Friday, November 12, 2010

Now THAT'S Historic Preservation!

I recently returned from ten days in Greece.  Most of that time was spent in Athens, with a one day tour of three of the nearest islands - Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.

Athens is a city overflowing with history.  It is home to many museums and I do believe I visited them all.  Chief among these is the brand new (2009) Acropolis Museum, situated a few blocks from my hotel at the foot of the Acropolis.  This amazing building was built directly over active excavations of early Christian sites.  The first level effectively uses glass floors so you can see directly down into these sites.

While in Athens, I saw pottery that was 8,000 years old.  How incredible to look at these pots (intact and reconstructed) and think that they were molded by human hands, fired, and decorated with intricate designs for utilitarian and religious purposes a full 6,000 years before the birth of Christ!
I was struck by the similarity of the geometric designs of these vessels to those of Native American pottery.  It seemed to underscore a common humanity that originated there in the cradle of Western Civilization.

I also visited buildings and structures that were a couple thousand years old.  This made me think of the difficulty encountered by preservationists here in Peoria as we try to save structures that are only a hundred years old.
Thank goodness the Athenians had the forethought and respect for their culture to save these structures, that are visited by throngs of tourists daily. 
I am not saying that people will travel from around the world to visit a restored Madison Theater, but what a shame that our city leaders have such limited vision that they are unwilling to fight for those symbols of Peoria's identity and rich cultural history.

Another of the museums in Athens is dedicated to the Battle of Marathon and the birth of democracy.  As an American, it was humbling to stand in the land where democracy was "invented", and realize how different the world would be if that single battle had gone differently.  If the Persians had been victorious, the entire Western world would be different and America as we know it would not exist.
It was a reminder not only of what we take so easily for granted, but of the fragility of all political and social structures.

It was a most exciting and expanding vacation.  You can see my poor attempts at photography on Facebook:!/profile.php?id=100000416750539&v=photos

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