent part of the ancient glory of Greece, I cannot help but feel a sense of injustice at this forced separation!
The next day we left for the island of Santorini. I had heard so much about its natural beauty and the blue and white island does not disappoint! Blue and white are the official colours of the island, with the blue symbolizing the heavens and the surrounding Aegean sea and the white to reflect the intense heat in the summers. Many of the blue and white domes that dot the landscape are private and public churches. According to our tour guide, there are 550 churches on the island, with more churches than there are priests! More about Santorini later……….
I hope you enjoy these pictures of Greece and I hope to bring you many more in my next post. By pure chance (yeah right!), I brought along my blue Pankaj and Nidhi embroidered kaftan top to wear and the gorgeous blue was the perfect complement to the magical surroundings – I felt like a Hindi movie heroine but my husband warned me not to sing as it may lead to us being asked to leave immediately!
(Clothes and Accessories: Red Sweater – Cos Stores, Blue Top – Pankaj and Nidhi, Jeans – Zara, White Trainers – Dolce Vita, White Sandals – Arturo Chang)