September 19, 2009 – Athens

October 5, 2009

It’s 12:15 and we just got going.  I think we have hit the reset button, jetlag-wise.  Yesterday, we went to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.  The museum is beautiful – it just opened in June and still has lots of empty space for displaying future finds.  Until December 2009, it only costs 1 euro to enter.  This lessened the sting of paying 12 euros to enter the archaeological site a bit.

The museum shows a video that walks the viewer through some of the damage sustained by the Acropolis through the years.  When they get to the removal of the marble frieze now known as the Elgin marbles, they use language like “looted” and “violently removed.” I have to wonder what language the British Museum uses.  It’s all about perspective. (For the record, I think England should return the Elgin marbles to Greece.)

Another great feature of the museum is the floor.  The creators planned sections of clear plexiglass so the visitor can look down on actual archaeological sites.  It really emphasizes the fact that all this history happened right there. 

I am embarrassed to admit that the Acropolis itself made me more cranky than anything.  It was very crowded and hot and they had roped off most of the things I would have liked to see more closely.  Still, one cannot go to Athens and not see the Acropolis. (Editor’s Note: in retrospect, I am very glad we went as it gave me added perspective when we saw temples in other locations.  I chalk the crankiness up to jet lag.)

N and I in front of the Parthenon.

N and I in front of the Parthenon.

 

The women of Erechthion, aka Caryatid's Balcony, at the Acropolis.

The women of Erechthion, aka Caryatid's Balcony, at the Acropolis.

After the Acropolis, we wandered around looking for the Center of Hellenic Arts and wound up back at the museum to use the facilities and have a beer.  Did I mention that I really like this museum?

We found the center but were not too impressed. We headed back to the hotel, tired, cranky and hungry after the morning’s adventures.  We had trouble deciding where to eat but luckily stumbled upon a gyro joint near out hotel – just the thing!  The menu was only in Greek and the counter staff had limited English but with the help of our phrase book we managed to feed ourselves.

While we ate lunch, another huge thunderstorm hit.  I had carried an umbrella all morning but, of course, left it at the hotel when we went out for lunch.  Luckily, N had his so we huddled under it and made our way back to the hotel.  We managed only to get soaked from the waist down.  We took a nap that only lasted four hours, so I guess we are adjusting.

Post-nap, we forced ourselves up and out so we would not wake up in the middle of the night (I could have easily kept sleeping.)  We took the metro out to Piraeus to see how long it took and to pick up our ferry tickets.  I had imagined a quiet port town with quaint seafood restaurants but the reality was noisy and dirty.  Drat.  So, we returned to the Plaka to find some dinner. 

First, we tried a rooftop restaurant.  It had a great view of the illuminated Acropolis but its charms ended there.  A live musician played in the corner but his music clashed against he musician playing on the next roof top restaurant.  It was also packed with tourists – two American women in their very early twenties sat behind me talking about someone’s upcoming wedding.  It made me feel very old.  The last straw came when N requested carbonated water.  The water boy disappeared and never came back.  After twenty minutes without the waiter showing up, we left.

Picture of Acropolis taken at first restaurant.

Picture of Acropolis taken at first restaurant.

What a great decision!  We wound up in a little cafe on a side street that I believe was named after the late Greek actress Melina Merkouri.  Three little Greek kids that belonged to a local restaurant owner kept tearing through the street.  They were loud but very charming. Local proprietors kept scolding them but they continued undaunted. It did not help that the scolders could not get through the scold without smiling.  After an hour or so these same proprietors pulled up chairs at the table behind us and relaxed as the evening wound down.

Rambunctious Greek kids.

Rambunctious Greek kids.

We sat there, people watching and listening to the music, the conversation and the clack of an old man’s worry beads running through his fingers.  It felt like the authentic experience we sought.  We also tried our first ouzo.  As we left, the bartender gifted us with two small glasses of sweet, almost minty liquor.  We asked him what it was and thought we understood the answer, but when we tried to order it somewhere else, we wound up with a different drink.

Once we got back to the hotel, we headed up to the rooftop bar. We stayed there until it closed.  There was a fellow there from Germany, two Americans and a couple from London.  By the time the bar closed, we all felt like great friends. 

This morning, we slept in but I think now we have adjusted to Greek time (Editor’s note: famous last words.) My feet hurt and I have a headache but it’s a price I gladly pay for the great evening we had last night.

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