Sunday, June 07, 2015

MENU's Aegean Odyssey. Day 12: Athens. The Parthenon, Acropolis Museum and other antiquities

Darn, it's very sunny and Lynne left her hat at the hotel. How does this look?
No, this is perfect. And cost only €5. John bought a good leather belt for the same price
Western Union 'helping' all the African and Asian immigrants to send money home
Crossing these streets is a bit daunting. Here we are on Omonia Square
To see most of the sights of Athens, in the one and a half days we had, is possible if you take the open top hop-on-hop-off bus. The ticket costs 13 each, but it is valid for two days and you can jump on and off wherever you like. There are also Red and a Blue buses from other companies. Best deal was the Yellow, as far as we could see, and it had the best sales operation
It is just like the Red bus in Cape Town, you get earphones and a commentary along the way. Unfortunately, finding your language, the right sound level and a working console takes up half of the journey
Roof tiles depicting the goddess Athena
The Acropolis was our first destination
But first you drive through the jacaranda lined avenues
past the Temple of Zeus
Hadrian's Arch
There are queues of tourist buses, but the traffic moves quite fast
The streets are also lined with fruiting orange trees and no one seems to scrump them
The Parthenon is undergoing rigorous restoration, but you are able to walk around it
'Herodium', the Herodes Atticus Odeon at the bottom of the hill. Not yet open to the public
These cruise liner tourists had some sort of iPad showing them a video of the history around them. Duh?
It is a hell of a hill to climb, but we made it. This is a view of the Odeon from the top, where you can see the marvellously restored amphitheatre
Looking across at one of Athens' many hills, you can see the Filopappos Monument
We did not have time to visit it, so thank heavens for a long focus lens
Columns being reconstructed
The restoration is amazing
You can clearly see where they have made modern infills. This is deliberate. So much of the Acropolis has been destroyed, looted and just decayed and pieces have been lost
It will be magnificent when they have finished, but it will take several more years. Heavy cranes are a necessity. You do get the most amazing feeling of experiencing history, walking around this monument and thinking about all the millions of people through the centuries who have also done so
Lynne's favourite bit of the Acropolis has always been the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion built in 421–407 BC, The dark sky warned us of the approaching storm
This has also undergone massive restoration
A view to another of the hills of Athens, the Lycabettus (Likavitos)
The Caryatids in more detail
A lion waterspout on the Acropolis, about to be replaced on the Parthenon. Lynne has a silver ring and a bracelet bearing these motifs, bought many years ago
And there are still some figures remaining on the frieze
A single poppy
It looks as though this side is nearly complete
The site is full of cats, of course
More “cats” and a sheep in marble
Looking down at the new Acropolis museum
and John used his zoom lens to bring the Temple of Zeus closer
Now we know why the cats look so well fed. The restoration team feeds them. The Greeks love cats
The theatre of Dionysos
We decided our next stop would be the new Acropolis museum. Here people were having lunch on the terrace
Hadrian's arch by zoom lens
And the Panathinaikon Stadium 'Kallimamaro' associated with the revival of the Olympic games
Looking down at the Plaka, the old town of Athens , built around the rocks
The Temple of Hephaestus. We would have liked to have had time to visit this. Hephaestus  was the ancient Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. Hephaestus' Roman equivalent was Vulcan. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the gods (thank you, Wikipedia)
 The temple to Athena Polias (protectress of the city) was erected around 570–550 BC
Amazing detail which is still there
It reminded us of the Naxos gate
Above the column, you can see where a cannon ball hit the pediment during the war with the Turks
Another view of Athens through the columns
One of the doors
A view of the city stretching down towards the sea port of Piraeus
The sky had been darkening all morning and it was just beginning to shower as we got to the Acropolis Museum
They have excavated old Athens beneath the museum and soon the public will be allowed to walk through it
The black clouds gathered and we did not envy anyone still on the Acropolis, as the walk down in the wet is on steep and slippery marble steps
And minutes later, the rain hit in sheets, blocking out the view of the Acropolis. We had arrived just in time
Lunch was expensive for what we had. They do have cheaper options on the menu, which we would have loved, but they do not serve them at lunch time. Nor are they available to take away or served in the smaller cafe. So we ordered an aubergine and cheese dish ...
...and a salad topped with some ham. It was mostly lettuce. We shared them. John had a beer and Lynne a lemonade. The bill came to €20.60, about what we, typically, paid for a full meal. The service was shocking and very, very slow, so we refused to leave a tip
It was the only place to go in the rain
Some plaster cast restorations of the Parthenon friezes
Also shown in miniature
There are representations of the friezes on each side of the Parthenon
Athena's symbol
The museum is full of plaster reconstructions of the sculptures
Some original pieces inserted into the reconstructed friezes
A model of the sort of crane used to lift the very heavy blocks more than 2500 years ago
The museum is light and airy and well laid out, so you can wander at will
And ogle the amazing work of ancient sculptors
There is also a huge amount of pottery on display. This brazier is about 2900 years old
Superbly decorated pots and jugs, this from 750 BC
Back on the bus, we pass the Stadium
The guards changing outside the Parliament at Syntagma Square. Never fight with a man who wears a miniskirt, bobbles on his shoes and a funny hat with a long tassel
And admire some of the statuary along the way ... here are Apollo, god of Music,
and Athena, Goddess of War
on some of the official and University buildings
Tired after our trip, we needed a cup of coffee and a pastry, so we stopped off at this baker on the corner of Omonia Square
And bought one of the most decadent pastries we have ever eaten. It was stuffed with nuts in a chocolate and hazelnut sauce, soaked with some sort of liqueur, and covered in jam and a wicked chocolate icing
After a rest, it was time to explore the surrounding streets and head for another Taverna which George, our concierge, recommended. He did warn us that the trip there would be interesting and perhaps not terribly safe, but we are used to areas like this and we just chatted to everyone we met along the way and they were friendly. Lots of Pakistani and Bangladeshi shops, selling exotic Asian and African vegetables and fruit, for which there is obviously a demand. They stay open late - till about 11pm
The Taverna is called Klimataria and is on Theatro Square, quite near the Central Market. It is one of the oldest Tavernas in Athens and sells traditional Greek food
Lynne organising us a table as far as possible from all the smokers. Greek restaurants permit smoking and there is a huge number of smokers in the population
The chef in action
The name in Greek above their wine and beer barrels
Complimentary Raki which we drank after our meal. Raki before wine, Lynne has learned, can be lethal
and bread with a complimentary dill and caper dip
A 500ml jug of wine!
Lots of indoor growth
Kleftiko - (traditionally, stolen, think of kleptomania) lamb cooked on the bone - with potatoes cooked in a lemon sauce. Even better than the lamb we had in Naxos
John ordered Moussaka. They also gave us a complimentary dessert of halva, but it is NOT the same as Turkish halva, which is made with sesame seed. Greek halva is semolina pudding, just like you had at boarding school, if you went to one. We could not be complimentary about it, sadly, but the meal was very good value at about 25, with tip
The French couple from the next table were interested in what we were eating and vowed to return the following night for the lamb. We spoke to them only in (our rusty) French, as they spoke little English
An old sign from the days of the drachma. Roughly translated, Dolmades at 8 drachma!
It's a busy restaurant with a good vibe. It scored 4.5 stars in Trip Advisor for everything.
The chef spoke good English, so we chatted to him about his career and the food
These are his slow ovens
It was still pumping when we left
There is lots and lots of graffiti in Greece, and, strangely, most of it is in English
Athens is one of those cities that never sleeps
Back to our 3 star hotel Epidavros
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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