We are in Athens. Thursday morning, we said goodbye to Faye, Paniotis, Elene, and George and their wonderful Hotel Crystal and headed north to the bustling, traffic-clogged, gritty and magical Athens. Along the way, we stopped to see the Corinthian Canal and shopped at the supermarket. Be ready for the olives and assorted other food items we will be bringing home. More than one person has bought a Greek cookbook and plans to continue enjoying the Greek cuisine and pace of dining that has become wonderfully familiar.
By noon, we reached at Eleusis where—mysteriously—our magic letter of introduction–for the very first time– failed to produce free admission. I recounted the abduction of Persephone by Hades and story of how the wandering and bereft Demeter was hospitably received at Eleusis. David and David introduced the few “facts” known about the Eleusinian mysteries, and then we set out to find the opening to Hades. Elliott was the only one able to enter the cleft in the earth and play Persephone before a guard in stiletto heels whistled him—and the rest of us—out. The site of the initiation rites is HUGE-so there must have been quite a few initiates who knew this fragment from Sophocles: “Three times blest are those mortals who behold these rites (at Eleusis) before going down to the house of Hades. They alone have true life there; to the rest, everything there is misery.” As you can see from the dearth of photos, the remains of the site leave us with few satisfying photo ops and many questions. We checked in at the Ionis and after a two hour break in which many showered and rested, David C. took us on a shopping spree in the Plaka. Despite the charm and desperation of the shopkeepers, we were frugal shoppers focused primarily on Greek dresses for toddlers and shirts for the men. We dined in a taberna in the Plaka where—surprise!!—the owner was famous (“See my picture in the Lonely Planet Guide”) and anxious to give us free wine!! Hoo hoo! Marlene and Wendy will be pleased to hear that my “geezer magnet” still works, though not as often or as selectively. Sigh.
Friday morning, we met early and took the subway to the new Acropolis Museum. It is, in my judgment, one of the finest museums in the world. Only the Guggenheim comes close and I believe the Brits will have to return the Elgin Marbles—or at least work out a compromise. The signage in the museum is exquisitely written; the exhibits follow the chronology of their holdings from the Bronze Age through the Hellenic period. The building has been constructed over an archaeological dig (a pretty good bet anywhere in Athens) so parts of the floor are transparent. I almost got dizzy from the sense that I was up way high and about to fall through the glass—oops—I digress. So what puts this museum in the same bucket with the Guggenheim, you ask? One reaches the top floor and faces an expansive window wall that looks directly out onto the Acropolis and the Parthenon. The exhibit itself on the top floor is a reconstruction of the four upper sections of the Parthenon, starting in the southwest (?) corner with the beginning of the Panathenaic frieze on an inner wall (as it wraps around the cella) and the metope sculptures on an outer and higher wall. When the visitor turns the corner in the Museum, s/he encounters yet another layer, the Pedimental sculptures on the western end, the metope sculptures on the wall behind, and the Panathenaic frieze on a slightly lower wall behind. It is possible to see all of the fragments in Greek possession merged with replicas of the missing marbles now in the British Museum . The “lost” parts are glaring and the reconstruction of the fragments is just exquisite. For the scholar or the casual observer, it is infinitely easy to see each part clearly—as was never possible when they were dirty and crumbling and 40 feet above your head– and to understand how they speak to each other in concert. With the return of the missing marbles, I expect a great deal of scholarship about the “narratives” in the three different sculptural elements and their relationships will occur.
After the museum, we hopped on the bus with Paniotis for the last time and headed out to the Sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron. It was closed. We learned about the site from Natalie and David C. and were all sad not to be able to gambol in the woods like “little bears” as the girl children of wealthy
Athenians did many centuries ago. Think of it as a lengthy brownie scout outing so all the woodsy mossy-ness of the girls would be worked out before they married—at fourteen. Heaving a sigh, we wended our happy way to Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.
After Sounion, we settled into a restaurant on the coast for an alledged “seafood” dinner. Just like the last trip, the “seafood” was an enormous pork chop. I had visions, and had shared them with the crew, of a swordfish steak just like the swordfish Elliott had three times in Paralio Astros. Oh well. As Kathy said, the appetizers in Greece (in this case, tsatziki, skinny tempura zucchini, saganaki, and Greek salad!!) always trump the entrée. The sunset on the Saronic Gulf
and the good company more than compensated for the little piggy fish.
Tomorrow is our visit to the National Archaeological Museum in the morning and then shooping and some free time in Athens. I will report if there is anything notable to say. In the meantime, here are some words from Jenn and maybe someone else before I am too sleepy to continue.
“Hey there! Wanted to give a quick shout out to my fam and all my coworkers who may be reading this… not coming home so… wish me luck <3” - – - Jenn
Hey! Im back in Athens safe and sound from the gypsy but the clubs are tempting haha. Talk to you soon! JB