The very last stay of our Greek sojourn. An easy flight from Rhodes airport to Athens. They now have fixed price taxi fares airport to Athens of E35 including tolls and luggage so that made the transfer easy, even if the driver lost the hotel for a bit.
Because I had happily booked the Hera Hotel for April, and this was May, we needed to do a re-book and decided to return to the Herodian where we stayed with Cam on our first visit to Greece. It is right under the Acropolis and one block from the new Acropolis Museum. The room was small but quiet, due to padded walls, with a nice marble bathroom. The hotel has also renovated its rooftop gardens so you can sit in a jacuzzi and gaze at the Parthenon with a glass of wine in hand at the Olive Tree deck, or sit on the top deck and gaze as long as you like. Especially wonderful at night.
Roof garden of our hotel
The Parthenon from the hotel
Because it was so close we found ourselves in the museum on the first afternoon. It is an amazing building with sweeping lines and angles. Much of the floor is glass and reveals excavations below of houses and wells. I don’t think you can dig a veggie garden in Athens without digging up a bit of the past, so they are actively excavating a dig below the museum.
Museum from the Acropolis
No photos allowed inside which was a surprise as all other Greek museums allowed it. I would have loved to show the way they display the artefacts from the Parthenon, but alas…
They have basically reconstructed the Parthenon with steel columns and the frieze and metopes are displayed in place, with explanations of each scene. Some parts are lost, some have been reconstructed but the Elgin Marbles have either been left out or plaster copies have been inserted. The language referring to this is blunt: they are stolen.Certainly the British Museum can no longer claim that the Greeks have nowhere to properly display the marbles.
Of course we had to revisit the Acropolis so we walked up the paved access road. When we bought the tickets I asked about a lift to the top. I was pretty sure one existed. And indeed there was one for the disabled visitors, accessible even by wheelchair. Walking down is not such a problem but uphill is getting increasingly difficult for Nick with breathlessness and for my knees.They took one look at Nick looking his usually gnomish self and sent us via the exit gate. We were led by a gentleman who seemed more disabled than we, up a steepish path to a lift that was a cage on an external framework up the cliff. Gulp! Especially as it was very windy and the cage moved around a bit. However, we arrived safely neat the Erecthion (the place with the Caryatids).
Of course they are working on the Parthenon. This will go on for years, replacing damaged stone with new marble and reassembling bits they can match up. Right now they are working on the cella, the internal room of the building, so the cranes are still there, just in different areas from 14 and 9 years ago when we were last there.
From our position on high we heard the chants and announcements of the general strike as workers protested having to take cuts when the fat cats did not. We even heard noises of the tear gas shots as some anarchists piggybacked on the peaceful protest. Evidence of their unhappiness was still there the next day.
“Blood” on a bank frontage
Back on the Acropolis a major new archaeological work is the Theatre of Dionysus on the slopes. Nowhere near as well preserved as the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, and so not used as a theatre now, the excavations have uncovered a delightful patterned orchestra floor. I love best the carved dress-circle seats for the dignitaries and the finest seat of all for the high priest. The theatre was probably more religious in nature around the cult of Dionysus whose temple is forward of the theatre in the first picture.
Theatre from above
Floor and dress circle. Note the best seat top right in the picture
The magnificent theatre of Herodes Atticus on the flanks of the Acropolis. They hold regular theatrical events here, opera, ballet, music. Just bring a cushion: the seats are hard.
Dinner that night at Strofi with a nicely protected roof restaurant (the wind was still strong) and attentive service, a great view of the Parthenon too and very close to the hotel. The food was typically Greek with a few flourishes, like the Cretan rusk, tomato and soft cheese served with Tsipouro (a distilled spirit like Raki) as a welcome. I had rooster, often advertised as such because the Greeks believe it is tastier and jucier than chicken. Mine was certainly tasty, but drowned in pasta. Nick had a slow cooked lamb dish, like a shank but more of the elbow joint, very tender. Three courses with wine for E60. But the highlight was the view as the sky turned from grey to night time blue and then black.
The next day was set aside for the National Archaeological Museum. Arranged carefully in epochs, it made some sense of the diverse collection and provided excellent explanations in both Greek and English. We were most interested in the statuary and also the collections from places such as the Mycenaean burial sites we had visited already. We do not have much of an affinity with pots!!!
Overwhelmed by history and beautiful things we wandered Monastiraki for a while then home to the hotel.
The next day, reinvigorated, we headed for the Benaki Museum. Originally a private collection of a wealthy couple it is now extended by some donations. Nevertheless, it is an amazing place, moving from pre-historic to the times of the formation of Greece as a kingdom and a modern democracy. I find it odd that the country where democracy began should come back to it so late, but then I never was an historian.
I was amazed and delighted by the collection of jewellery here, from delicate gold wreaths of leaves and flowers dating from the 4th century BC to 16th century earrings and necklaces featuring Spanish caravels. My daughter-in-law would love the ship earrings.
Close up of part of a gold wreath of ivy leaves 1st-4th century BC
Caravel ear-ring. A bit heavy for every day. Christine take note!!
Other delights included icons and paintings. I loved the glowing colours of this painting of Archangel Michael
Lunch on the Museum terrace followed, then a wander back to Syntagma Square for the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The movements of the soldiers are almost balletic and require great muscle discipline, such as holding a leg extended for over five seconds. Just the standing still bit would defeat me.
Changing of the Guard
Around Athens several things caught our eye, such as the florist shops or the gorgeous displays of just a few fruits at their season height, prices much lower and size and quality of the best. And a revisit to the tiny 12th century Little Mitropolis or Panaghia Gorgoepikoos, my personal favourite.
Strawberries, cherries, loquats, bananas
Little Mitropolis or Panaghia Gorgoepikoos
So, for the final night in Greece, dinner at yet another rooftop restaurant, the Divani Palace. Nice fillet steak followed by a chocolate mousse cake (neither very Greek, maybe a preparation for France). This was the scene with the expected background.
Dinner on the terrace with “that” view
So ends the Greek sojourn. A wonderful revisit and probably our last to Greece given our age and the list of so many other places we want to see.
Onwards to France but with many wonderful memories of Greece.