Monthly Archives: March 2017

Some Fun and Fascinating Facts

The LAX airport, or the Los Angeles International Airport, was originally named Mines Field and was a general aviation base during World War II. LAX is located in none other that Los Angeles, California. It is ranked as the fifth busiest passenger airport in the entire world. It also is ranked sixth for the world in carrying cargo. Even if you never travel through LAX, (although chances are good that you will) you may find the following facts and information interesting and fun.

Fun And Interesting Facts About The LAX Airport:

1. There are more than 50 million people who travel into or out of LAX every year. But, not only people travel through. An additional 2 million tons of cargo passes through this airport every year as well.

2. The LAX airport employs over 59,000 people to get you and your luggage safely and comfortably to your destination.

3. A U-shaped road with two levels connects the 9 terminals at this airport.

4. The airport has four parallel runways and a 277 foot control tower. The original control tower was only 172 feet tall.

5. LAX has the only Coast Guard Air Station located right on the premises. They provide 24-hour service to the passengers and employees of the LAX airport.

6. One unusual feature is the Encounters restaurant, which is located in the Central Terminal and is 70 feet above the ground. It is a space-themed restaurant and has an observation deck that is located on the roof of the LAX airport.

7. Worried about parking? The airport has over 21,000 parking spaces at the terminal including long and short term parking and the outdoor economy lots.

8. Transportation to and from the LAX airport and its vicinity is simple with shuttle buses, taxis, rental cars, the airport and public buses and even light rail.

9. While many airports today are located on the outskirts of town LAX is located on 3,425 acres right in the heart of Los Angeles.

10. How many airports do you know that have their own song? LAX airport has a song that was written by Leann Scott and performed by David Frizzel in 1970 called LA International Airport. Then, in 1971 Susan Raye, a famous country singer redid the song and it shot to number 9 on the country charts and 54 on the pop chart. Just recently, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the LAX airport, it was sung again by Susan Raye and then it was given new lyrics by Leann Scott and sung again by Shirley Myers.

11. The Los Angeles International Airport also supports the public arts programs of the community. Right at the entrance of the airport are 100 foot high pylons and 32 foot high letters that spell out LAX. This is the work of the artist Paul Tzanetopoulos. There is also a program at LAX airport which allows high school students from the area to display their works in the airport in a revolving display. The students not only gain some notoriety and recognition, but they also can get university credit for participating.

12. You can also find all of the typical airport services at LAX. You will find bookshops and restaurants, lost and found, shoe shine stations, baggage storage, banking machines, and first aid stations.

Your trip to (or through) Los Angeles International airport can be enjoyable and relaxing if you know what is available to you. The airport is working to become more easily accessible and passenger friendly. To get you in the mood for your trip, take a listen to the theme song. You can find it online.

Environmental Issues Affecting the Travel Industry

Protecting the environment is now one of the most talked-about and hotly-debated topics across the globe. Many companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to create products or make their products environmentally friendly. An example is the electric car that is being looked at as a viable option to that of the present gasoline powered car. In 2009 world leaders met in Copenhagen to discuss ways in which they can prevent global warming and reduce on the effects of climate change, in effect protecting the environment. The travel industry too has not been left out of this issue. In an industry where the number of people engaged in international travel has been predicted to reach the billion mark in 2010, there is concern about its contribution to the damage done to the environment. Also like every other industry the travel industry needs to be concerned about ways of doing business that are environmentally friendly. Outlined below are some of the environmental issues affecting the travel industry which stakeholders need to address and in some cases seek out long term solutions.

1. Aviation which ferries hundreds of thousands of tourists across the globe is of great concern to those seeking to protect the environment. A major concern for the industry is greenhouse gas emissions and their implication for climate change. Aviation produces at least two percent of emissions. One way the aviation industry is working on this problem is by rolling out newer planes that have fuel efficient engines which means less carbon emissions. However not all airlines especially in the poorer countries can afford buying new aircraft.

2. Mass tourism. With the cost of travel becoming cheaper and more and more people venturing further away from their countries to places that were previously inaccessible but can now be reached because of air transport, areas of environmental and historical significance are becoming crowded. This is putting pressure on ecosystems within these areas and threatening the flora and fauna. Also climate change is going to mean that certain places will not favour visitors because of weather conditions becoming extreme which will lead to overcrowding in other places with more favourable weather conditions. Again this presents a danger to the ecosystems in the overcrowded areas and to the tourism of the area.

3. Deforestation. In spite of the worldwide call to protect the environment there are still areas where massive logging is taking place. This is also contributing to destruction of flora and fauna and is a threat to the tourism in those areas.

4. With the call to go green affecting all industries across the globe the tourism industry has not been left out. There is pressure on those who are in the industry to find methods of doing business that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. For example can the hotel industry build hotels that are more environmentally friendly? What methods can they use to conserve energy and reduce on chemicals that are used in the dry cleaning of tons of laundry used in the industry?

5. Human encroachment. With populations continuing to grow worldwide there is now competition between man and animals for space. Humans are now encroaching on areas like National Parks that are protected and marked for wildlife. This has led to reports of people and their livestock being killed by wild animals which in turn leads to people hunting and killing these animals that are considered to be a threat. This is a threat to the tourism of the area. Human encroachment is also forcing animals to move away from their habitat to other areas where they can not survive leading to the extinction of certain species.

Greek Facial and Hand Gestures – Does “No” Mean “Yes”?

As many Greeks will tell you, the Greek language is a very rich language and when a native speaker is in action, it is often also accompanied by a rich variety of facial and hand gestures. These serve, both consciously and unconsciously, to give emphasis to that which is being said, or can be used on their own as a non-verbal response.

“No”

Greeks do not usually shake their heads from side to side to indicate a negative response i.e. “no”. Instead they tilt the head upwards and backwards, and then back down to looking directly ahead. This is done only once. This should not be mistaken for a nodding of the head meaning “yes”. Sometimes the tilting of the head is accompanied by an audible click of the tongue against the teeth. There are also variations on this. For emphasis, meaning something like “no, of course not” or “no, you’re way off the mark” the head may be tilted up and back in a very slow deliberate movement sometimes with a partial or full closing of the eyes. On other occasions, the whole movement can be reduced to a very slight and quick raising of the eyebrows. This can be very hard to detect, therefore leading you to ask your question repeatedly to that person until the movement becomes more perceptible or they lose patience with you and actually tell you their answer. Non-verbal responses can be surprisingly powerful and can elicit an interesting reaction from a foreigner who is not used to it. For example, you may think that the slow deliberate “no” movement indicates that your listener believes what you have said or suggested to be completely ridiculous and not worthy of a verbal response – you would be mistaken.

“Yes”

For “yes”, the head is tilted downwards and slightly to one side. As with “no”, this is done only once. Again, this can be done slowly and deliberately for added emphasis.

Shaking the head

As we have seen this does not mean “no”. It serves to indicate that someone does not understand what is being said to them or alternatively, the reason it is being said. This is sometimes accompanied by an extension of the hand outwards with palm facing down to the floor and then rotating it, with the thumb and first two fingers extended, until the palm is facing up.

Impolite and vulgar hand gestures

Come on, I have to cover at least one or two. As in many countries, there are impolite and vulgar hand gestures that are more expressive than any words in certain situations. The Greeks have an expression which literally translated means “I am writing you on my testicles”!. This actually means “I am totally ignoring what you are saying”. It would take too long to go into the many Greek sayings, but I have also heard an interesting variation on this one uttered by a woman, which goes “I am going to grow testicles just so I can write you on them”! Anyway, the related hand gesture, which is often used alone without the expression, is a swift movement of both hands downwards, palms facing up, and fingertips almost touching forming a v-shape over the stomach, as if indicating the location of the genitalia. Finally, another hand gesture which is a rude way of telling someone to “go away” (I’ll let you use your imagination and creative talent), is to extend your arm in the direction of your target with a closed fist. Then as the arm is fully extended, the fingers are spread widely revealingly the palm at a 45-degree angle to the ground. It is done in one movement and is similar to the action of throwing a ball. This is probably most frequently seen on the road between drivers. However, this will be considered a strong insult if used on a stranger, so be prepared to deal with literally any consequences before resorting to it!

How Did Punta Cana Get So Popular?

Punta Cana, located on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, has become internationally renowned as a beautiful tropical vacation paradise with luxurious, eco-chic, value-priced, accommodations. In fact, Punta Cana has now become the # 1 tourist destination in the entire Caribbean – and this amazing transformation has occurred over just 28 years! This news has been reported in many of the popular travel magazines and travel websites. I want you to know that this stat is based on REAL data, not just marketing hype. The stats are gathered by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, a non-profit which keeps close tabs on 29 countries in the Caribbean Region.

Below, I will discuss this data in more detail. My discussion will center around the data released in 2010 as the Caribbean Tourism Organization has not yet published the December stats for 2011 so there is not yet a complete data set for that year. However, if you study the data available for the first 11 months of 2011, the overall trends remain the same.

The Dominican Republic received more non-resident airport arrivals than any other country in the Caribbean, easily beating out Cuba, the second most popular tourist destination. The following is a quick reference list for you to view the top 10 Caribbean destinations along with the total number reported for non-resident airport arrivals:

1. Dominican Republic – 4,124,543
2. Cuba – 2,531,745
3. Cancun Mexico – 2,106,485
4. Jamaica – 1,921,678
5. Puerto Rico – 1,369,814
6. The Bahamas – 1,368,053
7. Aruba – 825,451
8. The US Virgin Islands – 691,194
9. Martinique – 476,492
10. St. Maartin – 443,136

Now, let's break these stats down even more into European travel, US American travel, and Canadian travel. Europeans pick the Dominican Republic overwhelmingly as their # 1 favorite Caribbean vacation spot. Their next favorite is Cuba. The United States has a close 4 way race between Cancun Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Cancun edges out the other 3 but the Dominican Republic gained 6.8% in just one year and this trend is continuing. Punta Cana is now the # 1 destination within the Dominican Republic for US Americans, replacing Puerto Plata on the north coast, which used to be # 1. Canadians also seem to really like the Dominican Republic, especially Punta Cana, choosing it as their second favorite Caribbean vacation spot after Cuba. Please note that United States residents are not allowed to travel to Cuba.

So, with this convincing data in mind , let me ask:

How did Punta Cana get so popular?

With many popular tourist destinations, it would be difficult to pin-point one specific thing that made the area soar in popularity. Not so with Punta Cana. On the Punta Cana coast, which stretches for about 39 miles from Bavaro in the north to Cap Cana in the south, there is one easily identifiable event that took place in 1984 that changed literally everything and completely transformed this region into the mega-popular tourist destination it is today.

Do I have your curiosity piqued yet? Keep reading …

Punta Cana is absolutely gorgeous. It offers expansive silky white sandy beaches with a warm sparkling sea lapping along its shoreline. It is so inviting it calls you in – some say it even "seduces" you. When you add to that the thick grove of coconut palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze along the entire coast in this region, you have the iconic Caribbean paradise seen on post-cards sent to those back home who were not lucky enough to go on the trip but who will surely wish they had.

However, before 1984 few people really knew about this tropical gem. It remained largely undiscovered by most world travelers until the construction of the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ). In Spanish, the official language of the Dominican Republic, this international airport is called, "Aeropuerto Internacional de Punta Cana."

You see, no matter how spectacular a place is, if you have no convenient and reasonably priced way to reach the area, it will not be seen by many people. Before the Punta Cana International Airport was built, the tiny air strip that had been built in 1971 could not handle the large size jet planes. Furthermore, in order to get there from another country, you had to fly into Santa Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, and then endure a 4 hour bumpy bus or taxi ride to Punta Cana. The unpaved road was narrow and full of gigantic potholes. The road would also wash out in heavy rains and motorized vehicles were sometimes held up by horse traffic, making the pace miserable for weary travelers wanting to get to their hotel.

The air traffic of the PUJ has grown by leaps and bounds and is on course this year (2012) to serve more than 4 million people! It now receives far more traffic than the next busiest airport in the capital of Santo Dominigo. There is no other privately funded airport in the world that even comes close to this degree of business success.

People come to Punta Cana from all over the world now. International airlines that serve the Punta Cana Airport are Air Canada, AirTran, American Airlines, British Airways, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, KLM, Spirit, United, US Airways, and Westjet. USA 300, recently defunct (as of January 30, 2012), was established by Apple Vacations and served PUJ for a long time as well. Canadian charter airlines to the Punta Cana Airport include Air Transat, Sunwig, Skyservice, and Canjet. They run during the cold bleak Canadian winters.

So, an area that began with very humble beginnings about 4 decades ago, now commonly provides beds for more than 70,000 people at one time. Punta Cana has definitely established itself as one of the top places world travelers think of going. And … there's no end in sight for the growth of this area. The approximately 39 mile Punta Cana coast has essentially been a "gold rush" for the major hotel corporations, especially the Spanish owned ones, since the area was opened up by the international airport. Classy high rise resorts, perfectly sited to take advantage of the view, have sprung up almost overnight. The infrastructure has also vastly improved as money for big projects has poured in.

The Europeans and the Canadians seemed to have "discovered" Punta Cana before the US Americans did. However, over the last 10-15 years, the US Americans have been rapidly catching up. In fact, this has happened at such a quick rate, entire resorts have been built to cater specifically to the US Americans as the customs of the Europeans and the Americans sometimes clash a bit within the resorts, although some US Americans prefer the European ambiance.

US Americans and Canadians in the Eastern Standard Time Zone can depart on a direct flight in the morning and arrive in Punta Cana by mid-day with no jet lag as the time zones are the same, except during daylight savings time when it is only one hour different. Even a trip from the west coast of the United States or Canada is a relatively easy trip when you compare it to other equally exotic destinations.

The Punta Cana Airport also fits in nicely with the Dominican landscape and makes a nice first impression when tourists enter the country. It has an open-air design with a picturesque thatched roof made of palm fronds. All of the materials used to build the airport were brought in from local sources including palm, local wood, and native coral. This was a very intentional effort by Frank Rainieri and the other investors in Grupo Punta Cana who privately funded the airport. Since they were under-funded for a project of this magnitude, Frank Rainieri approached a Dominican architecture major at Pratt University. He agreed to do it at no charge to establish a name for himself. He has since become quite famous and has been paid well for other projects in the Dominican Republic.

Originally, Grupo Punta Cana attempted to get the Dominican Republic government to fund, or at least partially fund, the building of the international airport but after 8 years they found they had to fund it privately entirely on their own. They should be credited for their vision and persistence because a privately funded airport of this magnitude had never been built before. They did have the much needed approval and cooperation of the Dominican Republic government though or the project would have never gotten off the ground.

So, there you have it. The tourism success of the Punta Cana coast hinged on one thing: building an international airport capable of giving tourists easy and affordable access to this beautiful paradise. It took incredible vision and perseverance.

History of Travel & Tourism

2000 years Before Christ, in India and Mesopotamia

Travel for trade was an important feature since the beginning of civilisation. The port at Lothal was an important centre of trade between the Indus valley civilisation and the Sumerian civilisation.

600 BC and thereafter

The earliest form of leisure tourism can be traced as far back as the Babylonian and Egyptian empires. A museum of historic antiquities was open to the public in Babylon. The Egyptians held many religious festivals that attracted the devout and many people who thronged to cities to see famous works of arts and buildings.

In India, as elsewhere, kings travelled for empire building. The Brahmins and the common people travelled for religious purposes. Thousands of Brahmins and the common folk thronged Sarnath and Sravasti to be greeted by the inscrutable smile of the Enlightened One- the Buddha.

500 BC, the Greek civilisation

The Greek tourists travelled to sites of healing gods. The Greeks also enjoyed their religious festivals that increasingly became a pursuit of pleasure, and in particular, sport. Athens had become an important site for travellers visiting the major sights such as the Parthenon. Inns were established in large towns and seaports to provide for travellers’ needs. Courtesans were the principal entertainment offered.

 

This era also saw the birth of travel writing. Herodotus was the worlds’ first travel writer. Guidebooks also made their appearance in the fourth century covering destinations such as Athens, Sparta and Troy. Advertisements in the way of signs directing people to inns are also known in this period.

The Roman Empire

With no foreign borders between England and Syria, and with safe seas from piracy due to Roman patrols, the conditions favouring travel had arrived. First class roads coupled with staging inns (precursors of modern motels) promoted the growth of travel. Romans travelled to Sicily, Greece, Rhodes, Troy and Egypt. From 300 AD travel to the Holy Land also became very popular. The Romans introduced their guidebooks (itineraria), listing hotels with symbols to identify quality.

Second homes were built by the rich near Rome, occupied primarily during springtime social season. The most fashionable resorts were found around Bay of Naples. Naples attracted the retired and the intellectuals, Cumae attracted the fashionable while Baiae attracted the down market tourist, becoming noted for its rowdiness, drunkenness and all- night singing.

Travel and Tourism were to never attain a similar status until the modern times.

In the Middle Ages

Travel became difficult and dangerous as people travelled for business or for a sense of obligation and duty.

Adventurers sought fame and fortune through travel. The Europeans tried to discover a sea route to India for trade purposes and in this fashion discovered America and explored parts of Africa. Strolling players and minstrels made their living by performing as they travelled. Missionaries, saints, etc. travelled to spread the sacred word.

Leisure travel in India was introduced by the Mughals. The Mughal kings built luxurious palaces and enchanting gardens at places of natural and scenic beauty (for example Jehangir travelled to Kashmir drawn by its beauty.

Travel for empire building and pilgrimage was a regular feature.

The Grand Tour

From the early seventeenth century, a new form of tourism was developed as a direct outcome of the Renaissance. Under the reign of Elizabeth 1, young men seeking positions at court were encouraged to travel to continent to finish their education. Later, it became customary for education of gentleman to be completed by a ‘Grand Tour’ accompanied by a tutor and lasting for three or more years. While ostensibly educational, the pleasure seeking men travelled to enjoy life and culture of Paris, Venice or Florence. By the end of eighteenth century, the custom had become institutionalised in the gentry. Gradually pleasure travel displaced educational travel. The advent of Napoleonic wars inhibited travel for around 30 years and led to the decline of the custom of the Grand Tour.

The development of the spas

The spas grew in popularity in the seventeenth century in Britain and a little later in the European Continent as awareness about the therapeutic qualities of mineral water increased. Taking the cure in the spa rapidly acquired the nature of a status symbol. The resorts changed in character as pleasure became the motivation of visits. They became an important centre of social life for the high society.

In the nineteenth century they were gradually replaced by the seaside resort.

The sun, sand and sea resorts

The sea water became associated with health benefits. The earliest visitors therefore drank it and did not bathe in it. By the early eighteenth century, small fishing resorts sprung up in England for visitors who drank and immersed themselves in sea water. With the overcrowding of inland spas, the new sea side resorts grew in popularity. The introduction of steamboat services in 19th century introduced more resorts in the circuit. The seaside resort gradually became a social meeting point

 Role of the industrial revolution in promoting travel in the west

 The rapid urbanisation due to industrialisation led to mass immigration in cities. These people were lured into travel to escape their environment to places of natural beauty, often to the countryside they had come from change of routine from a physically and psychologically stressful jobs to a leisurely pace in countryside.

Highlights of travel in the nineteenth century 

·        Advent of railway initially catalysed business travel and later leisure travel. Gradually special trains were chartered to only take leisure travel to their destinations.

·        Package tours organised by entrepreneurs such as Thomas Cook.

·        The European countries indulged in a lot of business travel often to their colonies to buy raw material and sell finished goods.

·        The invention of photography acted as a status-enhancing tool and promoted overseas travel.

·        The formation of first hotel chains; pioneered by the railway companies who established great railway terminus hotels.

·        Seaside resorts began to develop different images as for day-trippers, elite, for gambling.

·        Other types of destinations-ski resorts, hill stations, mountaineering spots etc.

·        The technological development in steamships promoted travel between North America and Europe.

·        The Suez Canal opened direct sea routes to India and the Far East.

·        The cult of the guidebook followed the development of photography.

 

 

Tourism in the Twentieth Century

 

The First World War gave first hand experience of countries and aroused a sense of curiosity about international travel among less well off sector for the first time. The large scale of migration to the US meant a lot of travel across the Atlantic. Private motoring began to encourage domestic travel in Europe and the west.  The sea side resort became annual family holiday destination in Britain and increased in popularity in other countries of the west. Hotels proliferated in these destinations.

The birth of air travel and after

The wars increased interest in international travel. This interest was given the shape of mass tourism by the aviation industry. The surplus of aircraft and growth of private airlines aided the expansion of air travel. The aircraft had become comfortable, faster and steadily cheaper for overseas travel. With the introduction of Boeing 707 jet in 1958, the age of air travel for the masses had arrived. The beginning of chartered flights boosted the package tour market and led to the establishment of organised mass tourism. The Boeing 747, a 400 seat craft, brought the cost of travel down sharply. The seaside resorts in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Caribbean were the initial hot spots of mass tourism.

A corresponding growth in hotel industry led to the establishment of world-wide chains. Tourism also began to diversify as people began to flock alternative destinations in the 70s. Nepal and India received a throng of tourists lured by Hare Krishna movement and transcendental meditation. The beginning of individual travel in a significant volume only occurred in the 80s. Air travel also led to a continuous growth in business travel especially with the emergence of the MNCs.

Athens Propylaea – The Legendary Entrance of the Acropolis

We enter the Acropolis from the western side which has always been the only point of access to the great rock. We enter through the gate, which was probably built in the 3rd century AD, and excavated in 1853 by the French archaeologist Ernest Beule. We don’t know precisely where the entrance was in ancient times, owing to the many alterations and the constant use of pieces of the ancient marble in later buildings. The Acropolis is somewhat like the Greeks who, even though they carry memories of and have been marked by the different conquerors over the centuries, are always solid, with the traditional virtues and vices of the Hellenic race. There is just enough to confuse the historian striving to trace the roots of their family tree, to learn whether it ever stopped and to identity the ancestors whose traits can be seen so vividly in their descendants.

What is reasonably sure is that in classical times the entrance was a climb similar to today’s. The Romans built a broad ramp leading up in a straight line to the central doorway of the Propylaea (monumental gateway). During Frankish rule, other gates and fortifications were built; under the Ottomans, whatever was located outside the main Propylaea was used to build up the defensive bastions. The present day main entrance was restored during the last century.

Ascending the stairs to the Acropolis we can see, on the left, the massive boulders of the prehistoric wall supporting the plateau at the beginning of the later ramp. To the right is a solid square tower, memory of an ancient bastion, and to the left is the heavy base of a monument by which the Athenians paid homage to the Roman consul Agrippa, benefactor of their city in the 1st century BC. It appears that during the years of Roman occupation, flattery took precedence over aesthetics and thus this stone structure, so alien to the beauty of its surroundings, still offends our eye.

But if this vestige reminds us of the Roman legions, facing it is the light, elegant temple of Athena Nike (Victory). Pausanias called it the temple of “Wingless” Victory, relating that the Athenians had cut off her wings so that she would remain always with them. A very ancient wooden idol was kept in an older, square little temple which was destroyed in the Persian wars; that temple was approached from the side, from the point at which today we can see the remains of a staircase suspended in the air. It was replaced in the 5th century BC by this charming Ionic temple which, with columns on its facades alone, is the most elegant building on the sacred rock.

The entire temple rests lightly on the marble flooring over the required three steps of the crepidoma, i.e. the permanent foundation of temples in the classical age, which served to make them look as though they were floating in the strong Mediterranean light. The marble, cut into pieces of equal size, as they are throughout the Propylaea, was certainly painted so as not to reflect its whiteness too strongly in the bright sunlight. Around the frieze of the little temple, there were battle scenes, and around its enclosure was a low wall of marble relief sculptures. There the goddess Athena was depicted in a seated position, while in front of her was a series of winged Victories sufficient to ennumerate the feats of the Athenians at war. It is worth keeping in mind that both this and all the surrounding buildings were built when the memories of the Persian wars and the dizzying sense of victory were still vivid in the minds of the citizens. Thus, the correct name of this little temple is the sanctuary of Athena Nike, a glorious stone hymn dedicated respectfully to a triumphant divinity.

The whole complex of the Propylaea is the embodiment of magnificence, even today. The ancients themselves used to call it the brilliant preface to the Acropolis. Five years and enormous sums of money were required to construct it. Constructed on two different levels, it comprises three parts: the central structure and two recessed wings. The facades, in the form of a temple, are about twenty-five metres apart. Each one has six Doric columns which, on the western side, rest firmly on a base with the usual three steps. On the contrary, on the east side looking toward the Parthenon the columns appear to have grown out of the natural gray rock.

The transverse wall of the main Propylaea building is not entirely of white marble, as part of its foundation consists of gray marble blocks which continue their colour up to the fifth step separating the two levels. The architect, Mnesikles, took advantage in the most functional way of the natural slope of the hill, creating two different structures under the same roof.

Although the exterior was built in the Doric Order, the central passage ascends through two rows of Ionic columns that support the roof. This marble slope passes through a monumental porch flanked by two smaller ones to the right and left, and by another two even smaller openings near the walls. The result was a pleasant symmetry to the eye of the visitor ascending to the temples with his offerings.

Once again, symmetry is found in the wings which have three Doric columns each. Although the south side of the plateau contains only the temple of Athena Nike, the corresponding north side was totally covered by the severe Pinacotheke (art gallery) building. Not one of the painted works which we know to have been housed in this building has come down to us. They were, it appears, painted on wood or on stretched fabric and were completely destroyed. All we have are Pausanias’ vivid descriptions of the scenes from the Homeric epics and the marvellous portrait of Alcibiades, the enfant terrible of Athens, which showed him to be more beautiful than the goddesses who accompanied him. What a strange creature was this handsome aristocrat! An Olympic victor, as well as being an arrogant, cultivated opportunist, he frequented philosophers’ symposia and hedonistic orgies with the same ease. He was at once devout and profane; he fought like a hero, acted like a traitor and was finally murdered.

On the eastern side, the outer walls of the Propylaea are full of projections (lifting bosses) which the masons left on purpose when they were quarrying the marble, to be used as handles to help carry the huge boulders up to the Acropolis and set them in their place. Then the technicians would plane off these projections before smoothing the whole surface and giving the building its final finishing. But the Propylaea began being built in 437 BC and just a few years later, in 431, the fateful Peloponnesian war broke out. It was for this reason that this technical detail remained unfinished. One may well wonder how many technicians worked on these stones and how many were fortunate enough finally to see the day of the brilliant opening. A pedestal, which once housed a votive offering to Athena Hygeia, right next to the eastern right side, allows us to imagine that there were several casualties; since, according to Plutarch, the goddess revealed to Pericles in a dream that she would cure the master craftsman who had fallen from a scaffolding and was in danger of death.

Leaving the eastern porch of the Propylaea, one might expect to come face to face with the most important temple on the sacred rock, the Parthenon, since this magnificent entrance is but an introduction to the glorious shrine of the city’s patroness. Instead, the splendid structure is situated to the right of the Propylaea, near the south wall, and of course, this is not accidental. If the Parthenon had been built right on the foundations of the old temple of Athena, then the approaching visitor would see the narrow side of the building with only eight columns visible. But on its present site, we can see the corner where the two sides converge, with a total of twenty-four columns in a changing perspective, which thus gives us a full feeling of its architectural perfection. There is nothing more majestic than the austerity of a Doric temple: such beauty expressed in the strength of such simple lines.