Dec 152012
With the famous statues at the Acropolis, mimicking their serious expressions.

In Greece with the famous female statues at the Acropolis, mimicking their serious expressions.

The wind atop Greece’s Acropolis whipped my hair like a milkshake as I stared at the towering stone women. Why did they look so familiar?

“You are looking at the Caryatid Porch of Erechtheion,” our guide told our teacher tour group, “built around 420 BCE… over 2,400 years ago.”

I knew I had seen those statues before back in Boston… and often. But where?

A closer peek at the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

A closer peek at the Acropolis’s Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion in Athens, Greece.

“The design is remarkable,” our guide continued. “Each woman is carved with unique characteristics, and their necks are slender and feminine, even as they hold up that heavy stone roof! The five figures you see here are replicas. The real ones are currently in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, which we will tour later. They are in the process of being painstakingly cleaned by laser.”

“Where is the sixth?” another teacher asked.

Our guide’s face tightened. “The sixth statue was stolen by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century and is, you could say, being held hostage in the British Museum in London. We keep that sixth pedestal empty to remember this loss.”

Don't these four educators look like the four statues??? Man, it was windy.

Don’t these four educators look like the four front statues??? Man, it was windy.

As I snapped a photo of my coworker in front of the statues, it suddenly hit me where I had seen those statues before: I walk past them 180 days each year in the entry hall of the school in Boston where I teach!

“Ahh!!!” I exclaimed, slapping my forehead. If I hadn’t traveled to Greece, would I ever have realized the meaning behind my school’s statues? Nope– I likely would’ve continued striding by the stone women day after day, always thinking, “Geez, that’s some weird art.”

Thus is the power of global learning: Travel lets you unlock secret new layers of understanding! 

Jumping for joy in Greece after travel unlocked a secret new layer of understanding!

Jumping for joy in Greece after travel unlocked a secret new layer of understanding!

It’s kind of like the video game Super Mario Brothers, when you find the button that turns coins into bricks and suddenly see that those new bricks form steps to allow you to climb to a secret level full of coins! (Yes, I am a secret video game geek.)

After the statue realization in Greece, I look around our world with curiosity. What other allusions am I missing??? What journeys will it take to discover them?

Acropolis women, now I know when people make allusions to you!

Acropolis women, now I know when people make allusions to you!

So what about you? What secret layers of understanding has travel (or mental travel through study) unlocked for YOU?


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  28 Responses to “How Travel Unlocks a Secret Layer, As Seen in Greece”

  1. Oh I so wanted to see a picture of the statues at your school, too! I loved my visit to Athens and especially those statues!

    • My friend said the same thing! My teaching day is so hectic that I didn’t find time to bring my good camera in to school, but maybe in the future I’ll be able to add the photo in. Good suggestion!

  2. Wow! I can’t believe you had visited Greece! Funny thing is I am Greek and all my family members live there! I’ve always wanted to go there, especially to Athens. I think it’s beautiful, my dream is to go there one day! Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit over there!
    Your article was amazing and interesting!

  3. I am Greek so it’s kind of weird I never noticed the statues were Greek. I have never been to Greece before but we are planning to go next year. I am really excited because the pictures I have seen are beautiful. How was your experience in Greece? Also what part did you go to? My family is from Lesvos.

    • So exciting! Click the “Greece” tag under the article to see the rest of the places we went. You’ll have a great time!

  4. I had an “ah-ha” moment on my trip to Greece this year too when we stopped in Turkey (with EF tours) and toured Ephesus and I was like so THIS is what all that stuff in the Bible is about (Ephesians, Acts) etc. Also toured where John wrote the book or Revelation on the Greek Island of Patmos and was like “well I’ll be…” this is where it was actually written. Very interesting tours in both places!

  5. These statues are beautiful, I had no idea there were replicas in Boston. The next time I’m in the city, I will have to check them out (South Shore guy here)

  6. Cool connection between the caryatids and your school — but do they have a sixth statue or just an empty pedestal?

    • At my school there are just two statues and they are facing each other, which made it more of a challenge to identify the connection.

  7. Hi Lillie , Your mimic is more beautiful than the Acropolis ladies statues , I can see the wind waving your hairs . One would definitely jump with a Joy. Thanks for the Pics

  8. Travel has taught me a lot of things – many of them embarrassing.

    During a conversation about travel gear, I explained to a new British friend that fanny packs used to be cool in the 1980s in Canada. She looked at me in absolute shock – apparently, fanny is a fairly rude term for a private area of female anatomy.

    Who knew? I can’t imagine what she thought Canadian girls were wearing in the ’80s though…

  9. It’s so interesting to hear that the tour guide in Greece considers the Elgin marbles stolen property, because when we went to London OUR tour guide went into this whole discussion about how they were legally acquired at the time, and are held for posterity somewhere where they won’t be vandalized now. I’d love to get those two in a room together sometime.

  10. love this!! it’s so true. and i just LOVE the caryatids! we did an interview with a scholar who was researching their HAIR styles, with the caryatid project:

  11. This looks like heaven

  12. I’ve seen the missing statue in London 🙂 There are many artefacts that Greece asked UK to give back. I’m not sure if that will ever happen 🙂

  13. During my years attending a public all girls high school in Philadelphia, I also walked past Greek statuary at my school—in a pink marble hall, no less. (They certainly no longer build public schools like they used to). In my case, it was the statue called “The Winged Victory of Samothrace”. Your blog post caused me to dig a little deeper — admittedly (for shame) in Wikipedia. Armless and headless though she may be, our replica of Winged Victory exudes female strength. I graduated from that school over 40 years ago (yes, I am THAT old), but I now serve on the board of the Alumnae Association and I return to the school for meetings. Although times and demographics have changed, Winged Victory with her “intangible spirit” (our school’s mantra) still inspires today’s students at the Philadelphia High School for Girls.

  14. Wow Ms. Marshall these are beautiful statues I had no idea that these statues are in our school. Like when you said it makes you think about the other modern day things that are shown through ancient times.

    • How fitting that our Term 3 interdisciplinary theme is “Connecting Across Contexts”– especially between ancient and modern!

  15. It is truly an amazing place and your photos here take me back to when I visited during a long layover to Alexandroupoli

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