How did a 19th century traveler felt?

A modern traveler can not easily feel what happened 200 years ago. Greek rebels- not Greece yet- yield their War of Independence in 1821, against the Ottoman Empire. After a decade of hostilities, newborn Greece was made, with support from European powers. The first capitals were Nafplio and Aegina, but romanticism and idealism imposed the village around Acropolis hill to become the new capital.

Athens, a dream among wonderful ruins, as was described in a phrase of the French landscape painter, sculptor, architect, archaeologist Louis-François Cassas.

European were shocked from the images of Greeks under Muslim occupation and atrocities during several rebellions. Of course, some of them did not really care and tried to gain huge profits out of antiquity trade.


Acropolis from Fauvel’s house, next to Athena Archegetis, today destroyed.

One famous traveler to Athens on March 27th 1841 was Hans Christian Andersen, who celebrated his 36th birthday. Here are some notes from his letters regarding Athens and Acropolis:

One can almost say that Athens grows hour by hour; houses and streets shoot up from the gravel; several streets look exactly like the booths we see on a fair-ground: tents are put up, all sorts of goods are displayed, and the selling is done by handsome, squatting Greek boys. […]  I walk up the Acropolis every day. The view is marvelous and the place itself a ruined fairy world; wild cucumbers grow over the steps of the Parthenon; scattered round are unburied skulls of Turks and Greeks; here and there are whole bombs from the time of the Venetians. I have been to Socrates’ prison: two small holes in a rock near Athens; at the entrance grew lovely red flowers, I picked one of them, thinking of Oehlenschlager —will you give him this flower from me?

Other monuments that attracted Europeans’ eyes was Hadrian’s Gate and Olympian Zeus Temple. Of course Ottoman period also included Ottoman education taking place at Medreses. The Tower of Winds was also conserved since it was a dervish gathering point for prayers. 

Foreign archeological institutions based in Greece have conducted a lot of research for all these monuments. Their building are located in Kolonaki area, 10 minutes walking from Plaka. They were built on land provided by church, especially Moni Petraki.

Many people wonder how the ancient monuments looked back in the 19th century, when Greece was still under the Ottoman rule. Less neoclassical and far more poor.