February 17, 2011
The ferry was an overnighter and we had hoped to get some sleep in the “airline style seats”. However, the seats were mostly broken and very uncomfortable the ferry had the TVs and lights on all night which didn’t make it very conducive to rest! I eventually curled up on the floor behind our seats and got some sleep and Elizabeth did similar. We arrived in Athens around 5.30am and took an early metro into the centre and our hostel. We weren’t able to check in but they did let us lie on the sofas where we got some more sleep!
Once we got up we went and did our laundry (just 2 loads thanks to the large machines!) and once we were done we were both hungry. We actually headed back out to Piraeus to try a restaurant we’d seen before and also because I wanted to go to the football stadium to try and get tickets for Saturday night. For lunch I had a spicy sausage cooked in Raki and Elizabeth had spicy salami with cheese and tomatoes. It wasn’t the cheapest meal we’ve had but it certainly tasted good and was all washed down with some decent red wine.
At the football stadium we were unable to get tickets but they told us we would be able to get some black market tickets before the match but they might be expensive. The match is a big local derby between the top two ranked teams so it was no surprise it was sold out and I wander what I’ll have to pay for tickets on Saturday now!
In the afternoon we went to the Benaki Museum. The museum houses the collection of the Benakis family which was donated to the Greek State in the early 20th Century. The museum covered just about everything in Greek and Ancient History and started with some pieces from 6000BC and before. I’m always a bit in awe of things which are just so old and it is so hard to comprehend just how old some things are. To think that as humans and in our families we rarely get more than 3 or 4 generations living at any one time and to get first-hand knowledge of this you’d need to go back three or four HUNDRED generations. It’s really amazing when you think of it like that, I think.
The museum contained lots of pieces which were from Greece and Egypt and Rome and it was quite interesting at the beginning. However, the combination of bloody hundreds of clay vases and pots and the effects of the lunchtime wine meant that I wasn’t taking very much in at all! Thankfully, the museum was free so I didn’t feel too bad whizzing my way through some of the rooms. In fact, once we reached the second floor and there was more Byzantine-era stuff and religious icons and the like, I hardly stopped long enough to blink in some of the rooms!
We walked past the impressive Parliament buildings when we left the museum and saw the Tomb of Unknown Soldier guarded by some skirt-wearing Greeks! There was plenty of police presence around the Parliamentary buildings, too, although none of them appeared to be doing very much! We walked back to the hostel and when we got there we both decided we were tired and just settled for an early night.
February 18, 2011
Today we had an early call about our prospective job offers and so we didn’t plan anything for the day. This turned out to be a good thing as the lady asked if we could call back in two hours. We took the chance to get out and we walked around the base of the Acropolis. Our hostel actually has a roof bar with a view of the Acropolis and Parthenon (which we haven’t been up to yet). Walking around the Acropolis we saw all the main sites including some great views of the Parthenon. We stopped for a coffee and before we knew it we had to hurry back to the hostel to call again. We just caught the woman before her next meeting and the news was positive and we just had to deal with some minor immigration issues and we would be sorted.
We were both pleased to have the job issue almost resolved as it was something which was playing on our minds. We haven’t been able to think about where we might go after Greece as this had been on the horizon but now it looks like we know our next destination.
We headed out for lunch and found a busy looking taverna where they were serving pastitsio. We had been trying to order this in a number of places but hadn’t had much luck so now we had found it we both ordered it! It is similar to lasagna although the pasta is macaroni and is mixed with a meat sauce with a cheese sauce on top and is then baked. It was pretty good but not as good as regular lasagna or even the moussakas we’ve had!
In the afternoon we walked around some more, retracing our steps from this morning in the opposite direction. It is amazing the things you notice differently just from walking the same road in the opposite direction! We managed to get some even clearer views of the Parthenon! We stopped briefly at a bookstore before heading back to the hostel. In the evening we hung out at the bar and chatted to some other travellers, including an Aussie working in England, a Korean artist and a couple of Americans (father and son) just travelling around for a few weeks. We weren’t quite in celebratory mode about our jobs but nevertheless we managed to get drunk and were thankful that the hostel ordered kebabs to be delivered for us!
February 19, 2011
I woke up pretty early this morning. The Korean girl we met last night, Jo, was catching an early flight today so was up at 5.30am and being a light sleeper this woke me up. We’ve had noisier people leaving in the middle of the night so it wasn’t Jo’s fault I woke up! I then dozed back off but was awoken again at 7am by the bright sun coming through the window and the chance of sleep was ended when another girls alarm went off. You know what is really annoying in dorm rooms? One – when an alarm goes off and it takes someone forever to turn it off. Two – when the person using the alarm doesn’t even bother to get up once it has woken everyone else up. I mean, why set an alarm you don’t need? We rarely use an alarm and if we do it is because we bloody need to be awake for a reason! Anyway, those girls weren’t endearing themselves to us as one of them had pretty much flooded the bathroom floor last night and then the other did the same this morning. Elizabeth had to mop the floor before she could even have her shower!
After breakfast we got ready to go out and today we went to the Acropolis Museum. This is our last day in Athens for now but after a week driving around we will be coming back to visit the other major sites but we wanted to try and do this museum earlier. We had planned to do it yesterday but we thought we’d leave it as we’d had to be around and about for phone calls. As it turned out, this museum was excellent and everything was well laid out and informative. At the start of the main exhibit were detailed models showing the Acropolis through the ages and how the landscape changed with the Greeks and the Persians and the Turks all having an impact on the buildings that stand atop the hill. The slope leading from the ground to the first floor showed a lot of pots and statues in relation to various ceremonies and beliefs that the Greeks held. There was a really interesting stone-carved collection box there which was placed outside one of the main temples and prior to a marriage the bride and groom to be would come up to the temple to pay their respects to the Gods and a donation of one drachma was places inside the locked and sealed collection box. Two iron locks were on the box and each had a different key so that no single person could open the box.
The main exhibit was of some of the many statues which stood on the Acropolis and within the temples on top of it. These were really impressive and included many of animals and mythological creatures such as griffins and sphinxes as well as some which contained more than one animal. One such “beast” was the body of a horse with a rooster’s tail! It was very amusing but interesting seeing and reading about how these creatures were seen by the ancient Greeks. There was also a massive statue of two lions attacking a bull and this was one of the very first pieces you saw as you entered the first floor gallery. A building such as the Parthenon and areas like the Acropolis are so well known but the scale and number and detail of all the sculptures and statues that are here was almost over-whelming. If you take into account the number of statues which aren’t here and we’ve seen elsewhere plus those that are still in situ you still only get a small idea of how grandiose the plateau of the Acropolis would’ve looked.
On the very top floor the museum had a display of the various sculptures and friezes which ran around the Parthenon. The exhibit here is, of course, mostly copies thanks to Lord Elgin and his marbles and the Greeks certainly didn’t hold back is their disgust and disdain towards the British Museum and Elgin at the way they had stolen what are now known as the Elgin Marbles. Elgin was even criticized for the barbaric way he removed the statues. The display itself was good but obviously overshadowed by the guilt I felt as a Brit. The two “ends” of the Parthenon were particularly impressive with one depicting the birth of Athena and the battle between Athena and Poseidon for control of the city. Thankfully, the video that was shown on this floor detailing the history of the Acropolis and the Parthenon made me forget my guilt and showed what a marvellous structure this was and still is.
The exhibit then leads down to the other side of the first floor and here we saw the caryatids, a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar. There were originally six of them, all individually and uniquely carved, but the museum only has five. Of course, the British Museum has the other and the museum was obliged to mention another “missing” piece! Despite the annoyance with Elgin and the British Museum, the museum and displays were excellent.
After a very tasty dish of meatballs for me and pasta for Elizabeth we had a lazy afternoon. In the evening we headed to Piraeus to watch the football. Having tried to get tickets previously I was hoping to get a couple of black market ones for what was the biggest game of the year in Greece. Unfortunately, even an hour before the game, the stadium was already packed and we could hear the noise inside and see the fans on the TV. There was also a massive police presence so no-one was openly selling any tickets. I made a few enquiries, quite a few in fact, and came up short. Nobody was willing to give up a ticket although just as we were about to give up and go home we were offered a single ticket. The trouble was though, there are two of us so I had to turn it down and we both decided to head back to the city. We did get a dodgy hotdog from a street vendor who was later “moved on” by the heavily armoured police. Do they need a shield and baton to deal with an over-zealous sausage, I wonder?
Back in the city we got off the metro a couple of stops early and walked around the Acropolis. The Parthenon was lit up and it looked even more stunning and imposing at night. I managed to find a few things to use as a tripod for my camera and eventually managed to get some reasonable pictures! Not really wanting to go back to the hostel we decided to head to a café and get some ice cream for dessert. When we finally did get back to the hostel the annoying girls were getting ready to go out which included flooding the bathroom and leaving hairs all over the floor, spraying some obnoxious smelling perfume around the room and dressing their mutton carcasses like lambs. We were glad when they finally left so we could get some peace and quiet and some sleep. I’m getting old!