23 June – Athens
Have I mentioned that it is hot? Unusually hot for this time of year. And getting hotter – each day is a little hotter than the day before. Since we only have one day in Athens, we had booked two tours, and were hoping for a cool change, but no such luck. We are getting messages from home about how cold and rainy it is, but we have little sympathy – it sounds delicious!
Our ship was docked at Piraeus, which is a good half hour drive from Athens, so we departed early on the bus. We toured the ancient Agora – the town square / market place / public gathering place of ancient Athens. There’s one temple still in fairly good condition, as it was used as a church for many years. Most of the rest is foundations, and you need a good guide to help bring the place to life. It is fairly well signposted, with descriptive panels, including drawings of how it would have looked. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour – it will be nice to go back one day with time to wander & enjoy it at our own pace.
The small museum of the ancient Agora is housed in the Stoa of Attalos, which is a reconstruction / restoration of an ancient stoa (covered walkway). It was good to get an idea of what the whole site might have looked like in its day. The collection, all items found on the site, was very interesting with some unique items I haven’t seen anywhere else. The exhibits focus on Athenian civil life, including a water clock used in the law courts, inscribed pottery shards called Ostraca (a kind of BC version of voting someone off the island), as well as items of everyday life.
We didn’t linger in the Agora museum, because our next stop was the National Museum of Archaeology, the largest museum in Greece and one of the great archaeology collections of the world. I had downloaded a Rick Steves audio-guide for the museum, so ditched the tour group and wandered off on my own. The museum is arranged chronologically, and it was wonderful to immerse myself in ancient Greek culture and study the development of art and culture from the early Mycenaeans to the Roman era. There was just enough time to do the museum justice, a very enjoyable visit. Culling the photos to a manageable number may be a bit of a challenge, however!
After lunch (back on the ship) we met our guide again to visit the Acropolis. We started at the Acropolis museum, a brand new museum built to display the items recovered from the A
A cropolis and surrounding area. It is a striking modern building, as much the tourist attraction as the ancient artefacts it holds. Of course, the best stuff from the Acropolis is in the British Museum, which the Greek government naturally want back! The Acropolis itself was amazing to see, because it is so famous and familiar and because there are incredible views of Athens from up there. Disappointingly there was a lot of scaffolding, making for less than impressive photos, but that’s the nature of old things – they need a lot of maintenance! Because of the heat we had visited the museums first, leaving the Acropolis as late in the day as possible. It was still very warm but pleasantly uncrowded, and it was fitting that the last place we visited on this trip was somewhere so iconic.
It was a rather tiring day, between the heat and doing two tours in one day, we were glad to get back to the ship and recover. It’s been an amazing trip and we have seen so many exotic and fascinating places!