To my untrained non-Peloponnesian eye, save for the superb and cheap souvlaki/gyros sandwiches everywhere, the Greek financial crisis has not made anything in Athens more affordable for tourists, but despite the heavy price tag for a trip to the birthplace of western civilization, I ventured forth in search of answers to the eternal questions put forth by the philosophers of old.
Mostly I found graffiti. A lot of graffiti. Sometimes some pretty impressive artwork on the sides of uniformly dumpy buildings, but mostly it was just graffiti. I’d been to Athens once before, when I was a teenager, and I remembered the constant noise and traffic, still plentiful and everpresent, but I did not recollect the general spraypaint motif of it all. Grubby but memorable might be the best description for Athens.
Once you get past the vandalism/colorfulness of it all, there is of course the occasional historical sight of interest to be enjoyed, along with a healthy dose of cafes that provided many opportunities for me to hone my gin rummy skills.
There are also some great museums in Athens, and these museums have loads of statues and exhibits. Many of the exhibits also contain statues. Oftentimes the entrances to the museums were surrounded by statues. There were a lot of statues in Athens.
In a smaller wing of the National Museum of Archeology was this great exhibit on the Antikythera shipwreck from 60-50 BC. Lots of jewelry, sculptures, pottery, etc. along with the earliest preserved astronomical calculator, AKA the ‘world’s first computer’. And this guy.
Unfortunately, they’d closed off several wings of the museum, including the ancient Egypt section, due to the late unpleasantness. Stupid financial crisis threatening to bring down the Euro and ruining my ability to look at old stuff. Ferda and I made it to a few other museums, including the museum of folk art and the excellent museum of the acropolis, but the latter didn’t allow photos.
Not to be outdone by the indoor museums, the Greek Agora has its own endless collection of statues and relics to peruse.
Walking up to visit the Parthenon, the greatest remnant of the classical age of Greece, standing impressively atop the acropolis and overlooking the city, is about as cool an experience as it sounds, provided you’re like me and get all giggly over the prospect of pondering the exploits of the oratorical architect of equal justice under the law while simultaneously admiring lots of really old columns constructed under the direction of said architect. I even have a snazzy t-shirt with Pericles on it to commemorate the excursion. For those who are unaware, Pericles is the guy who came into power not long after this…
…and before this.
As public school history books have often noted, Pericles and Alexander the Great were at the center of the only interesting stuff to happen during the BC years. Except for some disappointing business with the Mesopotamians, Hittites and Sumerians that ultimately led to this unfortunateness.
Anyway, other tourists might spend the time amidst such grand ruins soberly contemplating the vastness of democracy across the millennia, but this is strictly for amateurs. Pros like myself recognize the opportunity to take pictures (mostly with goofy poses) in the ethereal and eternal presence of the greats.
Next up was a few of the best of the Roman era ruins in the area, including the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library. Interesting Hadrian fact: Big fan of greek culture earned him the childhood nickname ‘Greekling’.
A photo taken near Hadrian’s Gate, one I’m sure Ferda is excited to see on the internet for the coming ages.
Ferda and I spent a lot of time just walking around the city, it’s not an aesthetically pleasing city from an architectural standpoint, most of the neighborhoods are filled with the same dumpy monolithic buildings, but there’s just enough character and charm to make aimless roaming a priority on any future visit.
On our second to last night, we we came across a cultural event, complete with folk dancing and painfully loud folk music. There was also a fellow intricately carving vegetables. He was pretty talented.