From The Guardian Feb. 26
Plato’s Academy and Alexander’s birthplace are among the historic sites lying desolate and neglected
Helena Smith in Athens
It was the world’s first university, where Plato taught, Aristotle studied and philosophy was born. But today as buses hurtle down the boulevard that bisects the park, past grey highrises, it is hard to believe this is one of the Greek capital’s ancient treasures; Plato’s Academy is so overlooked it is not even signposted.
“We haven’t managed to save the €7,000 [£4,500] such a sign would require,” says Nikoletta Divari Vilakou, the archaeologist in charge. “And that’s because of the economic problems.”
The crisis that has gripped Greece, rocked markets and rattled Europe’s single currency is now enveloping the country’s cultural heritage. The seat of learning, founded on property the philosopher inherited in 387BC, is not alone. This year, antiquities beneath the Acropolis stood under tangled weeds, testimony to the overstretched culture ministry’s inability to clean and prune.
Nationwide, some of Greece’s greatest glories – museums, castles and antiquities – have been closed to the public, from Kastellorizo in the east to Pella, Alexander’s birthplace, in the north. Like the desolate tourist shops alongside them, the ancient sites are devoid of holidaymakers, symbolic of the recession engulfing the nation…
…The scale of the crisis has not been lost on the governing socialists elected to run Europe’s weakest economy after five years of scandal-plagued conservative rule. Unlike his predecessors, the new culture minister, Pavlos Geroulanos, a friend of the prime minister George Papandreou, readily acknowledges that although by far the nation’s most significant resource, the sector remains painfully under-funded.
“Culture and tourism represent over 20% of GDP, a huge chunk of the economy,” he told the Guardian. “We are the first to admit that for far too long culture has been marginalised, that not enough money has been dedicated to it, that we keep our ancient monuments away from the public and close them down”…
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