Monthly Archives: April 2019

Let’s Get Literal – Dune by Frank Herbert

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 51/100Title: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
Year: 1965
Country: USA

I needed a good book to make up for the disappointment that was Tristram Shandy. I don’t know why I turned to Dune in an attempt to find a good book, but it just felt like the complete antithesis of what preceded it. What makes for a better change from a meandering frustration of a book than some science fiction – one of the few on the list of this genre.

10 years ago I actually saw the film version of Dune. It was a film that he brought with him on his first visit to the UK to see me – so I guess this was part of his dating strategy? I remember the film being a bit weird, thinking Kyle McLachlen was dreamy and wondering who the hell decided to cast Sting in a major motion picture. Still, because of this memory, I have an incredible soft spot for Dune. 

The book is SO much better than the film. However, I do appreciate seeing the film first as it helped with some of the visualisation – although Kyle McLachlen really was probably a bit too old to play Paul Atreides for most of the film… but the time jump near the end makes up for that discrepancy.

Dune is probably the first book set in space that I have read other than Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and is most definitely the first that I’ve read which could be described as a space opera. It’s not pulpy, but it does have a lot of big action, heroic characters and fantastical futuristic settings (even if the desert planet of Arrakis is incredibly bleak at times).

The worlds, peoples and mythologies of Dune feel so incredibly alive that it’s hard to not find yourself sucked into it. There are times where he describes the ‘spice’ where it feels like you could really imagine how it would taste (Coke Zero Cinnamon is where my mental tastebuds settled). In the last year of reading, only The Old Man and the Sea has been able to transport me to another world in the same way, but even so – Frank Herbert’s descriptions are far more pleasing to the imagination.

There is a large cast of characters in the book, which did mean that I had to remind myself of things when there had been large gaps in my reading (such as my week in Greece or when I found it difficult to get a seat on my train), but whenever I picked Dune up it was like I’d never left. At some point I need to pick up the sequels, as I really want to see where this story is going – especially as it set up things that could be potentially catastrophic.

I’m going to move to comics again for a little while, but it really is good to have found an antidote for Tristram Shandy. Hopefully I’ll have more books to come that are enjoyable like Dune rather than a chore.

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🎻♫♪ – Spem In Alium by Thomas Tallis

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 51/501Title: Spem In Alium
Composer: Thomas Tallis
Nationality: English
Year:
1569

After a few live performances it’s time to get back to the more regular (and cost effective) method of ticking these off. Good old Spotify. It’s also seems right to go back to the oldest piece I had yet to listen – which means another religious vocal piece. It’s also the second of two pieces by Thomas Tallis, the other one being a vocal piece that I actually liked.

I guess that, with Spem In Alium, Thomas Tallis is two for two for making a vocal piece that I enjoyed. However, and this is a new one, Spem In Alium might actually be the first vocal piece on this list (opera not included) that emotionally affected me. This might be down to having slept poorly the night before, but I want to give Tallis credit where it is due.

Spem In Alium is an incredibly ambitious piece, even for a list like this. It’s a religious motet that has been composed for eight five-person choirs – so forty voices in total. Over the course of 10 minutes the forty voices execute a wide range of different harmonies. There are some pieces of repetition, but the whole thing really does flow rather beautifully. I can only imagine just how amazing this would sound when performed live in a church.

Good Eatin’ – Salak Bali

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Salak
Progress: 757/1001

Prior to my trip to Singapore I made a big list of the food items from South East Asia that I hoped beyond hope to find. Whilst I was able to cross off a lot of fish from the list (including Moreton Bay Bug and Barramundi) there were a number of fruit, vegetables and aromatics that I was unable to locate for a host of reasons. Thanks to places like Chinatown and websites like Asian Foodie I have slowly found more and more of these, such as today’s fruit.

Salak, known by various names including snake fruit, is a scaly fruit native to Indonesia. It gets the name ‘snake fruit’ from the dry, bumpy skin which looks and feels like it belongs to a reptile. The skin itself it papery and can be fairly easily be peeled off to reveal a 2-3 white lobed fruit, each lobe containing a large black seed.

The fruit itself looks like it should be soft like a lychee, but it actually has the crunch of an apple or pear. As for the taste, there is a hint of pineapple to it mixed with some sort of vague citrus tang. There is an astringent element to the taste as well, even as the fruit ripens further.

If it wasn’t for the price and the logistics of getting salak, these are something that I would like to have more often. Even if I managed to cut myself on the skin when peeling it. Ouch.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Attack on Titan Season 3

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 49/100Title: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3
Episodes Aired: 12
Year(s): 2018

A few months ago I started to make a concerted effort to make it through the backlogs of the Attack in Titan seasons so that, for the first time, I could watch it live. This was back when everyone expected the subject of today’s post, season three of Attack on Titan, to be a two-cour season. Obviously that didn’t happen, and the split second half is now airing (if I got the timing right with this post).

So today, I guess I will be crossing off the first half of a split season because that’s how MyAnimeList works. Whilst it was mildly irritating that Attack on Titan’s third season ended up being split, thus requiring separate posts, I have to admit that the hype is SO real for the next batch of episodes.

After an interesting, but slightly underwhelming, second season, it felt that there was something to prove with this third season of Attack on Titan. There was also substantial ground to cover with the manga having had a long time to race ahead of any adaptation (at this point there is probably enough for a year long season and still have some leftovers). This, coupled with the continued massive interest in the franchise, meant that conditions were ideal.

By having this set of episodes focus far more on the history and lore of the world, rather than just battle after battle with the eponymous Titans, it feels that the scope has broadened significantly. Whilst I get that the battles and the gore was a great way to hook people in the earlier episodes, I really appreciate how they have used this initial interest to engage in some far more mature political and ethical themes.

The boost in the art budget (or at least in the quality of the art) is substantial. There are scenes, like those in the crystal caves, that may be among some of the most beautiful anime backdrops to be put on trial small screen. I can see how this larger at team has changed the rate and cost of production (thus splitting the season in twain), but in order to keep this quality up – they really have made the right decision.

Of course I, as of writing this, have to wait months to make sense of the post-credit sequence before it is back on my screen. I just hope that the second half can live up to what came before it.

XL Popcorn – Safe

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 716/1007Title: Safe
Director: Todd Haynes
Year: 1995
Country: USA

Continuing my weirdly coincidental run of single-word movie titles, Safe might be one of the weirdest films I have seen for a long time. I don’t mean weird in the avant-garde Luis Buñuel way, but something where what you are watching is off-kilter enough in places to make you feel uncomfortable and yet still emotionally affected.

Explicitly set in 1987 in Southern California, Safe is the story of homemaker Carol and her struggles with “environmental sickness”. We follow her from the beginnings of her symptoms to her ending up in a white igloo of a “safe room” where she will be isolated from all contamination.

The moment that we meet Carol, who looks up at the ceiling unsatisfied as she and her husband have sex, it is abundantly clear that she is depressed. Her life is one of exercise classes, redecorating her home and (with the help of a maid) looking after her husband and step-son. The road from here to her living in a desert commune to “clear her lode” of the toxins.

My lack of familiarity with Todd Haynes work (which is so bad of me seeing how Far From Heaven and Carol have been on my watch list for years) makes it hard for me to work out whether he is being completely sincere or making a commentary on the sort of commune life where the residents are told they are the causes of their own sickness and the owner lives in a mansion off-site.

For me, what is clear is that environmental illnesses for a number of people in this film are very much a real issue. People who live near to chemical plants or where water is compromised by industrial run off are going to get sick. It is also clear that others will see a chance to exploit this situation and try to make money from people who are in a place in their life where they might develop similar symptoms as a psychosomatic response (like how did chemicals manage to split Carol’s lip – one of the moments of doubt that are peppered throughout the film).

Whatever is really going on in this movie there are two things I cannot deny. Firstly that I really should watch more Todd Haynes movies as I found his writing and directing to be emotionally intelligent and intriguing. Secondly, that Julianne Moore truly is one of the best and most versatile actresses of her generation. The character of Carol is so difficult because everyone she does is subtle and delicate, until she suddenly has a seizure in a dry cleaners or gets a nosebleed at the hairdressers. Through the movie you feel so much for Carol thanks to Moore’s acting that, no matter what happens, you just want her to get better.

The ending question that this film left me with is the concept of safe. The word itself is brought up a lot in the promoting of the environmental illnesses and the methods for getting yourself clean. As the film closes and Carol stares at herself in the mirror (and at us) saying her affirmations, I cannot help but wonder if she is safe where she is and if she is going to get better. It’s something the film leaves open to us to interpret, which is one of my favourite ways to end a film.

The Great EU Quest: Greece – Last Day

Right, final day in Greece with a flight that was supposed to leave at 21:05 (it didn’t). Whilst this isn’t a complete final day, it did give me enough time to get in a few more things before heading back to the UK. But that couldn’t start until we’d had more xynotyro for breakfast and cleaned the apartment prior to checking out.

Having left our bags concealed under the stairs of the apartment building (don’t worry they were fine) we proceeded to the first stop of the day – the National Gardens. In a city like Athens that is surrounded by so many areas of green, any sort of park int he middle of the city is going to slightly pale in comparison – especially when they have such a substantial pigeon population.

You know what I’m being a bit overly critical here. I’ve seen it described int he literature that these gardens act as a bit of an oasis for Athenians in the centre of the city; something that I can really see. There are lovely areas lined with palm trees, a fairly picturesque pond for the local duck population and a pool that absolutely packed with turtles (or terrapins, I’m not entirely sure what these would have qualified as).

Then there is the animal and bird section, which is essentially a petting zoo where the flying bird enclosures don’t appear to be in use anymore and the main attraction is a large pen containing goats and a few rabbits. There was also a pen with a single sheep in it who, at least to me, looked a bit lonely. So, um, that was a bit of a weird section.

We took some time here to have some Coke Zero (because Eastern European Coke Zero is delicious and so much nicer than the UK equivalent) and polish off a pack of oregano crisps. All while enjoying the waning sunshine and the occasional sunshower.

It was here that I remembered that there were some nearby ruins on Amalia Street that we had passed on multiple occasions and never taken the time to check out. Well today was the day – turns out they were a section of a really well preserved bathhouse that were uncovered when they working out where to put a ventilation grate in for one of the Athens metro lines.

Just looking at this cannot help but make you wonder how many ruins there are under the city of Athens that may never be uncovered because of modern constructions. Bit of a weird thought that underneath some of the swankier Athenian hotels might be the remains of an ancient taverna, school or brothel. For obvious reasons I hope for the last one.

We bid a cursory hello to the statue of Byron and walked down some citrus tree lines streets (all still green and immature so was not able to work out what type of citrus fruit they would end up becoming) to the Museum of Cycladic Art. I’ve been wanting to go here anyway, but our trip to the National Archaeological Museum really put this visit to the top of pile.

The museum itself is in an old town house not too far away from the foot of Mount Lycabettus and is a lot bigger than it would first appear. With a 7€ ticket you get access to four floors of their permanent collection, with each floor being quite different.

The first of the four floors is the aforementioned Cycladic Art – i.e. artefacts from the Cyclades Islands of Greece. This was my favourite of the four exhibitions and featured so many of the human statues that I had fallen for a few days ago in the archaeological museum. What this museum did better, was explain a lot of the history of these statues and give greater context to how these started out and how they would develop.

The remaining floors dealt with Ancient Minoan and Mycenaen artefacts, Ancient Cypriot artefacts and the lives and rites of passage for an average Greek citizen. If you ever find yourself in Athens, I would really recommend this museum. They have so many interesting and different items on display, plus they have videos demonstrating how certain items were produced (the red figure vase one being especially illuminating) and how people used to live. Actually found this to be far more interesting, varied and educational than the Acropolis museum.

Now, with this museum done there was one thing that we hadn’t been able to find whilst in Greece – actual wrapped gyros. Since we hadn’t really eaten breakfast or lunch by this point, this would serve as perfect holdover until we reached the airport. Not kidding, we roamed a few streets before actually finding what we were looking for. They were 2.10€ each and exactly what we had hoped for.

So that’s it (apart from the McGreek we had at the airport, because dinner was needed and we won’t be getting home until gone midnight). That was my week in Athens. It took a lot of willpower to not call this series of posts “Peter’s Odyssey” because that would be way too cheesy even for me. As I write this I am on the flight home sat behind a baby hoping beyond hope that it neither begins to cry nor spits up on my like with Ben Stiller’s character in Meet the Parents (edit: it cried a lot, but at least I had a good set of ear buds to drown it out)

Just as an aside to end on. Every now and then an album or song somehow ends up becoming tied to a particular holiday, for example my trip to Australia became liked to Gemini by Wild Nothing. For this holiday I found myself having two songs by Andrew Bird acting as the backdrop: ‘Sovay’ and ‘Tables and Chairs’ so I’ve embedded the latter of these below. Enjoy.

The Great EU Quest: Greece – Sounion

So, at the end of our first full day we got some supplies to make sandwiches for the long train trip to Meteora. We also purchased some sour cherry juice (which I am now addicted to) and…

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Xynotyro
Progress: 755/1001

Right so, I got this right away because I figured it would be better to be safe. Food thing too as I don’t think I have seen this in any other supermarkets or restaurant menus in the last few days. So yes, super glad that I got this the moment I saw it – and that I know enough about the Greek alphabet to have spotted it in the fridge.

We finally cracked this cheese open to have for breakfast with some crispbread things. This is probably not how you are meant to have it, although the cover does mention the idea of including it in an omelette… at least that’s what I think it says.

As cheeses go, xynotyro really lives up its name of “sour cheese”. The texture is hard and crumbly and the main taste and smell of the cheese is a sour one. In many ways this cheese has a similar flavour profile to yoghurt and has just a hint of feta (the latter which may be due to being made of sheep’s milk). I quite liked having this on the crispbread and may have it again tomorrow, although I think this would be best sprinkled on some salad or over pasta.

At least today we actually scheduled in something for breakfast, eh.

Right so on the agenda today was a trip to Sounion and the archaeological sites that can be found there. In the past this was a critically important place in the regions defence, which is why temples and a fortress were built in this area. To get there we took a bus from Athens that, because of traffic, took about 2 hours to reach.

When we left Athens (and for the majority of the trip) it was warm, the sun was shining and the sea was a beautiful shade of blue – this changed as we were pulling into Sounion. For the first time since I’ve been in Greece, I was feeling a bit cold and you could feel a drop of rain every now and then.

Another thing that really struck me on the way to Sounion was the huge number of unfinished and abandoned buildings. It’s really sad and was almost like driving through modern day ruins before reaching the ancient ones.

On the final approach to the bus stop it is pretty difficult to not see the temple of Poseidon that stands prominently overlooking the sea and the surrounding bay. It’s even more impressive up close and, interestingly had the same architect as the incredibly intact temple to Hephaestus in Athens’ ancient agora.

At this same archaeological site you can also find remnants of the fortress walls which surrounds the entire cliff area, but most of the people who came here seemed to be really focused mainly on the temple before leaving to go elsewhere.

After finishing our walk around the temple and the fortress walls we had lunch in the nearby restaurant where the hub was finally able to have gyros. I, of course, followed suit because gyros really are the best. This restaurant also seemed to have a resident stray cat who wasn’t too proud to (vocally) beg for food. It makes me wonder just how often people actually give in and him some of their meal.

From here we walked down the road to the other main ruins in the area; a former temple to Athena that is not pretty much levelled. What was cool about this is that literally no one else (not even a staff member) was there – so it was like we had the entire ruins to ourselves. It meant that we were able to step into them and get a proper close at everything that was left.

Since we had some time before the bus left we climbed down to the beach, the decent being a cakewalk compared to some of those at Hymettus just a few days ago. It’s a real pity that it had suddenly gotten so cloudy as this would have made for some great pictures because of the caves nearby.

We also scrambled up the nearby rocky outcrop where they found a bunch of ancient graves. It’s a really pity that pretty much all her interesting findings from here and the rest of Sounion have been removed (a lot of them we actually saw a few days ago in the National Archaeological Museum), but given the sea air and the high winds I can understand why they have been safely tucked away elsewhere.

Then that was it for Sounion. Originally we had planned this to be a half day exclusion, but due to the heavy traffic this ended up taking most of the day. Given that this was the last full day and that we didn’t really have time fit something else in, we opted to go to the nearby supermarket to get some work treats and then return to the apartment and pack before heading out for dinner.

Based on the recommendation of the woman who runs the apartments, we went to a nearby restaurant called the Black Cat (which is down the road from the Black Sheep, where we had kleftiko not too long ago). We sat outside which allowed us to see a resident black cat… as well as five other cats that seem to patrol and get food from this block.

To start we shared some fried aubergine (which was basically tempura style) and some courgette-feta-herb balls – both of which are I mount the best appetisers that we’ve had on this holiday. We also had the Black Cat Salad to share, which was a mix of cabbage, bell pepper, chile, smoked paprika and vinegar – it smelt really good.

For a main we had the ‘Greek Style Burgers’, which where essentially lamb koftas served with fries. Good thing we saved the free bread it go with it. It was a really nice meal and probably the last time I’ll be able to enjoy the Grecian phenomenon known as free dessert with the bill.

So that’s it for the final full day. We fly out late tomorrow, which means that we will be able to mop up a few final things before heading back to the UK. Not looking forward to getting home at midnight British time though!

The Great EU Quest: Greece – Lost Day Regained

Today’s post is a bit of a difficult one to start writing as, for this first section, I’m still in the middle of it.

I wanted to be able to recount a fascinating day at Delphi. How that, even with just over five hours sleep because of the ballet ending super late, we still mustered up the energy to see the sites in between a six hour round trip. What we were not to know, unless we googled something oddly specific, is that all the archaeological sites in Delphi were closed as part of a strike that was announced a few days ago.

Tour groups were there looking bewildered and a number of visitors, including us, opted to get an early bus back. I know there’s hiking here and that there’s probably a way we could have made the most out of being £60 out of pocket. But we came for the history and it’s sad that, because of the cost, this is a whole bunch of cool things that we are going to be missing out on.

A notice in the bus station desk selling tickets to Delphi would have been nice. We could have swapped some days around so we weren’t majorly out of pocket PLUS it would have  saved us the heartbreak. So it goes. I guess I’m still in shock.

— 12 Hours Later —

Right so it’s the end of the day and it feels like both myself and the hub have really run the gamut of emotions since we left Delphi early. Managed to get a few laughs from listening to an episode or two of The Big Ones before grabbing a quick nap on the way back.

We decided to head back to the apartment and regroup… after lunch at local burger chain Goody Burger. By this time it was gone two in the afternoon and my early morning sandwich (ham, burger and coleslaw – I literally grabbed this at random form a pile) was a distant memory. One thing I’ve learnt is that the Greeks do excellent fries and the burger wasn’t half bad either.

Now, whilst we were determined that this wasn’t going to turn into a “lost day” the strike by the department of culture staff meant that pretty much all our alternative activity ideas were potentially off-limits (yes, apparently this strike was nationwide… and still there was no hint that something as major as the Acropolis could be closed today).

With that in mind we decided to do something a bit more chill – take the funicular railway up Mount Lycabettus and have some drinks whilst waiting for the sun to set. A lot of uphill walking, too many flights of stairs and a railway ride later and we were at the top looking over Athens and taking a lot of panoramic shots.

We walked down from the main observation deck and took a seat next to the path in order to secure ourselves a dynamite view of the upcoming sunset. We must have been up there chatting and swigging our Coke Zeros for about two hours before the sun started making it’s descent.

It’s been years since I’ve actually done something with the end purpose to be there watching the sunset (it might even be as far back as when we were in Kyoto and visited Fushimi Inari Taisha), but today felt like the sort of day that could do with ending on a high.

Being an iPhone photographer who now relies one is husbands phone for decent quality, there was no way that I could take a picture that could do proper justice to what the view was like – especially as the lenses in my sunglasses really made it look like the sky was more on fire than it actually was. Still I did my best and took a whole lot of photos.

We decided to wait until both the sun had set and the evening lights of the Parthenon had come on before making our descent down the winding mountain path. This meant a whole lot more pictures needed to be taken to try and show the juxtaposing brightly lit Parthenon with the fading red of the sunset – again these pictures didn’t come out the best, but it’s something I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

As we were coming down the mountain we were met with the smell of grilled meat, so obviously dinner was on our mind. After pacing the streets trying to find the perfect place we ended up finding Kalamaki Kolonaki… which is near where the endless stairs up the the funicular railway began.

My husbands search for gyros has to go on for another day, but the food here was more than good enough to satisfy. We kept it simple with appetisers by having just some tzatziki and pita bread. For my main I order four skewers from the menu (two pork, one beef and one chicken) whilst the hub ordered himself a lamb kebab, which came with couscous, salad and some spiced yoghurt.

The last few hours of today really helped to lift the spirits after an incredibly crap beginning. Could we have done more with the trip to Delphi than just head back on the next bus? Maybe, but the time between the buses was 5 and a half hours… and I’m not sure what we’d have done to fill the time with all the historical stuff closed for the day. At least we ended the day on some sort of high – hopefully we’ll be able to carry this feeling into tomorrow, which is our final full day in Greece.

🎻♫♪ – Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 50/501Title: Spartacus
Composer: Aram Khachaturian
Nationality: Russian
Year:
1954

I would be lying if I said that his is where I thought following the classical music list would lead me when I started on it two and a half years ago. I’ve gone from being inspired by a manga depicting talented musicians to sitting in a 18-1900 year old Greek theatre watching Khachaturian’s ballet adaptation of Spartacus. Kinda crazy where life can lead us sometimes – and what a way to finish off our third wedding anniversary.

The seating in the theatre is divided into two sections – we went for the cheaper upper section where it’s basically sit where you can. Even though we got there half an hour early already a large part of the upper section of the theatre was heaving. We managed to get some really good seats and waited for the ballet to start – half an hour late because it would appear that a lot of the attendees took 20:30 to be a suggested arrival time rather than a start time. Needless to say, it ran over quite a bit to the point that people started leaving during the third act.

Even though I have only seen three full length ballets (including this one) I have no qualms in saying that this production is the best I’ve seen. Hell, it might be one of the best things that I have seen on stage. We are so incredibly lucky that a production like this (where the principal dancers were from the Bolshoi ballet company) was in town and performing on our anniversary.

What helped to make this different from the other ballets that I’ve seen would appear to be age. Spartacus, being written in the fifties, has more of a modern flair to the competition whilst remaining classical. Also, the story is incredibly well edited so that it just keeps flowing along whilst giving the dancers plenty of time to show off the choreography and their skill.

It would appear, at least to me, that you can really tell how the style has moved on by the musical choices of the female characters. You have Spartacus’ wife Phrygia whose dances and music are far more in line with what you would expect from a classical ballet style, but with a few tumbles added in for good measure. The contrast is Aegina (who I kept calling Druscilla in my head as I watched) whose music and choreography was far more sensual and, at times, was taking on elements of jazz.

Whilst all the principals truly shone the ones who always took my attention and could leave me breathless were those playing Spartacus and Aegina. Nothing against the other two, especially not the man playing Crassus whose characterisation was on point at all times, but Spartacus and Aegina were just outstanding.

It was a truly fantastic evening in what feels like a once in a lifetime setting.

The Great EU Quest: Greece – An Athenian Anniversary

Well it’s a happy anniversary to myself and the hub as today marks three years since we got married. How it’s already been three years just boggles the mind. Similarly, I can’t believe that it’s already been two years since I was last in New York. Anyway.

Our anniversary got off to a bit of a sketchy start as we ventured across the city to purchase our bus tickets to Delphi. The coach station is in an interesting part of the city full of auto mechanics and a lot of graffiti (more so than the rest of the city which, to be frank, has a massive graffiti problem). Early start tomorrow, we must need our heads examined.

It was a hasty exit from this area of town so that we could get on with our day proper – which really began with breakfast from a bakery near Monastiraki station. As you can see from the picture, looks very much like that Georgian cheese bread boat that I made a few months ago, but with fresh olives, feta and mixed bell peppers. This was exactly what we needed. Very delicious. Also, we got an interesting bit of street theatre as we ate, the arrest and escorting away of a couple of drug dealers from the square. A bit different from the Saturday morning cartoons of my childhood.

Now the main point of day was to mop up the rest of the sites form the bumper Athens archaeological sites ticket that we began using a few days ago – starting with Hadrian’s Library. Much like the TARDIS, this site is a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

There are parts of this site that are remarkably well preserved, to the point that with the guidance form the signs you can actually see what this was – with a bit of imagination that is. Some of the original mosaics still remain as do the outlines for the reading rooms and the actual steps. This visit also marked the unofficial restarting of Tortoisewatch with one of them making a hell of a racket as he speedily made his way across a corrugated iron roof.

From here we walked through the Athens flea market in order to get to Keramikos – one of two sites on the ticket that has an accompanying museum. This huge area is pretty much the remnants of part of a giant cemetery. It formed part of the Sacred Way – a kilometre long stretch of statues and tombs dedicated to those that could afford them. There is still so much of this left to be discovered, but that’s underneath already built on parts of Athens – so who knows if we’ll ever see some of these original sections ever again.

This area is pretty expansive (with two more tortoise residents), but all of the interesting ornamentation have been placed in the museum for protections, with copies now populating the outside. The centrepiece of the museum is an incredibly impressive marble bulk that would have once adorned the top of someone’s tomb. It also contains some other remarkably well preserved grave decorations that are worth checking out.

Our final destination from the ticket was the Ancient Agora which, with two notable exceptions, has been completely levelled. The first exception to this rule are three large statues of Tritons (think large male water spirits) that greet you as you enter.

These, however, pale in comparison to the Ancient Agora’s crowing glory: the temple of Hephaestus. This is the best preserved Greek style in Greece and really does give you pause as to what the Parthenon could have looked like had it not been partially blown up. Sadly you cannot walk through the temple, but all of the original insides were removed when it was converted to a Christian church to St George.

We made a stop by the Agora’s museum, which explained how successive invasions and cultures lead to the growth and the eventual destruction of the Ancient Agora. It’s also at this pint where I learned that Geometric isn’t just a type of pattern, but also a period of history where these types of patterns were first being exploited. Feels like I really am learning a lot this week.

Due to our late breakfast, we skipped lunch in order to visit the National Archaeological Museum. I know this doesn’t appear to be the prevailing opinion on Trip Advisor, but I found this to be far more interesting and varied than the Acropolis museum. Sure it isn’t as swanky, but they sure do cram a lot in here.

In total we probably spent about three hours in here. We might have been able to spend a bit longer, but our feet really started to hurt and our concentration was beginning to lapse after looking at ancient sites all day.

I think more than anything else on his trip, the time scales involved with some of the exhibits were truly sobering. Just to give two examples, you have a large bronze statue of a boy on a horse that’s two millennia old… and a wooden statue of woman at work that is four millennia old. These are just two of the many notable things here.

The prehistoric areas provided an insight into the various cultures in the area that started to emerge before what we now know as Greek culture started. Because of the interesting style of their statues, I really took a shining towards the Cycladic stuff.

Of course, being a Greek archaeological museum, there was a wealth of vases and statues – most of the museums being devoted to those two things – the huge bronze statue of Zeus (or Poseidon, it’s disputed) being a real highlight. So was the temporary exhibition on the depiction of beauty through the ages, where they made a recreation of perfume based on ancient instructions (it smelt like rosewater).

 

As we had plans this evening we went for an early dinner at a place around the corner called The Black Sheep. To start there was a dish of some par of breaded and fried cheese served with honey, sesame and nigella seeds. We also had kataffi pastry nests filled with smoked aubergine and walnuts – a real highlight.

For the main was pork kleftiko – think chunks of pork, sweet onion, bell pepper and feta wrapped in parchment paper and cooked to the point that the pork is so tender that it can be difficult to get a whole piece on the fork. It was so good, especially as the leftover juices made for something good to dip the fries in.

That rounds off most of the day, except for what we got up to in the evening. However, this post is becoming incredibly long and this provides me with a good spot to stop for now and pick up the rest later. As of writing this I am about an hour into a coach ride to Delphi having gotten 5 and a half hours sleep. I think it’s time for a nap.