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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.