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.

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