On our next to last day in Greece last summer, we capped off our Greek museum tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It was the last museum we would see, having already visited other museums in Athens (The Acropolis Museum), Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia, and Heraklion. You would think that we would have been “museumed out,” but actually each museum is so unique to its location that each one feels quite different from the others.
So what sets the National Archaeological Museum in Athens apart from the others? In a word, I would say “breadth.” In fact, you will find the widest gamut of Greek artifacts and art. This museum has pieces from all those other areas we had visited across the country, in addition to hundreds (possibly thousands) more.
By the way, here’s a list with links to posts I’ve written about the other museums we visited in Greece:
For example, when we visited the Museum of Mycenae, the golden Mask of Agamemnon that was discovered in a grave circle there, was not held in that museum.
The mask on exhibit in Mycenae is a replica, a guard told me. The original could be found in the National Museum in Athens, he added. Upon hearing this, we made a mental note to seek out the mask when we would eventually tour the National.
Watch this video from Khan Academy for more about this mask.
When one visits a museum in Greece, you truly feel that you are in the hub of antiquity. Each museum is an art historian’s dream; art history students will also be amazed at seeing in person so many famous works commonly found in textbooks.
“The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Originally destined to receive all the 19th century excavations, mainly from Attica and other parts of the country, it gradually took the form of a central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all parts of the Greek world. The rich collections, enumerating more than 11,000 exhibits, offer the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity.”
Here’s a listing of the various collections within the museum:
vases and minor arts
Cypriot antiquities (those from the island of Cyprus).
Visiting the National Museum in Athens was our final stop of our five-week Greek odyssey. We left Athens at 6 a.m. the next morning, for a short layover in Amsterdam, and then Atlanta, and then finally to our home airport in Springfield, Mo.
Thanks for reading again about our travels in Greece this past summer! Now that we’ve both started new jobs and are in the full swing of new school years, this trip seems like a lifetime ago. However, there are still posts to be written, and I’ll get to those eventually. My next one will likely be about the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which I was able to see briefly during my week-long stay there in June.
Now that the year is beginning to wind down, I also hope to write soon about “2019… My Year of Living Changerously” and how I managed to stay buckled up and on the tracks.
The Areopagus in Athens puts Ancient Greece in its proper perspective
This morning, we walked through Athens to the Areopagus, the location of a judicial
court, where Paul made his “To an Unknown God” sermon to the Athenians with—wait for it— the Acropolis in the background with its temples to Athena, Poseidon, Erechtheus and other mythological deities of Ancient Greece.
How fitting that we saw this on our last day in Greece. Walking on the rocky (and extremely slippery) outcropping where Paul would have stood is a highlight of our trip. This spot puts all the pagan monuments and temples that we’ve seen in their proper perspective. Yes, they are beautiful works made by man, but they are worthless in the eyes of God.
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a]As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
Thanks for reading and for joining me on our trip to Greece! I have only missed a handful of daily postings during the time we’ve been here. Writing and posting daily was one of my goals, and I feel positive about my progress. Follow my blog for more stories and travel memoirs that I will be writing in the coming weeks. I have so much more to share!
Are you traveling anywhere over the summer months? Leave a comment with your plans or a link to your blog!
An unsettling episode on our otherwise comfortable journey through Greece
I guess nothing came of the strange situation I saw two days ago in Athens. Here’s what happened somewhere between the Omonoia and Ministiraki stations.
So, okay. I’m sitting on this gray metal bench waiting for a train to whisk my husband and I to our AirBnB in Paiania. As I stared at the departure sign’s red digital numbers, I noticed two security guards casually saunter up, talking between themselves. One, pale and tall, walked with his hands in his pockets, eyes on the ground as he spoke to his partner who, with his salt and pepper hair, appeared to be nearing retirement age.
I took note: two security guards. Together.
Now I come from a small town in Kansas and have lived in rural Missouri for thirty years. I know next to nothing about public transit, let alone public transit in downtown Athens. Do security guards often travel in twos? Or just when a situation warrants it?
Whatever, I thought, my eyes moving from the guards back to the digital sign. It indicated our airport-bound train should arrive in about six minutes.
To the right, toward my bench on the platform, a man approached.
Here’s what I noticed:
He was wearing a straw hat, a wide-brimmed style,
and a too-small faded blue suit jacket,
and black sunglasses,
and a canvas hat under the straw one (yes, two hats),
and long, wavy black hair stuffed under the neck flap of the canvas hat,
plus, a drab white-and-blue plaid shirt under the ill-fitting suit jacket.
Here’s what I wish I had noticed: his shoes. They say shoes can say a lot about a person, but I didn’t look at his shoes. I couldn’t get past the straw hat.
Neither could the security guards. Once Straw Hat walked up, they took note. They had been standing silently, but when Straw Hat entered the scene, the taller guard whispered to the other.
The two guards passed by me and walked to the platform edge. They watched the man approach my bench, stop two feet short next to a garbage can, and stand quietly.
I turned away from Straw Hat to my husband sitting to my left. “Do you see this guy?” I whispered.
“If he gets on the train, we’re staying behind for the next one,” he mumbled quietly.
I watched the security guards. The taller one occasionally glanced over at Straw Hat. He made eye contact with the strange dresser. It reassured me to see that the guard wanted Straw Hat to know that he was being watched.
Good, I thought. They’re on to him. And Straw Hat knows it.
I shifted back on the bench and returned my gaze to the digital sign.
More passengers wandered to the platform. One camera-toting man, a tourist obviously, noticed Straw Hat. His eyes snagged on the hat, and then dropped to scan the rest of the ensemble. He turned away.
Three girls wearing summer tans and sundresses walked up, chatting away, oblivious to Straw Hat. A mother pushing a stroller rolled onto the scene, her eyes never raising from her precious cargo. Two more men walked up. Both glanced at the hat, one’s eyes resting for an uncomfortable three seconds on the costume.
The taller guard glanced again at the costumed man and made a call on his cell phone. The other tugged on his belt, straightening his gray shirt that read “Private Security” in all capitals.
The crowd had grown. The sounds had changed: wheeled luggage rumbled by, shoes and flip flops shuffled through.
Several old men gathered. Two were in a heated conversation. One repeatedly pressed and raised his index finger up and down into his palm, counting off some reasons he was fired up about. At one point, his eyes caught the Straw Hat. He stopped for a split-second, wrinkled his brow in curiosity, and turned away to continue his reasoning.
I turned to my husband. “Still watching him?”
“Just hang back when the train gets here,” he said, looking straight ahead, keeping the man in his peripheral vision.
In the corner of my eye, I watched, too. Straw Hat gingerly tugged at the cuffs of his sleeves to lower them. They already hung too low, I thought, nearly an inch beyond the hem of his jacket. He then inspected his fingertips. Pale hands, I noticed. Dirty nails. The few tendrils of black hair that I could see were so black they shone blue under the overhead LED lighting. He spent time tucking his hair under the neck flap.
From down the tunnel, we heard a dull, deep roar of an oncoming train. Its front sign showed that it was bound for another central Athens station… not the airport. It slowed to a stop at the platform and the doors slid open.
A rush of passengers disembarked, displacing the chatting girls, the camera-toting tourist, the old men, the doting mother. As the train emptied, those waiting flowed toward it, including Straw Hat.
Suddenly, another man appeared wearing a sophisticated, double-breasted gray suit and carrying a clear plastic bag. Two packages were inside wrapped in white paper. He approached Straw Hat, paused, and turned to face the train.
Straw Hat leaned forward and muttered words into the space between them. Then he turned toward the second train car and boarded. Gray Suit boarded the first car. So did the security guards. The taller one kept his eye on Straw Hat in the next car. Had they seen the comment exchanged with Gray Suit? Were they aware that they needed to watch him, too?
More passengers boarded. A few last-minute riders scurried to the platform, scooting inside the train at the final second before the doors slid shut. A bell sounded and the train sped away.
What was about to happen? Anything? Why would anyone dress so conspicuously? Was Straw Hat planning to peel off the layers of his costume as his crime progressed? Was he the distraction to entice watchful eyes off Gray Suit, the truly dangerous one?
We still wonder. What exactly did we witness? We heard nothing about the incident, but then again we probably wouldn’t. Beyond the most basic phrases, we don’t speak Greek, so asking someone or watching the TV for news is futile.
Our Athens transit experience is one of those curious travel stories. A peculiar memory. A shared inexplicable moment that we trust resulted in nothing more than an eyebrow-raising incident to retell over the years. This one story is thankfully the only unsettling episode on our otherwise comfortable journey through Greece.
Thanks for reading! This happened two days ago in downtown Athens. It was very unnerving at the time. The two men could have merely been out pick-pocketing. About ten minutes prior to this story, a station employee had warned my husband to wear his backpack on his chest. “The pickpockets are out today,” he had said. Maybe that’s all it was.
Leave a comment if you’ve had a similar puzzling encounter. Feel free to follow my blog for more travel stories.
Tania’s house is called “Sunny House” and it’s ten minutes from the airport, which was perfect for our needs since we were flying out of Athens the next day for five days in Crete.
Despite some communication problems between Tania and me during the day about exactly when and how we would arrive at her house, we finally met up around 4 p.m.
It had been a hectic day! We had taken a three-hour bus ride from Olympia (along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth), a subway transfer, and a ride on the suburbs-bound metro train. Tania could tell we were exhausted. After showing us the house, she said, “You look tired,” and she left us to rest.
However, before leaving, Tania’s son Kostas offered to handle ordering dinner for us later. We could look through the menus on the table in the apartment to make our choice, he said. After resting, we took him up on his offer and asked him to order two pork gyros from a local restaurant. In about fifteen minutes, a man on a scooter drove to our door with hot gyros in hand. Awesome!
Mitch and I ate our gyros on the sun-dappled patio table in front of our flat. It was a very warm day (some would call it hot), but with the breeze, it felt cool in the shade.
As we ate, Kostas was installing some tile around a concrete seating area on his mother’s patio. He came over and asked us if it would be all right if he cut some tile, as it would make quite a loud noise. Of course, that would be fine, we said. We didn’t want to get in the way of his project, obviously.
As Kostas worked, Tania swept leaves from her patio that joined ours. In front of her home, four trees provide lemons, oranges, apricots, and olives. She told us to help ourselves to all the apricots we wanted as there were simply too many to pick. We picked about six and carried them back to our place. Lucky for us that we’ve visited Greece during apricot season. (I never buy them at home because they’re rarely allowed to ripen on the tree.)
After eating and resting some more, we both wandered outside to see Kostas’ tile project up close. As we spoke with him, Tania came out from her home.
“Sit, sit,” she said. Taking her cue, the three of us joined her around her wooden picnic table.
As the breeze stirred, we got to know each other a bit.
We visited about politics (Greece has elections in about a week; the United States’ 2020 election is already in the news).
We also talked about opportunities for young people in Greece, which seems to be a complex subject. For example, Kostas, a mechanical engineer completing a master’s degree in Romania, told us that engineers earn less pay than hair stylists. We relayed that teacher salaries in the U.S. also can reflect that disparity.
We met their dog, Bruno. Kostas told us Bruno was a stray that they had adopted. Apparently, Bruno likes to chase cars. The road beyond the house, a gravel one that feels like a country road, did occasionally have a car speeding by.
As we visited, a neighbor hollered in Greek over the courtyard wall. Tania spoke back and apparently invited the woman in. She greeted us with a smile, looked at Kostas’ tile project, indicated that it was coming along well, and went on her way.
Kostas gave us tips for visiting Crete, recommending that we check out Chania while we’re there.
Gradually, the clear night sky darkened. The sound of a flight taking off or landing could be heard in the distance and Tania rose from the table. About five minutes later, she returned with forks and plates of watermelon wedges.
We continued to talk and it occurred to me what a generous mother and son we had met. Both were eager to share about their lives and learn about ours. We told them about our daughter, who was returning to the U.S. from an internship in Italy, and our son, a college student studying photography and video production.
They were curious about Mitch’s familiarity with farming, raising livestock, and chickens. They were especially intrigued when they learned that Mitch even raises specific chickens for their feathers, which he uses to tie flies for fishing.
We also relayed to her details about some of our other AirBnB stays from the previous few days. One of those stays was actually a room in a small hotel. While it was a pleasant stay, it wasn’t quite the traditional AirBnB experience. People who choose AirBnb don’t want a hotel, Tania said. They want the experience of meeting local people.
Eventually, the conversation waned and a few yawns were heard. We all decided to call it a night, but before doing that, we went over our morning plans: Tania would taxi us to the airport at 7:30 in the morning so we could make our 9:15 flight to Heraklion, Crete.
With that confirmed, I asked if I could take a picture for my blog and, of course, they agreed. Kostas offered to take the picture. His long arms are good for that, he told us.
We thanked Tania again for the watermelon and wished Kostas well with his studies. And with that, we turned in for the night.
Thanks for reading! Click like if you enjoyed this post. What’s your experience with AirBnb? Follow this blog for more travel stories from Greece.
Parenting seems to be the same around the world. Whether you live in the United States or Greece, all parents have their hands full with a four-year-old boy.
Today, I’m watching a mother, father and their son who looks to be about four at the Liosion Bus Station in central Athens.
A pigeon is swooping its way through the bus station lobby, which includes a cafe, a mini-grocery, a trinket shop, and a bookstore. The pigeon flutters from one side of the lobby to the other.
The patient father follows his son casually around the lobby. The boy jumps high whenever the pigeon swoops low. He can’t reach it, much less catch it. In his green t-shirt with a tiger emblem and bright yellow shorts, ankle socks and grey tennis shoes, he reminds me of my own son many years ago.
He squeals whenever he swipes at the bird, but eventually gives up when the pigeon escapes out the lobby door into the crisp, early afternoon sun.
All the while, Mom has been arranging bags and luggage around a small table in the cafe specifically purposed to provide pastries, sandwiches, candy, and drinks to waiting bus riders.
Eventually Dad and the boy return from their pigeon escapade. Now the boy wants to investigate things over here.
The boy’s mother, wearing jeans and a white t-shirt emblazoned with BEAUTY in large black capital letters, leads him to a freezer case of ice cream novelties. He isn’t interested, but she pulls a treat from the case anyway.
They both step over to the cafe counter to pay. As she pays, the boy lifts a bag of almonds from a nearby display, runs back to the freezer case, and drops the nuts inside. Mom misses it all.
They both return to Dad. He’s wearing a faded blue polo-style shirt with a Union Jack flag on the sleeve and the words GREAT BRITAIN embroidered along the lower edge.
Mom is carrying the ice cream bar, now unwrapped. It’s a strawberry pink bar in the shape of a foot. The toes are dipped in chocolate. She bites off the big toe and sits down.
She spouts off a string of fluent Greek to her husband who nods and smiles.
As she cools off, her son decides to tidy up the place. He picks a plastic straw wrapper off the next table over and wanders over to a nearby trash can and drops it in. At least this time, the object being dropped belongs there.
A tanned old man is sitting by the trash can. He scowls at the boy and glances at his wife as she sips from a can of Coca-Cola Light.
An announcement is made from the station intercom. Time to pack up.
Mom pats her black canvas crossover bag, and then straps on a blue backpack in the shape of an owl. Next, she hoists a purple floral backpack onto her other shoulder.
Next, she lifts the handle on a wheeled suitcase, grabs a plastic grocery bag from the tabletop, and—nearly invisible behind all the luggage—hauls herself out to the platform area.
Dad grabs the boy. Based on the boys’ earlier antics, I’d say the parents have divided the workload evenly.
My eyes return to Mom gliding across the lobby. Two giant black eyes on her owl backpack glare menacingly as they jostle out of sight.
Thanks for reading! I’m sitting in Athens at a bus station watching what’s happening around me as we wait on our 3 o’clock bus to Delphi.
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What to know before you visit the Acropolis in Athens
“Don’t touch the marble!” a thirty-something woman called out into the distance from her perch in front of the Parthenon. With one hand on her hip, and another shading her eyes beneath her billed beach cap, she waited and watched. About thirty feet below, a woman with short, curly hair had just rested her canvas tote bag on a large, rectangular-shaped stone and was digging through the bag, searching.
“Don’t touch the marble!” the guard called out again. Oblivious, the woman dug deeper into the bag, craning her neck to see into the folds and pockets that held gum, ticket stubs, or sunscreen.
“Ma’am! Please don’t touch the marble!” the guard called out for the third time. The woman shifted the bag against the marble stone, and continued looking.
With this final and futile reprimand, the guard hopped down from the boulder and walked briskly down to the offender. When she arrived, the woman looked up, surprised. The guard pointed at the stone, then turned and motioned to the tattered gray ropes that set the limits on the Acropolis. The woman covered her mouth with her hands, slung her bag over her shoulder, and stepped back onto the walkway. Crisis averted, the guard climbed back to her boulder, placed her hands on her hips, and continued scanning the global audience taking in the Acropolis.
If it shines, step aside. Other than a paved walkway, the walking surface on the Acropolis is rugged. Stones jut up from the ground to create uneven areas, including some larger ledges and steps. Thousands of people walk here daily and it’s been this way for millennia. In fact, all the buildings you see on the Acropolis were built or rebuilt during the 500-300 B.C. As a result, the rocks are very shiny and SLICK. Walk on the connecting mortar or other stones. We witnessed one husband helping his wife, who had apparently just slipped, return to the Propylea (the first building you’ll walk through and the entrance to the hilltop) for an early walk back down.
Wear good shoes. These should be banned on the Acropolis: flip-flops, any shoe without a tread, a wedge greater than two inches, and heels of any height. Believe it or not, I did see women in heels. In the age of Instagram, some people will wear anything for the perfect post. No, you don’t have to wear orthopedic shoes, but definitely wear something sturdy with a tread.
Be aware of the construction. This is a construction zone and you’ll see a variety of work happening. You may be lucky enough to see a stone carver working on a new marble replacement column. We watched as men strolled across plots of ground covered with mounds of old stones sorted by size, shape, or style.
Also, you’ll see roped-off pits that contain stone walls and equipment near the Erectheion, the temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon with its five “caryatids,” stunning female sculptures that served as support columns. Other areas on the grounds are filled with huge marble chunks, an iron cannon, and other remnants of past activity.
4. Get there early. Lines begin forming at 8 a.m. in early June, so be there early to avoid crowds. We didn’t arrive at the ticket booths until about 8:45. As a result, we crept up the steps of the Propylaea with a steady stream of tourists. I can only imagine how much busier it became as the day continued.
5. Bring sunscreen. Obviously, you’ll be in direct sunlight for an hour or more. Put on sunscreen before you leave your hotel room, and take it with you to reapply when you’re on top.
6. Finish your food before entering. Food is not allowed inside the gates. When we entered and showed our ticket to the man at the gate, he requested I finish the cookie I was eating with my dose of Ibuprofen. He was polite about it, but did ask that I finish it before going much further.
7. Leave your water at home or bring an empty bottle. If you don’t want to lug the extra weight of water in your backpack or purse, you don’t need to. Depending on the crowd, the walk up will only take twenty to thirty minutes, after which you can venture over to a water fountain adjacent to the Parthenon. There you’ll find three bubblers and one bottle filler. The water is clean and cold. In fact, there are water fountains here and there across the grounds, not only next to the Parthenon, but also below near the Theater of Dionysus.
8. Don’t touch the marble. Avoid the reprimand. If a stone is especially light in color, has an unnatural shape (as if it’s been cut or chiseled), or otherwise appears to have been shaped by human hands, don’t touch it. It’s probably marble. Just think, all those missing stones from the structures have fallen nearby and the walking paths weave among them. If you think a stone could be marble, it probably is.
We toured the Acropolis on Friday, May 31, and spent about three hours on the site. The top (the site of the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, and the Temple of Athena Nike) occupied about two hours, while other structures on the slopes of the Acropolis (such as the Theatre of Dionysos and The Odeion of Herodes Atticus) balanced out the morning. Following our tour, we lunched at The Cave at The Acropolis, a restaurant in the Plaka neighborhood district around the base of the Acropolis. I’ll be posting more about our trip. Follow my blog for updates!
The hum of an occasional car darting through the maze of streets below
The mournful hiss of a street cat
The cubist composition of layered apartments
A woman’s silhouette within a window
The clanging of bells, frenetic with energy
The clink of forks and knives on ceramic plates
The glitter of solar-powered water heaters
The fizz of a scooter shooting around a corner
The bored bay of a dog in the dwelling below
The squeals of children running and playing
The Parthenon, silent and glowing, supervising the
Sights and sounds of Athens at night
Thanks for reading! Last Thursday evening, I recorded what I saw and heard from our balcony in Athens. I hope you feel as if you were there with the details I gathered. Follow my blog for more from our excursion to Greece and Skopelos Island, specifically.