For the first time after 2,000 years, one of the largest and well-preserved ancient theaters opened to the public in the city of Larissa in central Greece. Dated back to the early third century BC, the ancient theatre lies on the south slope of a hill called Fortress at the city's heart. (Xinhua/onlarissa.gr)
by Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, April 4 (Xinhua) -- One of the largest and well- preserved theatres of Greek antiquity opened to the public for the first time after 2,000 years on Friday in the city of Larissa, the same day museum entrance prices in the country spiked.
Dated back to the early third century BC, the Larissa ancient theater lies on the south slope of a hill called Fortress at the city's heart, archaeologist Stavroula Sdrolia, head of the seventh Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities told Xinhua in a telephone interview.
In antiquity, apart from theatrical performances, it also hosted the assemblies of the senior regional authority, while at the end of the first century BC, it was turned into a Roman arena, she explained.
Constructed almost exclusively of marble with rich relief decoration, the theatre could host up to 12,000 spectators.
After an earthquake in 1868, a big part of the theatre was covered by the ruins of the houses but excavation works in recent years have uncovered it.
Starting Friday, visitors have access to the area of the orchestra and the stage, since restoration works are still in progress for the other parts of the theatre.
"Many locals and especially schools came in the first day of the opening. We hope that also tourists from abroad will seize the opportunity to enjoy this unique ancient theatre," Sdrolia said.
Entrance to the site, some 200 km north of Athens, is free.
Apart from the few archaeological sites that offer free admission, tickets to most of the famous museums and monuments across Greece increased on Friday as part of the government's plan to boost the debt-laden economy.
According to a cost-benefit analysis presented by the ministry of culture, under the new pricing policy, revenues from tickets sold nationwide will exceed 21 million euros (24 million U.S. dollars) in 2016.
The price of entrance tickets will be increased only from April to October, while from November to March, the tourism off season, there will be a 50 percent discount and free entrance every Sunday.
The ticket at the Acropolis Hill, which provides free access to six other must-see archaeological sites in Athens, was increased from 12 euros to 20 euros.
The entrance at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens increased from seven to 10 euros, while a pass to the archaeological site at Knossos on Crete island was sold at 15 euros on Friday up from six euros.
Trade unions, representatives of tourism bodies and visitors did not outright reject the increases, but underlined the measure must come with a level of services equal to the prices paid.
The Panhellenic Union of Antiquities Guard Employees said in a statement that services must be upgraded to justify the price hike.
"You cannot pay a ticket at this price for the National Archaeological Museum with half the exhibition rooms closed because of lack of staff; not to mention the toilets, the problematic access for disabled people and the lack of cleaning services," the statement read.
Despite the seven-year debt crisis, the capital controls imposed last summer, and the escalating refugee crisis over the past year, Greece's tourism industry has remained a key pillar for the country's economy.
After last year's new record of arrivals, 2016 is also expected to see an increase in the number of tourists who visit Greece, according to government officials and tourism entrepreneurs.
According to the Greek Tourism Confederation's figures, 25 million tourists are expected in Greece during 2016 with revenue anticipated to rise to 15 billion euros from 14.2 billion euros in 2015. (1 euro = 1.14 U.S. dollars)