When the lights flicker on at the Parthenon

Crane at Parthenon, Athens

In the presence of the Parthenon, disappointment stabbed me.

Finally in Athens, I climbed the hill to the Acropolis in the extreme heat of the afternoon. I passed through the ornate gate, and, lifting my eyes toward this majestic temple to Athena, a giant crane greeted me. Camera poised, I circled what was left of the Parthenon, trying to find an angle that matched my mind’s eye’s view.

Sometimes the postcards are better than the real thing.

So after my family and I spent a hot Athenian morning that stretched into a hot Athenian afternoon, we made it back to our hotel exhausted, and I hatched a new plan. The next day we would sleep in, relax at our hotel’s rooftop pool, walk the mile to the city in the late afternoon, and get to experience Athens at night.

We would climb Filopappos Hill, and we would look across a valley to see the Parthenon lit up against the pitch-black sky. My imagination was alive again. The universe owed me an awe-inspiring Parthenon moment, and I was going to get it.

We started up the hill in the late afternoon, an easy climb up a rocky path, everything going according to plan.

Then the problems started. My husband noticed that the path wasn’t lighted. If we waited for the dark, we would be stumbling along the rocks on the way down. We, of course, had no flashlights, as we never do when flashlights are needed.

Filopappos Hill Athens Greece

Now I may be timid and squeamish and all, but once I latch onto a plan, I will follow it to the Gates of Hades, a character trait that I both admire and hate about myself.

I can be obstinate. I can make bad decisions. I can insist we stay on the hill and wait for the sun to set, no matter how worried my husband is about the failing light or how bored my kids are that the sun has not gone down as quickly as I promised.

Eventually, the sun began to set, as it must, and streaks of gold and orange filled the sky. We sat and waited and posed for pictures, but confronted by this beauty, three of the four of us were grumpy, bored, impatient.

Filopappos Hill Athens Greece

I wheedled and pleaded and got my husband and kids to wait an extra half-hour.

“Let’s go,” one of them whined, yet again.

The sun took its time, inching its way like a garbage truck blocking my lane during a busy commute.

“Just ten more minutes,” I bargained.

My ten minutes long gone, lights finally appeared across the valley in the dusk. It wasn’t dark yet, but it would have to do. When the lights flicker on at the Parthenon, pretty good is good enough, and keeping the peace is all the perfection you need.

Filopappos Hill Athens Greece

I snapped my picture and agreed to hit the trail, tripping over rocks occasionally on my way down in the dimness. Nobody twisted an ankle that he would hold against me, and we walked the mile back to our hotel in peaceful quiet.

I took the elevator up to the roof alone. And I saw the Parthenon, there, off in the distance, glowing in the blackness, majestic.

Parthenon at Night, Athens, Greece

(The hill on the left in this picture is Filopappos Hill, where we waited for the dark.)

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days, and writing my memoirs. I am a teacher and writer living in Connecticut.
This entry was posted in Scene from a Memoir, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to When the lights flicker on at the Parthenon

  1. beverlydiehl says:

    Totally jealous. Were I writing a fictional scene, I’d have the hero/heroine drop something that absolutely MUST be retrieved after the sun sets and the Parthenon has been lit. Somewhere along here would be a make-out scene – but how can you help it, when the site is SO romantic.?

    In RL, I know. Teens.

  2. Oh man!! that’s somewhere i wish i had gone… beautiful!!

  3. Jared Karol says:

    Great photo-essay, Marcy. I’ve always wanted to go to Athens. Maybe now I’ll have to bump it up on my list a few notches. Looks awesome!

  4. Emma says:

    I hope to get there… someday. I just need to get over my fear of flying. Love the photos. Just beautiful!

  5. What an awesome picture! My husband and I are considering Greece for our long overdue honeymoon just because of the views like that.

  6. Ericamos says:

    Beautiful!! I stopped in Athens while on my first, and only, cruise. We didn’t get to stay at night, and seeing your pictures, I really wish we had. I would’ve stayed at the top of that hill too! I’m glad you got your picture; and the one from the hotel is great!

  7. Glad you were persistent! This post was fun for me since I’m going to Athens for the first time this summer! I hope there aren’t any cranes but at least now I’ll know what to do!

    • Marcy says:

      Have fun! It was great. There was a great museum down the street where a lot of the pieces are on display while the Parthenon is being renovated.

  8. Jen says:

    The pictures you got are beautiful, it is so pretty from far away, especially lit up! I remember visiting the Sistine Chapel while it was being “restored” it was such a let down! Let’s look at the beautiful ceiling through the scaffolding!
    Still, you got some beautiful photos, and you can scrap the ones with the construction

    • Marcy says:

      I would love to see the Sistine Chapel! Come to think of it, Independence Hall was covered in scaffolding when I went to Philadelphia. I guess they all have to be renovated sometime.

  9. Oooh, so jealous! If I had a bucket list, Greece would be on it. Your pictures are just beautiful – completely worth the whining and cajoling!

  10. 50peach says:

    I’m so glad you got your wish! When you have a life list item to check off, you better damn well check it off. :) Nicely done and beautiful pics.

  11. Gina says:

    I love to travel and this is on my bucket list. I almost felt there! I’m like you, the planner and insister that we capture moments. We have the most beautiful pic of the Roman Colliseum because we waited for the “right” moment. Should be a postcard. Thank you for the journey!

  12. iasoupmama says:

    What a fun adventure! I love your photos and the way you wove Greek mythology through the post.

  13. What an experience that must have been. Absolutely beautiful place.

  14. Chrystal says:

    Incredible pictures! I would have done the same to my family. Luckily, mine probably wouldn’t have been as bored. But, still…. many times they are sighing and saying, “Wait for mom, she’s stopped with her camera again.” LOL! I’m jealous, I want to see those sites too!!!!

  15. Wow – what a beautiful view. Your pictures are fantastic!

  16. Jen says:

    Beautiful! I always say it’s not a vacation till one of the sights we’ve come to see is corded off or scaffolded, because it’s happened to us so often!

  17. You sound JUST LIKE me. “The universe owed me an awe-inspiring Parthenon moment, and I was going to get it” – yep, pretty much! What a beautiful memory.

  18. I have also been atop a hill with sunset nearing, with a husband and family begging me to leave while I waited for the light. You had to get that shot. Who knows when you would get another chance?

  19. Love it and glad you stayed for what you wanted! Sometimes I give up on ideas and am okay with it, other times I know I’ll regret it forever. Great photos!

  20. Esther says:

    That must’ve been one lovely sight! I’m glad you stood your ground and got to live out your plan. I agree with Erin — might as well do it while you can!!

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