Greece’s projected image seems as though it can be largely classified into two categories: the idea of classical antiquities and the notion of the unspoilt archipelago with the whitewashed Cycladic houses (Figure 1
). The two prevailing heritage images did not appear simultaneously during tourism history. Ancient Greece and the classical past are interweaved with the existence of the modern Greek state from 1821 onwards. On the contrary, the Aegean archipelago (focusing on the Cyclades landscape), started coming to light one hundred years later (1930 and on). The tourist blooming that occurred in the mid-20th century in Europe—after the Second World War—affected Greece remarkably, and the two prevalent imageries were progressively established. Gradually, antiquity on the one hand and the Cyclades on the other hand became synonymous with Greek origins. Relying on these two easily recognizable architectural notions, the country became a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.
As a matter of fact, the national touristic profile reproduces selectively particular aspects of the Greek reality. Future visitors do not have access to what has been excluded, and only see an artificial image of the country. A potential tourist forms the idea that the country is composed from idealized places that call him away from his mundane reality. A common appealing characteristic of the two dominant scenarios is that both of them are spatially and temporally different from the tourist’s daily urban experience. In order to construct a vision of purified tradition, the surroundings of the spot are often cropped in the photos taken from these places, thus concealing the possible ugliness of the proximate contemporary city. As Urry, expert on tourism geography, argues: “In particular there is the attempt to construct idealized images which beautify the object being photographed” [1
] (p. 139). The ultimate aim is to create an imaginary picture that mentally transfers the potential visitor to something authentic and which has not been affected by the time. The untouched spot is a key issue in the direction of heritage images. This direction is additionally in full harmony with today’s tourism practices which seek for antiquity and vernacular lifestyle, in the context of civilizations that refer to a distant past. According to MacCannell, who has focused on the sociology of tourism: “the concern of moderns for ‘naturalness’, their nostalgia and their search for authenticity are (…), attachments to the souvenirs of destroyed cultures and dead epochs” [2
] (p. 3).
The present work starts with a short presentation of tourism in Greece (Section 2
) in order to offer to the reader an overview of the country’s touristic history. Following, Classical Greece (Section 3.1
, Section 3.2
, Section 3.3
and Section 3.4
) and the Cyclades (Section 4.1
, Section 4.2
and Section 4.3
) are examined under the gaze of the West. Mass representations of the country’s image are then presented (Section 5
) before proceeding to some common characteristics of the two heritage imageries (Section 6
). In order to achieve a thorough idea about national heritage, the Greek perspective is studied, a fact that gradually leads to the documentation of forming a national identity (Section 7.1
and Section 7.2
). Finally, the last part investigates any interaction between national and global meanings in terms of heritage management (Section 8
2. Short Overview of Tourism in Greece
In the early 20th century, the inadequacy of infrastructures (both accommodation and road network) made the Greek inland inaccessible to potential visitors. The limited rail network and the rural villages in the rugged mountains made things harder. Indicatively, it is mentioned that Greece has been connected by railway with the Balkans after 1918 [3
]. Moreover, the defeat of the Greek army in Asia Minor as well as the consequential refuges’ crucial needs for accommodation and infrastructures, delayed tourism investments until the mid-1920s [4
The aforementioned conditions are the main ones among many other ones of socioeconomic nature that have steered tourism towards steam propulsion at the sea. The cruises were highly demanded right from the beginning of international tourism because of the difficulties that the mainland presented. “In this light it should not be surprising that cruises were extremely popular for Western travelers from early on, a travel practice that escalated at an astonishing rate in the ‘30s” [5
] (p. 24). It is significant that before 1925, according to state documents, excluding thermal tourism, there is almost no domestic tourism [6
] (p. 15). In the first decades of the twentieth century, tourism in Greece was synonymous for the locals with the thermal baths that cities such as Loutraki or Edipsos offered, while on the contrary, for the foreigners was identifiable with antiquities. At the archaeological sites of the Acropolis, Delphi, Olympia, and Epidaurus, foreigners were seeking for the ancient Greek spirit. The tourist industry as we know it today did not start immediately its practices and although the GNTO—Greek National Tourism Organization (E.O.T. in Greek) was founded in 1929, in the beginning it only funded some tourist kiosks at various archaeological sites. International tourism in Greece was the leading engine of mainly private investments.
It was only until the period 1936–1940 that the “Ministry of Press and Tourism” was founded. The pairing of Greek nature with ancient ruins becomes the ultimate ideological direction on which the interwar formation of the Greek tourist product would be established. Unlike older debates related to religion or language, the correlation of national continuity with the ruins of classical antiquity is gaining ground [7
] (pp. 136–137).
Following the European reforms on labor law, the first provisions establishing paid leave for employees were adopted in Greece in 1945 (Νο. 539/1945), but only after the recovery of the war wounds did locals started to enjoy their right. In the 1950s, tourism in Greece existed under state tutelage, which undertakes its organization either through the GNTO or through its key banking pillar, the National Bank of Greece, offering smaller or larger hotel infrastructures around Greece usually located close to major national landmarks. “The fruits of those efforts are to be seen in the ‘Xenia’ chain of hotels and the units of the ‘Astir’ corporation” [8
] (p. 40) (e.g., Delphi 1953, Olympia 1963, Andros 1958, Mykonos 1962).
Surprisingly, according to today’s standards, the advertised image of Greece during the 1960s and 1970s included urban environments such as concrete blocks of flats, in order to prove that the country was synchronized with the European norms. Back then, vernacular architecture or archaeological spots were enhanced by modern amenities which reassured potential tourists that in Greece, they could enjoy the same commodities, transportation, and lifestyle that they were used to in their home countries. Soon, though, a change of focus in the strategy promoted by Greece was observed: the initial advertising on tourist built infrastructures was quickly abandoned once it became widely known that the country was not underdeveloped. A swift movement towards an untouched paradise was gradually established. After modernization progress was guaranteed, the country started gradually building a profile of one of the last authentic paradises left in Europe based on the idea of classical Greece (Section 3
) and the unspoilt archipelago with the whitewashed Cycladic houses (Section 4
), imageries that are still in the spotlight.
3. First Patrimony Scenario
3.1. Ancient Greek Ruins, the Foreign Gaze
“We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley in the preface of his poem Hellas (1822) [9
] (p. 431).
“On hearing the name ‘Greece’ a cultured European man immediately feels himself to be in his home country.”
Hegel, German philosopher (1770–1831) [10
] (p. 102).
A master narrative imposes the basic images of Greece: the onset of European civilization is hidden in a pristine place. But was classical antiquity always on the spotlight? When did ancient Greece start to attract the Europeans’ interest? “Since the Renaissance, if not earlier, classical antiquity has been seen as more than simply Greek patrimony (Lowenthal 1988 [11
] (p. 132). All these centuries, the actual geographical location remained distant in the conscience of Europeans, until the Renaissance Humanism, which is placed at the end of the Late Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance. Leaving behind the theocratic model of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance humanists turned to the ancient Greek and Roman literature. The Renaissance town was still under the hegemonic system, so the Athenian democracy was projected as the ideal state model. The Ideas of the Renaissance prepared the ground for Enlightenment, during which nation states were supported. Enlightenment has a major role towards the independence of nations, and its influence can be also traced to the liberation of Greeks from the Turkish yoke. The Greek Revolution revives the European values of the French Enlightenment and those of the French Revolution [13
The intellectuals of the Enlightenment would not have been interested in the Christian culture of Byzantium, which was associated with the traditional perceptions of the Orthodox world because they wanted to get rid of the theocracy of the Middle Ages. In midst of the reborn ancient expressional forms, the philosophy of the Enlightenment seeks to emancipate the European spirit from the bonds of medieval worldview. In this framework, Greece is, at the same time, the country of ancient Greek civilization which the West “inherited” as part of its “own” history.
Ancient Greece was already known from the Grand Tours of the 17th and 18th century. During the educational trip, the noble traveler could expose himself to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, as well as to mingle with the high society of the European continent. In the context of classical antiquity, Ancient Greece was presented during the stay in Italy since the country was still under Ottoman occupation [14
]. Through the 18th century travel texts, as well as through texts of scholars, such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, Gibbon and Winckelmann, classical Greece (and especially classical Athens) is perceived as “the starting point, the origin place of modern Europe” [15
] (p. 11).
The intellectual European circles, before Greeks’ revolution in 1821, created and spread the Philhellenic Movement (meaning people who love Greece) for the liberation of enslaved Greeks from the Ottoman occupation. Philhellenism, as a term, is attested already in 1761, and from the late 18th century, mainly in European countries, the Philhellenes form committees (comitata) for the purpose of moral and material support of the struggling Greek people against Ottoman rule. According to the Charter of Rights adopted by the French Revolution, Philhellenes supported a free and independent Greece. The feeling that ancient Greece is treated as the source of their own culture is clear. The most famous philhellenes were Lord Byron, François de Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, Alexander Pushkin, Friedrich Hölderlin, Santorre Di Santa Rosa, Friedrich Schiller, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jean-Gabriel Eynard, Charles Fabvier, Hegel, Schlegel, Schelling, and many others.
Similarly, the Greeks who contributed to the foundations of the newly established state were Greeks of the diaspora, wealthy Greek bourgeois and intellectuals who have studied in the West. Thanks to the prevailing philhellenism in the centers of western Europe, they undertook “the ‘de-barbarism’ of the modern Greeks by transforming them into beings equal to Pericles and Socrates” [16
]. The most famous representatives of the Modern Greek Enlightenment were Adamantios Korais, Rigas Feraios, and Eugenios Voulgaris. At the beginning of the 19th century, although the Byzantine past and the live folk tradition remained inseparably attached to the majority of people and their everyday experiences, emphasis was given to the study of classical Greek literature and on the learning of the appropriate language (called “katharevusa” with means pure from linguistic blending), a linguistic written structure very distant from the common written or spoken language [17
After the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the Great Powers (England, France, and Russia) recognized Greece’s autonomy from the Ottoman Empire and formed the kingdom of Greece. In the early 19th century, Otto of Wittelsbach became the first king of the new state. “In the countries that once belonged to the High Gate, German and Austrian hegemonies were installed, at the request of the Great Powers” [18
] (p. 250). The arrival of the Bavarians enforced the concept that Athens, as the new capital of Greece, should become a city to glorify classicism. The newly born modern Greek state (1830) sets an ideological start to the link with ancient Greek civilization throughout the whole century.
3.2. Questioning the Cultural and Historical Continuity
Nevertheless, the consolidation of a national link from antiquity to modern times was not self-evident, despite the efforts of the Bavarians and the Greek authorities. Scholars have struggled to prove or to question it. The Austrian historian Fallmerayer tried to deny the culture continuity between the modern and the ancient Greeks by advocating an extreme genetic mixing among people living in the south Balkans [19
]. On the other hand, historians like Johann Zinkeisen and Carl Hopf accused Fallmerayer for misreading the historical sources. Moreover, Greek thinkers such as the archaeologist Kyriakos Pittakis [20
], who published his research on the Archaeological Newspaper of that period of time, or Ioannis Veloudis [21
] as well as the historian Constantine Paparrigopoulos [22
], have tried to demonstrate that Fallmerayer’s theory had many pitfalls and have also attempted to re-establish the historical continuity.
A systematic attempt to resurrect classical Greece was conducted through a gradually consolidation of a historical continuity. “When, within the context of the independence of national states from the great empires in the European area (Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian), architecture turned towards to the medieval tradition of each country in order to differentiate itself from the public image of the previous authority, Greece followed its own distinct direction. There were two reasons for this: the Ottoman Empire (until 1821) had invested very little in the public architecture of the regions that were included in the newly established Greek state so that an immediate differentiation was required. The second and most important reason was that Greece had another historical past (…) from which architecture could be inspired: classical antiquity and the artistic models of the golden age of the Athenian democracy” [23
] (p. 470).
The gap between the ancient past and the present was tried to get bridged through the esthetic, symbolic, and archaeological process of classical past revival, which was expressed by the restoration of the ancient monuments, the creation of the aforementioned artificial language, the architectural neoclassical new appearance of Athens, and so on. Neoclassism expressed this reconnection with the classical past: One of the most important neoclassical buildings which were built during the first decade of the Otto’s rule was first the University of Athens (1837) and, later, the neoclassical Academy of Athens (1859) as well as the National Library of Greece (1888). State principles feature in the visual representation of public buildings. The emphasis that was given to the capital of the Greek state as the cradle of Western civilization, has led to an extremely rapid urbanization of Athens and thus to an uneven development of the country [24
3.3. Archaeological Excavations and the Construction of “New Athens”
Archaeology as a science was essential for bringing into light the connection with the classical past. The Greek Archaeological Service was founded in 1833 [25
] (pp. 36–37) and was typically responsible for the oversight of all archaeological excavations in the country. The state’s law of 1834, regarding academic and museum collections and archaeology, prevented the export of antiquities from the country and created an inclusive, liberal climate for the exercise of archaeological research [26
] (p. 118). This protection measure, right from the beginning of the newly born state, demonstrates that the importance of antiquity was realized early enough. Nevertheless, due to financial restrictions, inadequacy of archaeologically educated employees, and lack of museums, the state was unable to support large archaeological projects. Furthermore, the sovereignty of Greece during the 19th century was de facto limited, due to its dependence on the three Great powers which intervened in national issues. Within this framework, foreign archaeological institutes of the more powerful western countries were founded in Athens, in order to get involved in a multitude of excavations. For example, the French School in Athens was already founded in 1846 and was responsible for prestigious excavation sites, such as Delphi, Delos, Philippi, etc. On the other hand, the German Archaeological Institute in Athens was founded in 1874 and had under its supervision sites such as Thebes (Boeotia), Eleusis (Attica), the Kerameikos (Athens), Ancient Olympia (Peloponnese), the Heraion of Samos, etc.
Architecture and archaeology were called upon to play an active role in the formation of conceiving the nation. The following analysis on the construction of the “New Athens” is a typical example on how the foreign gaze affected heritage issues. In the case of Athens, the ideological construction precedes its spatial planning. The first plans of “New Athens” were developed at the time of King Otto (1832–1862). The original urban planning of the architects Cleanthes and Schaubert for Athens (1833) depicts a neoclassical isosceles triangle whose purpose was to enable the emergence of the Holy Rock of Acropolis. “The memory of classical Athens was rooted in a sentimental desire to return to the origin of Western knowledge, to reappropriate the rightful patrimony of northern Europe, and to reform the present based on the highest and purest accomplishments of the past” [27
] (p. 170).
In reality, however, Greece of the 19th century looked more like the imperfect reincarnation of its ancient self, culturally degraded/distressed in relation to modern Europe [7
] (p. 227). The Western originary myth of “New Athens” demands that the social signs of the area must be removed in order to highlight the monumental character of the territory. Within this framework, Cleanthes and Schaubert imagine a space at the northern aisle of the Acropolis according to their design solution, which will remain with no buildings at all and free from newer buildings. They suggest the removal of existing dwellings: “the huts or the modern houses, the proximity of which depresses and disturbs the visitor who admires ancient art, as well as it prevents artists and intellectuals from representing it in its fullness” [28
] (p. 189); Figure 2
and Figure 3
3.4. The Case of the Ancient Agora
The realization of the architects’ visions came much later and, specifically, during the interwar period, when the American Archaeological School undertook entirely the excavation of the Ancient Agora, located under the Acropolis hill, with private funding. “The Agora would be for the Americans what Olympia was for the Germans, Delphi for the French, and Knossos for the British. (…) The fact that funding for this project was secured despite the stock market crash of 1929 is another sign of its national importance” [29
] (p. 172).
Τhe process of archaeological elimination of any intermediate historical time, in order to approach the “original” classical land, began in 1931 [30
] (p. 46). The Ancient Agora was organized around a “scientific” documentation and narrative, and the legitimate method that was decided was the academic exact reproduction of the pre-existing place status. In this respect, either undesirable evidence was demolished, or new constructions imitating the old ones were manufactured relying on partial ancient elements. A typical example of the second case is the Stoa of Attalos, which was designed by the architect Ioannis Travlos. In order to house the archaeological findings (1953–1956), he tried to restore the building to its original form by using modern building materials (reinforced concrete which imitated marble and wood).
During the excavation by the American school, whatever did not serve the narrative was removed. A whole neighborhood was demolished in order to produce an image of ancient Athens as if it had been frozen in time and give the impression that it has always been there. At the same time, the area surrounding the Acropolis was expropriated and an archaeological landscape, in the service of a super-historical and transcendent reality, was formed [29
Furthermore, all cultural elements that could testify to a Turkish, Slavic, or Arab influence were removed, assisting the consolidation of a generalized neoclassical impression. The case of the churches that existed in the archaeological park before the excavations and demonstrated the Byzantine past of Athens is characteristic: “Several churches were removed following the excavation of the modern neighborhoods overlying the Agora” [30
] (p. 45). “Here and there, one of the picturesque ruined churches of the Byzantine Middle Ages could make a pleasant contrast with the artworks of the ancient civilisation” [31
] (p. 111).
The archaeological approach of Ancient Agora, directed by the American scientific group, was supposed to confirm the relationship between Greece and the United States after the Second World War. In the context of a cultural aspect of the Truman doctrine (1947) and the following Marshall plan (1948–1952), the findings must be clear, recognizable, and capable of being exported and globalized. The American gaze was characteristic, promoting a brilliant future for Greece by focusing on growth sectors such as tourism. Paul Hoffman, the man in charge of implementing the Marshall Plan in Europe, supported this: “Your country is literally crying out for tourism! You have the most celebrated natural landscapes, traditional hospitality, world-renowned archaeological sites and a wonderful climate. Much needs to be done of course, but you shall succeed if you remember that you are Greek” [32
] (p. 317). Such an approach could not allow blending with the Oriental element. It had to express the truth of the Western past, the classical Greece with its brilliant monuments [33
The long history of Greece justifies that archaeological sites have a very deep stratification. The stratification of an archaeological site is specific and, according to the rule of superposition, it is widely known that the higher layers contain findings from more recent historical periods while the deeper strata contain older ones. Therefore, it is a controversial issue which history layers the excavation will bring into the light and raises a question on cultural management regarding which layers will be revealed by the archaeologists. In the case of Athens, for example, neither the previous layer of history (prehistoric archaeology) nor the next one (Byzantine archaeology) came to light. Was this a political decision? Concerning the example of Ancient Agora, the answer is positive, since the American gaze determined the excavation policy. The foreign excavations in Athens suggest that the long European tradition of casting antiquity as the origin for western civilization resulted in a focus on exemplary aspects of antiquity [26
] (p. 118).
5. Cinematic Gazes into Greek Tourism
The 20th century brought mass production and a concurrent diffusion of commercial images to consumers. The dissemination of visual stimuli contributed in the familiarization of vacations. Urry suggests that the companies that dominated the guidebook industry, such as Thomas Cook, John Murray and sons, Karl Baedeker, Adolphe Joanne, etc., constructed the tourist gaze [1
]. From this perspective, he points out that visualization is the main rule on which many tourist sites are based. Visual representations, tourist posters, advertising campaigns or cinematographic successes, form the dominant visual teaser (Figure 5
and Figure 6
However, to consume something, it must be recognizable and familiar. Advertisements of any kind contribute to this target, but at the same time, examining them retrospectively, they can be the revelation of the current dominant vacation model of each country or a reflection of the main state’s policy direction on national tourism. On-screen tourism representations contributed to forming a cohesive image of each destination. Landmarks and a beautification of landscapes shape a visual national identity for each country. In this direction, films are examined in order to find the relevant representations of Greece. Motion pictures of the ancient ruins and the Aegean archipelago can be grouped in two categories:
(a) The films which have clear references to the Grand Tour tradition of the British aristocracy and the explorers of the eighteenth century. Here, the idea of classical Greece is placed in the limelight and the local landscape is approached with an idealized way in the context of a glorious past. Films focus on antiquities, and Greek society is presented in a pre-industrial era where handicraft and rural elements dominate. An imaginary construction of historical continuity with ancient civilization and a sense of a charming underdeveloped country is obtained. Greek civilization is presented as a symbol of transnational humanism.
Examples are to be seen in films like Greece: The immortal land
(Gladys and Basil Wright, 1958) Figure 7
, Greek Sculpture: 3000 BC to 300 BC
(Basil Wright, 1959), This world of ours: Greece
(Carl Dudley, 1951), Argolis
(Roussos Koundouros, 1964).
(b) The next representation of tourism is based on the construction of Greek islands. The consolidation of the white houses’ image on Greek islands is here established. The dipole of modernity versus tradition is obvious. Along with the ruins of the past and the unspoiled archipelago, the scenery hosts aspiring dreamers for imaginary transition. Everyday life in Greece is rendered on the screen somewhere between the myth of tradition, local lifestyle accommodation and carefree sunbathing. Τhe liberation of the naked body is recorded. As Hobsbawm observes characteristically: “To go to the Mediterranean in mid-summer, without looking for artistic and architectural monuments, was considered to be madness, until the first decades of the twentieth century, which brought with them the adoration of the sun and of sun-tanning” [45
] (p. 311).
The most famous examples are Boy on a Dolphin
(Jean Negulesco, 1957), The Dragon
(Nikos Koundouros, 1956), Never on Sunday
(Jules Dassin, 1960), Zorba the Greek
(Michalis Cacoyannis, 1964), Celui qui doit mourir
(Jules Dassin,1957), Stella
(Michalis Cacoyannis, 1955), A Girl in Black
(Michalis Cacoyannis, 1956), Sunoikia to oneiro
(Alekos Alexandrakis, 1961) and the recent films Mama Mia!
(Phyllida Lloyd, 2008) and Before Midnight
(Richard Linklater, 2013) (Figure 8
Finally, there are also some film categories which include representations of Greece as either a retreat destination or, on the contrary, as the ideal place for erotism. In these cases, antisocial and social perspectives are given at the same time to aspiring visitors. Consequently, all mentioned categories are composed by fragmented pictures of Greek reality that do not represent the entirety of local scenery. Film directors have certain cinematic aspects which create a determined identity by highlighting or concealing specific characteristics. The fictionary result serves to promote Greece as a touristic product with a particular version each time.
The films which promote Greece in a touristic aspect were sometimes made on behalf of foreign governments (often combined with archaeological sites where the relevant excavations have been undertaken by these countries). Other times, they were co-productions realized under Greek and foreign funding or occasionally they were exclusively carried out on behalf of the Greek National Tourism Organization. Figure 9
. A consistency of gazes and representations between private and public productions is observed depending each time on the emerging national identity of each era. [46
] (pp. 256–273).
6. Common Characteristics of the Main Heritage Imageries
The projected image of Greek architecture oscillates between the artistic models of the golden century of Athenian democracy (via the ancient temples and ruins of the past as well as the neoclassical models brought from Munich by King Otto and the Bavarian architects which perpetuated the conception of a classical atmosphere in the city) and the projections that modern architects had on vernacular architecture. The posters plastered all over the walls of travel agencies around the world depict either ancient ruins or islands. These two main projected Greek heritage imageries seem to have some common characteristics.
The first common characteristic of the two subjects is the white color which dominates in both cases. The myth of white color in Ancient Greece gradually became a conviction “ancient art is esthetically paradoxical and ambivalent: it is ruthlessly and mercilessly white” [47
] (p. 346). Manolis Korres, the chief architect of the Acropolis restoration project, reveals that the polychromy of classical architecture was first depicted by J. Stuart and N. Revett in the three volumes work after their scientific journey to Greece (1751–53): “Here, it has to be underlined that the two British discovered far before any other the famous Polychromy of the classical architecture, but, having no other choice, they rendered it into black and white when published” [48
] (p. 215). Today, the marbles are discolored by giving the impression of a white entity. White color gradually acquired significant symbolic connotations, associating it with the sphere of the sacred and divine. The issue of the classical white is even today in the limelight [49
]. In reality, ancient temples and statues were not white, but on the contrary heavily colored.
In the same sense, as we have already discussed, the whitewashed Cycladic dwellings have not always been the norm. There is doubt as to whether the picturesque houses on the islands that respect the “architectural tradition” have always really existed or whether they have been transformed in a way that has served, over time, the intended promotion image. The internationally renowned “typical” white Cycladic color is not historically accurate. “The works of Greek modernists, in their overwhelming majority, followed the European codified models of modernism and only retrospectively they based this architecture on the local tradition of Cyclades seeking the plasticity of the works of Le Corbusier in the islands’ geometric forms” [50
] (p. 106).
For centuries across many civilizations, white color has been a universal synonym for spiritual purity, idealization, and the purity of the past, as well as a symbol of eternity, like the cornerstone of architecture, placed to last forever. In European cultures specifically, white is linked with values such as clarity and transparency. In this context, the whiteness that prevails in the main tourism trajectories—the antiquities and Cycladic architecture—adds a strong educational aspect to the image of Greece. “The language of the architectonic forms is best expressed in the superior luminosity of white” [51
] (p. 103). In antiquity masterpieces and Cycladic dwellings, modernists found the immaculate conception and virgin birth of their architecture, like an everlasting symbol. A study on classical and vernacular architecture can illuminate their work towards universality, going beyond the limits of national architecture.
Another common feature could be the harmony and the ideal proportions of the constructions that the Western gaze observed. Le Corbusier, during his first trip to Greece, is astonished by the harmony of the Acropolis and he suggests modern architecture to imitate the ancient Greek virtue of harmony: “In the name of the Acropolis, a strong, conquering harmony, without weakness, without fail” [52
] (p. 1141). The feeling of exaltation that is provoked through right proportions and the balance obtained through the correct use of human scale, as found in the Cycladic dwellings, could work as a beacon of inspiration for the architectural community: “‘A modern building,’ wrote Walter Gropius, ‘should derive its architectural significance solely from the vigour and consequence of its own organic proportions; it must be true to itself’” [41
] (p. 251) (Figure 10
The Mediterranean vernacular appeared “deeply embedded in the whole Modern Movement” [53
] (p. 148). The quest for universality—an inherent objective of the Modern Movement—activated a series of dipoles between regional and catholic, material and spiritual, tangible and metaphysical characteristics. “The ‘pure’ Cycladic residence, from esthetic, functional or constructional aspect, appears as the ultimate archetype of modern, in its primitive prehistoric and contemporary vernacular form. The avant-garde and the tradition, rationalism and poetry, classical and primitive, are crossed and eventually united in a speech which expresses the Greek version of the absolutely modern” [54
] (p. 70). According to modernist architects, the Aegean and the primitive, was almost identical with the modern and the avant-garde. An inductive reasoning between the past, as expressed through the immutable Cycladic vernacular, and the present, as articulated through the aspiring modernist structures, was attempted to set up for the benefit of the latter. Approaching the myth of the Mediterranean as a germ of Western modernist architecture, the architects sought the esthetic finesse that they could find in those cultures that had remained untouched.
Another common characteristic between ancient Greek historical monuments and Cycladic settlements could be the nostalgic invocation of a past paradise, when people could live in a microscale of a village. Representations of Greece as a lost-paradise destination dominates the press. The country is presented as a refuge from the ongoing development of current metropolises offering people more primitive lifestyles and the fantasy of a return to back-to-the-basics. Potential travelers can experience the feeling of a return to a mindful and self-discovery lifestyle. Bucolic archaeological sites and isolated Cycladic villages promise to fulfill this expectation, providing an authentic simplicity which offers a respite from urban reality. There is a common reference to a lost civilization that seems really distant from the contemporary way of living.
Nevertheless, once the traveler arrives at the desirable spot, he often has to deal with confounded plans. For example, the dream of an isolated Cycladic island or a secluded archaeological site is destroyed by a noisy flock of tourists which had the same idea as him. The visitor feels the gap between fantasy and reality, between expectation and experience. National identities are looking for landmarks that were kept away from industrialization, alteration, and mass culture. Even if in reality, mass tourism consumes these places, they must be presented in advertisements as rare places untouched by profit expediencies. In this framework, reality has to be improved to maintain its authentic but, simultaneously, commercial appeal. This fantasy approaches the landscape with a lost authenticity or nostalgia. Since the tourist gaze consumes cultural diversity, the achievement of diversity becomes the prime objective of every tourist destination. The uniqueness of the national land is the main axis around which all national ideologies are built. “Greece’s dispute is only one of various involving source countries in the context of nationalism, tourism, and a coveted stake on the world stage (Greenfield 2007)” [55
] (p. 14). In 1976, Dean MacCannell, a pioneer in tourism research in the fields of sociology and anthropology, formulated the theory of “dialectics of authenticity” [2
]: building an authentic cultural identity is a process of self-determination and self-fulfillment that draws its references from the cultural repertoire of a community.
This last section intends to present the interplay between the global and the local as a matter for further discussion on identity construction. Ancient Greece serves as a good reference to study this interaction. On the one hand, it serves the foundations of the civilization of modernity and, on the other hand, it works by demonstrating a link with Modern Greece. The ancient ruins are faced as a sacred place which functions as a mythical ancestor of European culture. The symbolic capital of classical antiquity is treated as the cradle of European culture.
The Western originary projections in Greece as the birthplace of European civilization, along with the local seek for an identity, resulted in an obsession for building preservation and landmark designation. Greece was presented as a Western utopia but, at the same time, this was a role that was actually aligned with national tourism policies. Within this framework, heritage and tourism practices establish an identity to the spots that must be maintained. The promoted images encapsulate and shape particular versions of what is considered desirably national and exportable. According to Western rhetoric, ancient Greek monuments are symbolic for the West as a whole. Ancient Greek monuments are seen as major symbolic landmarks of Western civilization and, at the same time, Aegean architecture is sacred since it contributes with its symbolic capital in vernacular architecture. The landmarks must be accurately preserved according to the dominant narrative by remaining in a way like static images.
Ancient ruins are the projection of idealization that goes beyond the urban norms of spaces, even if they are still situated inside the city. In the case of Athens, the increased importance as the capital of the newly established state transformed the city into a significant cultural example of ancient Greece. The West needs Athens to be on the verge between the present and the past. The archaeological heritage remains alive, structured, narrated, ready to be experienced and revived. “The real space of Athens, the geographically defined area that is full of its overvalued ancient history, is the other side of European cities” [66
] (p. 35). In the past of this city, the European presence is reflected, and the future is legitimized. In this direction, the main touristic attractions must follow this narrative and, thus, the dominant projected images are white, virgin as they should be in their infancy of history.
In an attempt to contribute to the discussion of this special issue on Re-Inventing the Mediterranean Tourist City, the present article tried to highlight the fixed identity of Greece as a touristic destination. It tried to prove that the rhetoric around the issue of national tourism is multidimensional, since it is directly connected with national constructions around the state’s constitution for domestic consumption as well. The paper gave prominence to glorified perceptions which present Greeks either as rightful owners of the classical heritage, being the descendants of ancient Greeks, or as preindustrial people that live in handmade island constructions. In the direction of notions of continuities, Greece is presented through a static image based on one-dimensional heritage interpretations.