Athens Redux

Trip Start Jun 01, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First, I have to admit that I'm not writing this while in Athens.  I'm writing it in Nauplio, but I'm going to write a bit about Athens, so I'm leaving the pin where it if for this entry.  I also got only four hours of sleep last night because I was trying to get caught up in blogging.  The challenge to make sure I leave time and sobriety at the end of the day in order to make my entries.  I've been falling down on the job a bit, I have to confess.  I'm going to get you caught up to today at least!

Karen and I spent Tuesday June 18 visiting the Acropolis and Agora.  One thing about visiting a place you've been to before many times, is that when you go with someone who hasn't seen it, you see it through their eyes.  It was fun to watch my friend discover what it's like to be in a place you've only ever read about or seen photos of.  It doesn't matter how much you know about the world, when you see the Parthenon for the first time, it's like a dream.  And we found our way to the Agora for the afternoon, another dream come true.  While she is seeing these places and having a lot of "wow" responses to them, she's very knowledgeable about the Classical era and is, in fact, in Greece doing some research for an historical fiction she wants to write that's set during the time of Alexander the Great.  So a lot of what she wants to see is very focused: what did this location look like in the time of Alexander?  Where these building here or are they Roman?  What might Alexander have seen or noticed when he came to Athens after the Battle of Chaironea?  So, when in doubt about whether to attempt to fit in a visit to one more location or not, we have to consider it from the perspective of her book and our time that's far shorter than we'd like!

Well, Tuesday day would have been more dream-like had it been a little less hot, but this is Athens and it's almost summer.  On the other hand, we discovered that many of the sites extend their hours starting the third week in June.  Yay!  We dined at the Xenios Zeus, yes, the same restaurant where the girls and I had lunch the day they saw the Acropolis, too.  It's located at the base of the Acropolis, on a random side stree of the Plaka, and what's special about it is that there's nothing between you and the top of the mountain except a bit of fence and the mountain itself.  Okay, the food is really good, too, and again through Karen, I got to experience what it's like to eat real Greek food for the first time.  Unfortunately, I was experiencing a bit of stomach upset during the day, but Karen had brought a homeopathic remedy for "food poisoning" with her from Canada, and it worked wonderfully.  (Yes, I've been sick again, but at least the cold is history.)

Wednesday was our last full day in Athens, so we had a lot to squeeze it.  We went to the Kerameikos Cemetery first thing in the morning, in theory before the heat became oppressive, but the heat was already overwhelming even then.   We managed to keep going.  We were interested in the Dipylon Gate, the main entrance to Athens in the Classical Entry but Karen was continuously moved by the scenarios portrayed on the grave stellai.

Around noon, we got to the National Museum where my friend Harita Meenee joined us in exploring the museum.  Harita and I met recently on an Internet list devoting to discussing ancient Greek writers and texts.  She kindly invited me to call her when I got to Athens since she lives here.  After our museum visit, since we were wilting and our feet were aching, we spent several hours recovering from the heat of the day in the Kipos Mouseiou, the Museum Garden Cafe on the grounds of the National Museum.  Her friend Sotiris, who was born in Toronto and spent most of his life there, joined us at that point.  As the Greeks say, we were all good company.  We lingered after "lunch" (at 3pm) long enough that we found ourselves interested in a bit of "glyka" (sweets), so we shared two orders of decadent "Chocolate Lovers" dessert.  It has four kinds of rich, dark chocolate in it and you can add a scoop of chocolate ice cream to make five! 

Afterwards, Harita and Sotiris took us across the street to the best museum shops, containing much the same merchandise but much more reasonable.  I succumbed to temptation and bought one more small ceramic bust and a slender silver ring with a Greek key.  I couldn't resist the prices!

Karen and I had to hurry back to the hotel at that point to meet up with her friend Efstathios, whom she knows from her Alexander internet list.  He waited patiently while we washed off the day's sweat and dust, but we went as quickly as possible because we'd heard great things about the roof-top bar of the Attalos--especially that it had an amazing view of the Acropolis--and it does!  First we watched the sun go down, turning the Acropolis gold, and then we watched the floodlights come on, and then the almost full moon came up over it.

And of course, we got to meet Efstathios, who graduated in accountancy but is interested in going back to university to study archaeology.  We also discovered in the bar a young Australian newly wed couple, Jeremy and Jenny, relaxed and happy having finally resolved their debit card woes.  We'd given them a hand a couple of days before.  Now all had worked out.  And we were for sure going to connect with them later by email, except we forgot to exchange addresses!  Still, for an hour or so, I was surrounded by friends, old and new: a wonderful conclusion to the Athens portion of our trip.
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