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Monday, August 30, 2010

SPENDING TIME IN ATHENS

There's no end of things to see and do in Athens. I can never understand people who come here for just a day and then quickly depart and say they don't like the city.  I love it here!  And there are plenty of things to do.  For any tourist, you need to allow yourself at least four days just to see the major sights and more if you really want to get the feel of this famous city and its people.  Athens is a second home to me and I feel more than comfortable here.  Besides the fact that I have friends who I've made and kept over all the years I've visited or lived in the city, I never tire of seeing the amazing wonders that there are here, the many museums, the old Plaka district, and of course Athen's crowning glory, the Acropolis.


Copy of the Parthenon frieze in the Acropolis Metro Station

I haven't been up the Hill as yet because it's been far too hot to enjoy a leisurely saunter around the temples and agora, but I will make my yearly pilgrimage before I return to Canada.  Meanwhile I have been visiting museums and strolling the Plaka and other parts of town.  I've visited the National Archaeological Museum many times in the past, though not recently, so the other day I made it my focus, hopped a trolley and went to have a look.   This museum is the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world for the treasures it contains.  It was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece.  The building itself is a protected monument, founded in 1866 on donated land.  In recent years they have done some renovations and when I visited this time I found that things seems to be displayed more tastefully with lots of new additions including a fabulous Egyptian collection.  The galleries trace the evolution of ancient Greek culture from prehistoric, bronze and Egyptian antiquities as well as the Classical Greek and Minoan.  I spent several hours there and only covered about half of it.  So if you plan a visit, it's probably best to decide what particular era you want to explore and see that first.  You can take photos in the museum without a flash so I got pictures of some favorite pieces.  But you must not pose beside any of the sculptures as this is forbidden.  The Greeks look upon these antiquities as almost sacred!

Royal Palms in the National Gardens

Yesterday I decided to go for a cooling walk in the shaded National Gardens.  This used to be a botanical garden belonging to the royalty and when the royalty was abolished it became a public garden.  I've wandered those shaded paths hundreds of times as when I lived here I used to walk through almost daily on my way to get transportation to my English tutoring classes, but it's a nice place to go for a little retreat any time of day.

The park is full of various plants and trees and statuary and somewhere toward the back of the park, where there used to be a river running through, was the Lyceum of Aristotle.  There are still some ancient ruins in the park.


Lysikratis monument, Plaka

Being Sunday all the shops were closed but after a lunch at McDonalds (Yes, a Big Mac!) at Syntagma Square, I browsed down the shopping mall street and drooled over the  beautiful shoes (all half price) in the stores along Ermou.  Took more photos of the little Byzantine Church there, and remembered I had a story, written long ago, about the little Byzantine Churches of Athens, which I have never published. So I'm planning to do a little more research and rephotograph some of them to revise the story for future.  Walked down into Monastiraki Flea Market -- a real zoo on the Sunday afternoon with hordes of tourists.  You can buy anything there from junk to designer copies.  Came back to Monasitraki Square and noticed the gate open at the old mosque that dominates the square.  In all the years I've lived and visited here I have never once gone inside. So the open door beckoned me and in I went.  Wow!  What an amazing discovery that was!

During the Turkish occupation, this as the Djistaraki Mosque.  After the Turkish occupation it served temporarily as a prison (1915 - 1920).  There are still bits of the original decor inside and out but now it is  the Museum of Greek Folk Art, containing the V. Kyriazopoulos Pottery Collection.

The works of several Asia Minor Greek potters are on display, some of the most beautiful pieces of pottery and ceramics I've ever seen.  And upstairs there are collections of pottery from all the various areas of Greece including Cyprus.  It's certainly well worth a visit and I am surprised at myself that I didn't take time to discover it before.  I took lots of photos of special pieces and told the curator at the desk who I was and that I intended to write a piece about it (which I will.)  Unfortunately most people (even the Greeks) tend to ignore this museum.  That big mosque is a central point of Monastiraki right next to Hadrian's Library, but for some periods of time it was closed for renos.  Now it is open to the public and too bad not more people are taking time to visit it.

I'm not sure what my plans are for the rest of this week.  Christina is still in Salamina and I am still enjoying my stay at Carol's guest house, Villa Olympia.  It's truly a writer's house and if I were to come here again for any length of time I'd certainly consider renting here.  She is a most interesting woman with a wealth of knowledge and an interesting history so we have some excellent discussions.  Some evenings, like the last two nights, we've been taking the tram to the beach and enjoying an early evening swim (best time to go in this unrelenting heat!).

 So today, who knows what my plan will be. I'm running on Greek time now. Sega sega. Easy Easy. No need to hurry around (and anyway it's hard to move about fast when you are dripping with sweat!)  There's be more blogs coming up soon with news from around town.  I'm enjoying the life - zoe and looking forward to contacting the girls as soon as they are available.

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