Thursday, February 28, 2008

Surely Not More Temples?!

After a breakfast of Alpen for the first time in about two years, yum, I catch the Metro to Omonoia Station, then walk up to the Archaeology Museum. Unfortunately, I head in and find myself in the Epigraphic Museum round the corner. This is “dedicated to preserving ancient inscriptions on stone” and currently has over 13,485 inscriptions. Not really my first choice, but the ticket girls looked so glum when they pointed out that this wasn’t the Archaeology Museum and did I mean to come here, that I had to say yes and spend an appropriate amount of time examining bits of rocks with fragments of Greek on them.

Next up, what I came for, the National Archaeology Museum.

This houses a fantastic collection of sculptures, metalwork, vases etc. I’m here for the sculpture, most of which dates from the heyday of the Greek Empire, i.e. 5th and 6th century BC.

Around half way round, I realise I have reached relic burn-out stage. I find myself scanning the descriptions of pieces without reading them, and drifting through rooms without interest.

Moving on, I take the tube from Victoria to Thison.

Not far away is the Kerameikos Museum and Ancient Ceremony. I have to be honest – I couldn’t bring myself to enter. Another field of ruins. Not today! I really am templed-out. From Ethiopia up it’s been nothing but temples and historical monuments, and I’ve had enough! Of course, just along from here, the Ancient Agora, or “Place of Assembly”, one that despite my status I could not ignore. I pop in with my existing ticket and head up to the Temple of Hephaestus.

Along Syntagma, and through Plaka I pass the Frissiras Museum of Contemporary European Painting. Perhaps that’s what I need, something non-historical. Inside, 6 euros and I get to enjoy some great painting, especially portraiture. Very refreshing. Back and home, Steve and I chill for a bit before going out to a restaurant which Lazaros recommended.

Barba Giannis, on Emanuel Benaki Street (Omonoia tube) is an unmarked local restaurant on a corner up the hill. It’s away from the touristy areas of Athens, but is full of locals eating, drinking or just stopping by to pick up a take away. Why is everyone here? Well apart from the friendly atmosphere, the food is divine! Steve and I enjoy some of the most tender pork we’ve ever eaten in our lives – we have trouble picking it up with our forks it’s so beautifully cooked. A Greek salad, some tsatsiki, bread, and accompaniments for our meat all worked together to leave us very full and happy, for 22 euros for the two of us. Excellent tip Lazaros, thanks!

There are a nice couple of English chaps I met in the hostel who have been doing the sort of holiday in Greece that I’d like to do – a historical circuit, visiting in addition to Athens places like Delphi, Sparta, Mycenae and others. This time though, I’m just passing through, and am just skirting the surface of the wealth of history available here. I think it’s also important to be reading up about the times in questions – without doing any research, the sights quickly degenerate into “just another temple”, which has happened to me after all of the history I’ve covered from Ethiopia right round the Eastern Med.

So tomorrow, I take the Minoan Ferry to Venice, leaving at 23:59 and arriving in the morning 32 hours later. I have books – Out of Africa by Karen Blixen and Redmond O’Hanlon’s Congo Journey. Still, wish me luck!

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