I wasn’t expecting the scream. I’d landed in Athens not an hour before and was getting the tour of my friend Cait’s apartment. I’d be staying there for the 5 nights I was over and the reason for her exclamation suddenly became clear. There was a pigeon sitting dead still in the corner of her room. He seemed shocked, almost as much as us, and we stood there for a minute trying to figure out how to remove him. Luckily he was sitting beside closed doors to the balcony. A gentle open-the-door-and-position-the-curtain-and-poke manoeuvre had him off and gone but he’d invited a friend over. A cockroach friend no less. A jar, spray and the aforementioned doors relieved us of his presence and the holiday could begin.
I’d never been to Greece before, let alone Athens. I also didn’t know I’d booked a trip that coincided with the General Election. Perhaps that’s why the flights were cheap. 🙂 It turned out to be a fantastic week in the company of a great friend. Friday saw us visit the Acropolis and the accompanying museum which opened to the public in 2009. A key motivation for the construction of a new museum was that in the past, when Greece made requests for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the United Kingdom, to which they had been carried away, it was suggested by some British officials that Greece had no suitable location where they could be displayed. Containing over four thousand objects, it’s a stunning addition to Athens and a proper home for all historical artefacts from the Acropolis and Parthenon. I’d advise anyone thinking of climbing the Acropolis to visit the museum first. It’ll give you a better context to what you’ll see up there. Friday night saw us catch up with some of the Athens CouchSurfing group (for those unfamiliar with the concept click here) and hit the Exarheia area of the city for beers. It’s the area of the city where students and anarchists hang out and we enjoyed some beers in a bar owned by a Robert Carlyle lookalike.
Saturday meant a trip to the Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the first Olympics in 1896, and dates back to 329 BC (in its current marble form). I’m not sure how much we paid in but it was well worth it with a self guided audio tour included. If you’re in Athens, please don’t miss it. As the sun went down and the super moon rose we stopped into A for Athens, which has a stunning open roof terrace facing the Acropolis. It was one of those picture perfect moments.
Sunday involved a nice walk about the city, a tough game of five-a-side and beers in the coolest bar I’ve ever been, Six Dogs. It’s a gig venue but has a big multi-tiered open space at the back with trees and a canopy. Monday was a trip to the Archaeological Museum and whilst I saw some amazing artefacts, one in particular stood out: the Antikythera mechanism. Discovered aboard the wreck of a 1st century BC ship that ran aground off the Greek island of Antikythera, it’s an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. The museum have put a stunning exhibit together with artifacts and statues from the wreck but the Antikythera mechanism just blows your mind. The complexity of it for its time beggars belief.
Friends have asked since whether there were visible signs of unrest. Whilst there were no protest marches during my stay, there were burned out shops/businesses (the Attikon cinema being a particular
shame) and riot police in Syntagma Square. At the time of writing the political situation remains uncertain so there’s trying times ahead. I’m looking forward to visiting again at some point over the next year and I’ll hopefully take in a few islands then.