Friday, July 11, 2008

Greece responds to critics of culture polcy


I have read dozens of books about ancient Greece by such authors as Mary Renault, Steven Pressfield, and Michael Curtis Ford as well as listened to every course on ancient Greece and Greek culture I can get my hands on from The Teaching Company. I've also been fascinated by the Minoan culture and admired their beautiful art for years, too.

So I have been yearning to visit Greece for quite some time. But I had been cautioned by friends who had visited Greece that the ancient sites there were in pretty bad condition. However, I had once more considered traveling to Greece after viewing images of the beautiful new museum near the Acropolis in a recent television program. But, I was surprised to read in this article that Greece has continued to be less than hospitable to tourists, once the Olympic Games "gold rush" ended.

Apparently, though, frustrated tourists and tour operators have been badgering the Greek government trying to get them to wake up to the opportunities offered by a healthy tourism industry and they have finally responded by hiring more staff and extending some site hours for at least part of the year.

The additional staffing and extended opening hours are welcome but I agree with the individual that pointed out most tourists would rather visit these sites in the off-season not during the blistering summer months - me included. But, it's a start.

The article also mentioned that the Museum of Heraklion is closed until 2010 for rennovations. I would want to be sure it was reopened before I planned a visit as I gather Crete tours can be arranged with Athens tour operators. So, maybe a 2011 visit may be more prudent for me.

"Extra staff have been dispatched to guard the great cultural gems of Greece as the government in Athens tries to deflect growing criticism of its handling of national treasures.

Amid unprecedented protests from tour guides, travel companies and tourists irritated by conditions at prime archaeological sites, the ruling conservatives last week rushed hundreds of additional personnel to staff museums and open-air antiquities.

"The situation at museums and sites around the country is bad," the culture minister, Michalis Liapis, conceded in parliament last week. "It has to be corrected."

The move follows embarrassing revelations over the upkeep of Greece's ancient wonders and mounting public disquiet, voiced mostly by foreigners in the local press, over visitor access to them.

Yesterday, the authoritative newspaper Sunday Vima disclosed that the Cycladic isle of Delos - the site of Apollo's mythological sanctuary and one of Greece's most important ancient venues - resembled an "archaeological rubbish dump". Recently, it emerged that many sites, including Delphi, Mycenae and the spectacular Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri on the popular island of Santorini, were only partially open or permanently closed."