Yesterday was exhausting, with all the climbing up and down. This is a vacation, after all, so we really should slow down. And we did so today. When we finally got our things together this morning, we headed to the metro station where … we found the doors locked.
Yes, the doors were locked. There was a paper sign in Greek taped to the door, but I can’t speak Greek. I’m trying to sound out the words, at least, but can barely even do that. Fortunately somebody walking behind us tossed out the explanation in a heavily accented tongue, “Strike. Today and tomorrow.” Well – that’s typical. Something like this frequently happens when I travel. So far this trip, I have already run into one closed site (in Aptera) so I wasn’t expecting a strike as well. Alas.
I would also note that we bought a multiple-day subway pass yesterday. Guess that won’t be so useful.
Taxi it would be, then! The driver was clearly skilled at navigating the flotsam and jetsam of the Greek roads. We took the taxi to the old city at the base of the Acropolis. Well we tried to. As we neared our destination, the traffic became heavier and the driver informed us that we were close and should just walk the rest of the way.
Accepting his recommendation, we headed forth, navigating to the city center, where disused buildings gave way to shady cafes, and promptly found ourselves a late breakfast of Greek pies.
Once our hunger had been managed we decided to explore the neighborhood just beyond the usual tourist itineraries. This is a neighborhood that has clearly seen better days, but is recovering.
There is beautiful ironwork here. This photo isn’t the best example, but much of it reminds me of New Orleans.
This church we found in our random wanderings was lovely. I am a bit surprised by the amount of terra cotta we have seen here. It is even present on very old structures and shaped with a delicate hand.
We continued our trek, passing through the shoPping district and eventually following our feet to the opposite side of the Acropolis, where we found the Acropolis museum.
The museum, like much in the area, has been built over the site of the ancient city. In a sense there is an obvious metaphor here, for we all stand on the foundations built by our forbears, and the Greek culture heavily underpins our own Western culture today.
Within, the museum is a collection of artifacts from the Acropolis. We ignored the ancient jars and random pieces, quickly moving to the second floor. There we were are greeted by the ancient pediments of the original Temple of Athena, that was torn down to be replaced by the Parthenon. These are sculpted in terra cotta, and are remarkable in their detail. When we attempted to take photographs we were berated by the docent, so we continued on. Apparently no photographs are allowed in this museum.
We passed by numerous pieces of ancient statuary, eventually coming to these friezes from the Temple of Athena Nike. The docents weren’t stopping the visitors taking photos here, so I decided to snap a few. Just because.
We continued upstairs to the fourth floor, where they have on display the numerous works from the Parthenon. Here you can see the metopes, above, which would have topped the colonnade, and the friezes that would have topped the cella are in the background. In the foreground are sculptures from the pediment. While weather and the ravages of time have not been kind to many of these works, a number of the panels were damaged by early Christians as well as by Lord Elgin’s unskilled hands.
Speaking of Lord Elgin, if you notice, these panels and statues are not all the same color. The reason is, when he looted the Parthenon, he took probably 3/4 of the works back to England. The pieces with which he absconded are shown here as reproductions, in white. As I stated yesterday the originals are mostly on display in the British Museum of Plunder, with a small few in other museums. The Greeks have asked for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, as there is a great deal of doubt about the legality, nonetheless the probity, of their removal. The British government has declined to do so. Amongst other reasons for refusing to return the works, the British have stated that there is not an appropriate venue for the display and protection of these Grecian antiquities in Greece.
From my point of view, this would seem the perfect location.
On the way out we stopped to see the original Caryatids (the ones that now stand on the Acropolis are reproductions). One of the six is missing, also in the British Museum of Plunder, and it’s place stands open, expectant. Her absence is palpable, mournful even. Looking at her empty home, I find myself holding my breath.
Another of the sisters is broken in pieces. The cause is unclear, as one report states it was was severely damaged when Lord Elgin attempted to scavenge it for himself and had it cut in pieces, whereas another report stated it was hit by an Ottoman cannonball.
We again were not allowed to take pictures but the sisters are just phenomenal.
Outside the museum we dove back out into the streets, where we did some shopping, working our way back to the Roman Agora, which we missed yesterday. As we did so, the shadows slowly and deliberately began to stretch out their ethereal fingers ever further into the crooked alleyways that mark this city.
We passed diners sitting at outdoor cafes enjoying the comfortable spring evening, as the heat of the sun started to dissipate.
In due course, we arrived at the Roman Agora, built to replace the original agora, but found it closed. Still, we could easily see the Tower of the Winds.
Our time in the city done for the day, we passed the remains of the propylea at the agora and caught a taxi to our hotel before the sun had fully set and before the last of the day had succumbed to the night.