“We climbed up the hill to the theatre whence we overlooked the splintered treasures of the gods, the ruined temples, the fallen columns, trying vainly to recreate the splendour of this ancient site.” Henry Miller
I woke quite early because when I am on holiday the first thing I have to do is check the weather, this is a huge responsibility and although it doesn’t take a great deal of preparation I can’t possibly slouch around in bed too long. I freed myself from the creaky camp bed and banged about the room in a disorderly fashion in an effort to make sure that I woke the girls up as well. My mission was thoroughly accomplished when I threw back the curtains and a blazing light flooded into the room and revealed a gloriously sunny morning with a big bright sky so magnificently blue that it made me squint just to gaze up into it.
Our plan was to go first to the Acropolis and the city guidebook advised getting there early to avoid the crowds. We did as it suggested and got there early (well, reasonably early) and it was swarming, I mean really swarming! Obviously we weren’t early enough. I can’t imagine what it is like when it is really busy!
We visited the hopelessly inadequate Acropolis Museum; It was small, hot and stuffy and overcrowded with lots of pushing and shoving, and there were so many treasures to show but it was smaller than a corner shop; later we saw the buildings where the famous marbles used to be before Lord Elgin removed them for himself and the British Empire 200 years ago.
Well, not surprisingly the Greeks now want them back, and why shouldn’t they? but get this, the British in their retained imperial arrogance claim that they cannot possibly be trusted to look after such important antiquities and insist on keeping them in London. Anyway, the Greeks have a cunning plan and they have now built a state of the art Acropolis Museum with environmental climate control to house the marbles that is more technologically advanced than anything in London and are now even more insistent that they should be returned. Until they are they propose to keep a specially prepared room empty for them in the hope that this will shame the British into putting the plundered treasures back into their packing cases and returning them.
After we left the Acropolis we walked back down the slope of the Parthenon and picked our way between olive trees and day trippers and after we left we had a good long walk round the tourist attractions in the city.
We walked past the city museum but didn’t have time to go in and then to the original Olympic stadium of the modern games built in 1884, which looked perfectly useable to me. I don’t know why they had to build another one in 2004 when this one was completely adequate. And that gave them a lot of trouble as well because they nearly didn’t get that finished on time; what a good job they didn’t need the Acropolis for the 2004 games! We walked around the official government buildings and saw the Greek soldiers famous for their Monty Python funny walk.
Near to our hotel was a shipping agent so we stopped off and bought our ferry tickets for the next day from a helpful man who explained all of the different options to us. We choose the early morning departure. Next stop was lunch in the Plaka and more Greek salad in a nice pavement taverna next door to the one we ate in last night. I had my first Mythos, what a relief! Actually I think I had two!
In the afternoon we went to the temple of Dionysus and the day was really hot by now and the afternoon temperature in the city was rising all the time but we carried on as best we could. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that! I specialise in speed sight seeing but even I was beginning to flag and I had a bit of a sweat on now but hopefully no one had noticed?
Around the back of the Parthenon we walked through a collection of interesting whitewashed sugar cube houses, that looked curiously out of place and resembled those on the Cyclades and we read later that they were in fact built by workmen from Santorini who came to Athens many years ago to find employment during a building boom in the city.
We arrived at the Greek Agora but we had been walking now for almost six hours and really couldn’t do much more so we had to give up after only seeing less than half of it. Charlotte was turning pink so we took some shade and applied some cream and then we walked back to the hotel stopping off at a little shady pavement bar next to the Roman Agora, another Mythos for me and iced tea for the girls.
On the way back I bought a cheap bottle of local red wine from an untidy little back street mini-market and we returned to the hotel. We changed and went out again into the Plaka to eat. This time we choose a taverna adjacent to the first in a picturesque tree lined square. I had probably my best meal of the holiday, a lovely grilled chicken with fresh vegetables with especially memorable baked tomatoes. The girls had salad (again). And there was Greek music and dancing including our first Zorba of the holiday, which was really good.
After dinner we walked through the tourist shops again and I was almost tempted to buy a Russell Crowe gladiator helmet, but it was 300 euros, which is a lot of money and I knew that I unless I had a social diary full of fancy dress parties that I wouldn’t get a lot of use out of it back home. Charlotte decided to buy a straw hat to keep the sun off that was quite fetching but I don’t recall her ever wearing it ever again all holiday.
Tonight, my wife proclaimed that we were going to Greece at some point. Is it worth the trip?
Absolutely! Everyone should visit Athens at some time, especially a historian.
We had the pleasure of visiting the new Acropolis Museum with many signs stating the missing items were currently being “held” by the British \museum awaiting return.
I don’t think we will be giving them back any time soon and reaching any sort of agreement will be difficult. The British Museum has offered to make casts as replicas but Athens refuses this. Athens has asked if they can ‘borrow’ them for a while but the British Museum doesn’t trust the Greeks to give them back.
It is interesting that there is an agreement of cultural cooperation between Russia and Germany to return to each other the things they stole from each other during the war.
Andrew we did see a lot of items marked as replicas but not sure who made them. Very interesting and heartening about the cooperation of Germany and Russia. So reasonable.
Andrew, we had a brief stop-over in Athens last spring, nearly ten years after I was there for the first time. Though I never saw its predecessor, we found the new Acropolis Museum to be fascinating. Interesting to read your tidbit about the cultural cooperation between Germany and Russia!
Hi Tricia. You didn’t miss anything by not seeing the old museum – it was very small!