Seeing the Parthenon during our trip to Athens, Greece was certainly one of the most interesting sites that we visited. At night, the Parthenon was lit up so that it can be seen from all around the city. The fact that there are eight columns on the façade and seventeen columns on the flanks was done very specifically by the ancient Greeks. They wanted to conform to the 9:4 ratio that was a common design in the days that the Parthenon was built. This ratio governs the relationship between the vertical and horizontal proportions. It is also true of the relationship of the spacing between the columns to the height of the columns. Obviously, geometry was extremely important to the ancient Greeks and it is fascinating to see how they applied this to their lives and to the monuments that they created.
Obviously the highlight of any visit to Athens, Greece, probably starts with the Acropolis, but there is so much more to see in this wonderful city. For us, our second favorite location was the Ancient Agora of Athens with the Temple of Hephaestus. The agora was a gathering place for the people of ancient Greece and contains many different structures. It is truly a fascinating place to walk and imagine yourself discussing philosophy or the benefits of a democratic society. When you go to the Acropolis, you can buy a bundled ticket that includes other attractions, including the agora, which makes it well worth the extra money as it will save you money in the long run.
The Temple of Hephaestus, which sits high upon a hill looking over the agora, is one of the best preserved ancient temples in all of Greece. One of the reasons that it is so well preserved is that it had been in continual use for more than two thousand years, even serving as a Greek Orthodox church until the early 1800’s. Hephaestus was the god of metal working, craftsmanship, and fire, perhaps a fitting choice for it to have remained in almost its original condition.
There are so many fascinating ruins to see as you walk through the agora including several statues such as the remaining torso of a statue of Roman Emperor Hadrian. The ancient roads can still be detected as you walk among the ancient ruins. There is also the Museum of the Agora on the grounds, which displays some interesting pieces that have been unearthed during the excavation of the site.
Some people may feel that they have had their fill of ancient ruins and temples after visiting the Acropolis, but we feel that it is well worth taking the time to visit the other sights that Athens has to offer. At least during our visit, there were less tourists at places like the agora and it made walking among those ruins that much more enjoyable. We found the Ancient Agora of Athens to be an almost magical place with so much history and so many artifacts that it can a little overwhelming.
Tributes to fallen soldiers can be found throughout the world and they are often somber and sobering experiences. Memorials to unknown soldiers are particularly impactful and are often accompanied with special ceremonies. The tradition started at the end of WWI with both England and France creating their own versions of the tombs. Although there are ones in other countries such as Canada, Egypt, Belgium, and Iraq, we have had the opportunity to see this fitting tributes in the United States, France, Greece, Italy, and England. It is important to remember the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives to provide the freedom that we all hold precious.
Arlington Cemetery – Located in Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac river from Washington DC, is Arlington Cemetery. It is the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well and is also the final resting place for thousands of veterans and the location of the Eternal Flame that sits at the head of John F. Kennedy’s grave. Seeing the changing of the guards is truly a fascinating experience and is a great honor for the soldiers who participate.
Arc de Triomphe – Sitting in the heart of Paris, France is the Arc de Triomphe and located underneath the arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI and the eternal flame that burns in the memory of those who died and were never identified. We happened to visit on a cold and rainy day, which almost added to the mood that the memorial invokes. With all of the major avenues leading to the arc, it is a fitting location for such a tribute.
Altare della Patria – At the base of a statue of the Goddess Roma at the Altare della Patria in Rome, Italy can be found the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame. Translated to the Altar of the Fatherland is also the location of a museum and a viewing platform on its roof with spectacular views of the city. It is certainly an awe inspiring location to visit in a city with such a rich history.
Syntagma Square – Located in the square just outside of the Parliament building in Athens, Greece is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At 11:00 am daily, there is the changing of the guards, but if you want the full pageantry that the ceremony has to offer, you should attend on Sunday when it is more colorful and elaborate. It is an experience that will not soon be forgotten as the soldiers make dramatic motions as they march into their locations.
Westminster Abbey – Inside of Westminster Abbey in London, England is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The grave is covered with a black marble stone that has an inscription by the Dean of Westminster engraved with brass that was melted down from ammunition on it. We were not able to take photographs inside of the abbey, so we don’t have any images to share of this particular tomb.
All of these monuments are well worth visiting, especially if there is a significant ceremony at the location. Each of them have many similarities, but are also unique in their own ways. We definitely recommend putting them on your itinerary when visiting any of these locations.