Dean’s Blog – Athens – January 2016
On Monday after a late rise following the long day’s journey the night before, we visited the local supermarket to get
some supplies for the week and the bakery literally just opposite the apartment where we are staying. We then ventured in on foot to the Acropolis Museum. It’s a magnificent building
built over an archaeological site and much of the ground floor is glass so you can see the dig below. One of the artifacts found at the site only ten years ago is a fine bust of Aristotle. The museum has some very fine pieces of all sizes, but you are also made aware that several pieces were taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin – the Elgin Marbles – and displayed in the British Museum.
It does seem appropriate now this fine museum has been built and there is clearly a fine care for their cultural heritage that these pieces should now be returned to Greece. After the visit to the museum we climbed up to the Acropolis where you get a fine view of the surrounding city and down to the sea. The sun’s reflection on the sea created a striking golden thread on the horizon.
On Tuesday, we packed up a picnic and headed down to near our local metro to catch a bus to Sounio
and the Temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea, about 70 kms to the south of Athens. It’s a magnificent setting on the cliff top of a promontory, a strategic fortification as well as a place of worship. The road winds its way down the coast, so, as advised, we sat on the right side going down and the left coming back: the opposite of posh – starboard out port home.
A lovely sunny day welcomed us on Wednesday and we took the metro up to Syntagma Square, spending 45 minutes in the lovely wooded National Gardens, before
returning for 11am to in front of the Parliament building for the Changing of the Guard. John Cleese in Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks has nothing on these young soldiers, whose dress is checked and adjusted in a very public way by senior officers and NCOs, but it is all taken very seriously by all involved as if national honour is at stake.
After a coffee in Syntagma Square We then walked down the main pedestrianised shopping to street, past what looked a very ancient church at a crossroads, to Monastiraki Square and to a flea market selling an amazing array of bric-à-brac: jewelry, silverware, old China, LP records and lots of second-hand furniture.
We shared a few kebabs and a Greek salad and ordered a half of beer each, not realizing that it was half a litre and not half a pint…we were constantly pestered by people wanting to sell us stuff while we ate and youngsters coming up to play their accordions, but people are clearly needing to earn some money in whatever way they can after all the economic woes that Greece has been through these last few years.
On Thursday we got up early and headed down to Piraeus, the port of Athens, a journey that involves two changes on the metro, thinking that we would catch a 9.30am ferry to Hydra, one of the Greek islands. Although we arrived in good time, we discovered that the ferries weren’t running due to a strike, so we had a cup of coffee at a pavement bar and reassessed the day. We then headed to the National Archaeological Museum where we spent the morning immersed again in artefacts from various periods of Greek history. We then had a seafood lunch at a café just outside the museum before catching another metro, just one stop, and walking steeply uphill towards the starting point of the cable car taking people to the top of Lycabetus Hill. Here there is a small church and cafe which has a fine panoramic view of the city.
On Friday, while Tricia did some study in the morning, I walked around the locality and got my haircut for 5
euros…and the we went and had lunch at a fish cafe that we’d spotted earlier; fish and chips in Athens cooked by a Sri Lankan, well that’s globalization for you, and it was really good too! We then walked to the Panathenaic Stadium built in the style of an Ancient Greek stadium for the 1896 Summer Olympics. We walked on to the Benaki Museum, but discovered that it was going to close in an hour, so thought that we’d return tomorrow for a more relaxed look.
On our last day in Athens we returned to the Benaki Museum, a magnificent private collection in a house that has been extended several times over the years in the heart of Athens, an easy walk from Syntagma Square and a near neighbour of the French Embassy. It is has mix of fine archaeological pieces from different eras, costumes, paintings
and icons all in very elegant surroundings. It has a restaurant on the top floor, where we had an inevitable cup of coffee half way through our visit, with a fine view of the Acropolis through the trees of the National Gardens and the museum shop had some very unusual items for sale, where we bought
three very colourful, but simply made, necklaces for each of our “girls”. We then had a simple very late Greek lunch and as we’d not used the tram on our five day ticket caught one down to the coast where we watched the sun get lower in the sky sitting on the beach before returning to our apartment to pack and tidy up ready for an early start to the airport on Sunday morning for our flight to Larnaca, a Bishop’s Council meeting for me and a Spirituality Development Group meeting for Tricia and the Synod beginning on Monday afternoon.