Friday, December 28, 2007

21st October, 2007

That step counter is mesmerizing. No sooner do we count steps than it is time for bed. Watched TV until 10.30 (The Hunt for Red October) then read. Now 8.00 am. Sky seems blue so we hope today to do.... MORE STEPS!

Tatting shuttles, black rayon, spools of silk, knitting needles, thimble. That's my list for today. Flea market. Anything else that strikes me! Yes indeed the step counter (the pedometer, as opposed to the also-frequently deployed pedantometer..) is not only mesmerizing, it is tyrannical. Getting 10,000 steps per day is mandatory. 15,000 is a matter of honour. Over 20,000 is cause for celebration. It does, however, lead to feeling very creaky in the evenings after sitting for a while. Last night I took some Neurofen before bed so I wouldn't ache so much. It worked.

The bells of Sunday morning are just pealing.

I keep meaning to write about how strange it is to walk into a shop and see all the shop assistants standing around smoking - even clothes shops and food shops. How weird it feels not to have a smoker next to you in a restaurant smoking throughout their meal. I see no warnings on advertisements, nor on cigarette packages. Young women, in particular, seem to be the big market.

For Christmas baubles (which we enjoy buying overseas) failing anything else, a large blue eye on a string will do. It is distinctively a reminder of Athens, and it will hang on a tree. A big one for Martin and one not so big for us. (Later - hmmm I think we gave both of them to Martin.) There is a Christmas store, but as far as we can tell everything in it is a) generic, not Greek-looking, and 2) made in China.

General note: when travelling we seem to eat two meals a day. First is a big breakfast at the hotel, which here at Hotel Adrian is included in the price. For me a bowl of excellent yogurt with a honey topping and some grapes and/or kiwifruit. Followed by a fried egg and a little bacon. Maybe some toast without Vegemite as I keep leaving my travel tube of it in the room. Michael has two eggs and bacon and bread, and whatever fruit I make him eat by thrusting at him. Coffee, and a big glass of fresh orange juice. We might have a coffee and a cake or something latter in the day, when convenient. We might have a late-ish lunch at a restaurant. In Milos we had bread and cold cuts etc. If we have lunch, we don't have dinner. If we don't have lunch we have an early dinner. Snacks might be figs (beautiful big purple figs) or the occasional banana. Chocolate bars and Coke.

No sooner did she write the above than I ate a bowl of fruit, little knowing what SHE had written about my breakfast. Harumph!

Sunday is Flea Market Day, so we spent 5,800 steps shuffling around it looking at junk. Some of it was Good Junk, but an awful lot of it Just Junk. In an antique shop full of copper and brass I found proper Christmas balls, so bought three. One large painted one for Julie and Martin, a smaller version for us, and a brass one. I went into a jewellery shop and found a pin, which I have been wanting for my black and white linen jacket and various shawls, particularly the Cardiff Rees Shawl. Maybe I'll keep an eye open for something in gold for Jules. Mine is silver with three pearls, for forty euros. Plus some worry beads for Mum. Michael was extremely patient as I picked around all the stalls. I'm reminded that all the fun in embroidery/crochet/tatting etc is the doing, not the having. I saw mounds of crochet and embroidery being virtually given away. I saw plastic bags with patterns and canvas with half one designs, sometimes almost complete. Tempting to buy just for the canvas. I remember giving just such bags to Vinnie's. I have half done and fully done stuff in my own linen cupboard. Almost bought an ecru red embroidered table runnier, but remembered the equivalents I have made myself, lying in baskets in the cupboard. Sigh!

Michael bought some big blue eyes as Christmas decorations, also a sponge, and two calendars (Mum and us.) An owl clip from the pistachio man (not really - he pointed to the shop behind him.) Two cloth badges for the collection I'll do something with some day. Not bad takings for the day thus far, but again I am overwhelmed by STUFF. We are having a Coke and some chocolate on our balcony as we prepare ourselves for the next onslaught. Some hand towels, perhaps, as souvenirs and for Gwen. Some felt beads and whatever else I can find that was on my earlier list.

I'm amused sometimes when we are out in restaurants that we hardly say anything but we write up the diary in turns. It is as though we are having written conversations. My plan is to get all the photos developed and to blog in sequence, a day at a time, all the entries here. I think that was my plan on some other trip, but it never happened! Maybe this time it will.

Very ambitious plans give one someplace to go, I am told. Oh oh, grey clouds are rolling over the Acropolis about 12 noon. Rain is forecast, but for later. When we sally forth this time, must remember to take brolly, and to get something for eats upon return so that we don't need to g o out for dinner if it is raining later.

We went out, in search of the bead shops which turned out to be on Perikleos. Closed. But now in Monday's plans, along with the needlework shops on Kalamida. As I said, the fun is in the doing. Checked out a haberdashery shop at Ermou 8 but it wasn't the sort of thing I was looking for. Then we aimed for the Museum of Traditional Plottery. The rather vague young man had to open things up for us and seemed surprised anyone at all was there to see the stuff. He opened the loo twice, and each of the rooms containing information on the potteries of Greece, with details of clay and glazes and wheel versus non-wheel and kilns for firing (open and closed.) He did not open the shop, nor the cafeteria. It being Sunday market day, the area around Monastiraki was seething with vendors and consumers. Among the vendors are tribes of Africans selling knock-off Vuitton and such. Every so often we would see them all gather their wares into the big white cloths and disperse. Immediately after that we would see three Athens policemen striding along, and behind them the Agricans could be seen setting up on the footpath once more. We bought "donats" (that's what the sign said) from the vendor in front of the station. Huge and very sugary. Then to Everest on the corner to buy baguettes. We waited an AGE for the six girls behind the till to get their act together to take our money. Back to Hotel Adrian - we have 13,200 steps. I read all afternoon, a book by Kate Gibbons (?) which was set just after WW! and the Spanish Influenza. Ripped right through it. We both checked email. Nothing of any importance but sent brief notes to Mum and Lisa the Housesitter. We are working up to tripod and night shots of the Acropolis and Athens.

I must also extol the blessings of travelling with a few bulldog clips. They are so useful. Keeping the coffee pack closed, clipping up one's sarong, either on self or as a dark curtain when needed. Never travel without them.

Our final outing for the day - we finally went out at night with camera and tripod for night shots. First the Temple of Zeus, then the Parthenon, then street scenes of happy diners. Step count: 18,347, or 13.76 kms or 688 ccalories. Will that make up for the huge sugary fatty donat? Bought some peanuts from the cart near the Acropolis Museum, and some doritos from the shop near the Temple of Zeus, and some peach juice. We had a whole baguette left (salad and chicken) so had that for dinner with the nuts and juice and chips. Maybe some chocolate later. A good day.

I spoke encouraging words while Katester snapped, as well as spotting locations to snap. I also carried the camera and tripod a part of the time. Now boots off!

Later: the slides turned out quite well, but I have not scanned any of them yet. May not scan them for some time to come, as I bought myself a multifunction scanner printer copier unit and ditched my old scanner (which did slides, when it was in one of its rare good moods.) It was Freecycled, along with the ancient fax machine. Also a terracotta chimney pot. Amazing what people will take, and wonderful that Freecycle can match stuff with people who can use it.

20th October, 2007

A new day and we are again planning our day's steps. We are heading towards Banaki's Islamic Museum, although I am in pattern/design overload after yesterday. I couldn't sleep for thinking of all those beautiful t6hings I'd seen yesterday. I should not buy embroidery books - it just sets me off thinking about things I could make. Nevertheless, Islamic Art here we come. Nearby, close to Keremeikos, there is also the delightfully dubbed Museum of Traditional Plottery. One of our maps is not noted for its accuracy of spelling or location.

AKA the Museum of Traditional Pottery. However, nearbyer there is the Museum of Traditional Greek ceramics too. It is even closer, hence neraby-er. Overall the objectives for today include 1) M. Ceramics, 2) Plottery 3) Islamic Art, 4) Hellenic Cosmos, and 5) Ancient Eats. Along the way we need some AA batteries.

Step Count as at 6.00 pm - 15, 719, or 11.78 kms, 589 cals. The morning was ALL GO! We headed for the Benaki Islamic Museum with a few side visits into bead shops. I'm thinking of buying some brightly coloured felted 'beads' but I'll have to return to that shop I saw yesterday. We skirted the Keremeikos and found the Museum of Traditional Plottery, but were told by the man in the ticket office (!) beyond the open door (!) that it was closed on Saturday (!!!) Around the corner was the Benaki Islamic Museum, in a very run-down area. We went in and headed down to the WC (bottom floor) when we saw roons among the foundations. Part of Themistocles' wall. Being so close to the Keremeikos is it any wonder? There are roons under every building, no doubt at all. It must make any kind of development extremely difficult, as the Archeological Police descend when you dig your veggie patch!

The Museum was deserted but for us, and eventually two American women. We started at Floor 5 (cafe) and worked down, back in time. Wow! What a spectacular museum. The quality of the exhibits, the beauty, it was all just glorious. We were intrigued to see quite a lot of depictions of human figures (given the proscriptions of Islamic culture and the barbaric destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan). huge One huge bronze candlestick, however, had had its human representations effaced. The tiles were lovely, ceramics, glassware from sixth centry, mosaics, textiles, gold jewellery. This could be my favourite museum. When we reached the bottom we went back up for a coffee on the rooftop, level 5. Excellent coffee and some exceptional chocolate cake. Light and moist and warm. A good view over Keremeikos:

and some interesting graffiti on the building next door:

Thus fortified we set off down Piraeus Street in search of Helenic Cosmos. Past the Gasworks. Down a very busy road, we walked and walked. We walked some more, looking, looking for #254, We walked even more, and found ourselves at #134. A few drops of rain dampened our resolve. We got weak and gave up. We headed back in search of Ancient Eats, a restaurant. Walking, walking, We walked through back streets, and got an impression of what it must have been like in the 1920s. some lovey old houses, but now very dirty and run down. The streets are lined with orange trees in full fruit. You could smell the oranges on the ground. Much bougainevillea and geraniums.

We found the restaurant - closed - but we were not expecting to eat there, being still full of cake. We were close to the Metro (Metaxourghis?) and opted for it. On the train Michael was surrounded and squashed by some blokes who refused to budge despite his an my shoving. Wallets and purses were closely watched. No harm done, but it was odd. We changed at Omonia and got off at Monsastiraki. From there we went to the small museum of Traditional Folk Art Ceramics Pottery... whatever. There are so many museums! It is in a 1759 mosque with a dome. An odd collection of stuff, but there were lots of Greek women in there enthusiastically admiring the displays. There was stuff from a couple of artistsd - not particularly good, I thought, but the, we'd just seen some pretty spectacular stuff at the Benaki.

Then we divided. I went to the end of Adrianou in search of a drachma note for the Hortons, which I found for one euro. So cheap I bought two so the vendor did not have to make change. I then headed back to get an IHT. Once I had that I back tracked to the T-shirt place that had the EYE. Found it and got one. Then back to the hotel, getting some soda next door. This took time because of a throng of German-speaking children milling about the doorway. By the time I got back to the Adrian, Kate was already there, worried that I had been abducted. I'll let her explain that, and how it was she got back sooner than I did. I presented my acquisitions for her approval. Then I went downstairs to gdo email, as it started to rain. Usual stuff from work, but it took time. Couldn't find anything in English on the web for the Hellenic Cosmos, but there was a leaflet in the hotel. If we try again we'll take the metro. We ate figs and lollies while it rained on and on. It rained from about 3 pm until 6.30. When it seemed to stop we were hungry, so we geared up and went next door for eats. Good plan! I had pork Kassato (a wine sauce, the waiter said) and Kate had salmon.

The salmon was good, if salty. I also enjoyed the brussels sprouts, oyster mushrooms, carrots and lettuce leaf garnish and bread roll. Definitely hungry! After we had split up at Monastiraki I went in search of the bead shops, but was unsuccessful. I looked at a few scarves but nothing of the quality of the Benaki one I bought Julie, and I have so many scarves myself. I couldn't find the owl clip we had seen on the pistachio man's cart either (it was holding down a sheet of plastic in the rain..) Dispirited, I returned to the Hotel Adrian expecting to find Michael. Not there. Immediate thought was that those blokes on the train had tracked him down and abducted/murdered him, and I was going to have to find the Australian Embassy to help find his body etc etc. I need some Very Large Worry Beads to help deflect some of this! I heard his whistle outside the door and was VERY PLEASED to see him. I'm not a worry-wart, and I never exaggerate. We sat around all afternoon listening to the rain, tatting, puzzling, emailing etc. I have plans to go to the bead shops again, and to the haberdashery shops at Ermou 8 to look for tatting shuttles and thimbles.

On Saturday our missions include 1) Traditional Plottery 2) Bead Row 3) Sunday Flea Market, and...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

19th October, 2007

(Note - I have to get Greece done before I can get back to blogging about daily stuff, but Christmas was lovely.)

It was a late night for us. Lights out at about 10.30. We flipped the TV for a bit and read. Got up about 8.00 am in the dark. The room gets no sunlight. Got re-acquainted with the footwork of the half-tub for shower. Noticed many more bites from Milos. The mozzies will miss us for dinner. At breakfast we will work out today's mission(s).

Our room, 105, does get natural light but a lot is blocked by the big wall. And it does not get light until quite late - we can't rely on the sun to get us up early.

I thought it useful to compare hotel amenities:

The Adrian HAS: face washers, shower hat, electric kettle and tea/coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice (squeezed by a person and brought to the table.) It HAS NO tissues.

The Portiani HAS: tissues, mozzie zapper, pizza for breakfast, the charming and ebullient Danae, a pull bell for emergencies (!) in the shower. It HAS NO face washers, shower hat, electric kettle or coffee.

The Jason Prime HAS: a proper shower, tissues, but HAS NO spare blanket, mini fridge, or electric kettle.

Plan for today: The Numismatic Museum. The Cycladic Museum (again, but there is an exhibition of El Greco's paintings). Perhaps the Benaki, especially the costume and textiles part of the exhibition. Much planning of our day is now in progress.

And the day DID progress. 16,448 steps, or 12.33 kms, or 616 calories, we are sitting back in Room 105. Creakers! We walked up Ermou to Syntagma (very close) and looked at shops. We went to the Numismatic Museum. Glorious location. The mosaic floors and the frescoed ceilings and the painted walls would be enough to go visit, but the coin collection was fascinating. Hoards of coins tumbling from their original containers. Big and little, portraits and owls and wheels and buildings and gods, and geese and turtles and tortoises and bulls. You name it. What a trove.

There was an interesting WC setup - a common hand washing area with alternate mens and womens cubicles. We have not, I think, mentioned here the proscription about putting ANY paper down the toilet. There are large and definite signs in most places, including the hotels. We read about this in the guidebooks. Apparently the pipes are very small and any piece of paper larger than a postage stamp clogs the system. Yes, this includes toilet paper. There are small bins provided. We adjusted.

After the Numismatic Museum we walked to the Benaki Museum. Talk about treasure troves!!! The usual stuff (how quickly one becomes blasé) like neolithic pottery, some cycladic figures, etc etc, but for me the highlight was the extensive collection of costumes and embroidery. I thoroughly enjoyed goggling and gawking. I must look up the Dodecanese raised stitch. The costumes were glorious. There were husband chairs there which I have not seen elsewhere. Where are the wife chairs when they are needed?? We had lunch on the rooftop outside, with colourful bougainevillea kept in check. Could see the Acropolis, and overlooked the National Gardens. We bought up stuff at the excellent shop. Gift cards, a shawl for Julie's birthday, a book on embroidery for me, a tie for Michael. A better than average museum shop. Oh yes, the meal we had was very good. Small vine leaves - cone shaped - with a meat and rice filling. Yoghurt on the side. Most excellent. A good cup of coffee to finish, Greek for M, cappuccino for me.

After the Benaki (no... before..) we went to Notos, a department store. Michael bought a non-Greek (German) tie. We are surprised at the lack of Greek motif ties, or Parthenon umbrellas etc.

The Benaki about finished us so we walked home. Came down Mitropoleos instead of Ermou. Bead shop heaven! One, two, three, four, more, all in a row. I spent the grand sum of three euros on some conical caps for my black and white knitted necklace. My bead stash is ample enough as it is and I truly do not need more. (Alas.)

Michael went back to the hotel but not before I'd bought some coconut ice logs from a street vendor. These are wonderful carts with lotus-like coconuts and little fountains. I wish I'd taken some photos!

Then I went down to Monastiraki to buy fresh figs and chocolate while he bought Cokes asnd returned to the hotel. I browsed a bit, gawking at all the jewellery. Too much! It makes me seize up! So here we are sitting at last, with our steps done and kms covered, museumed out once again.

We spent so much time in the Benaki Museum and shop we did not go on to the El Greco. Maybe tomorrow. The Benaki Museum is better than most of the others we have seen for signage, eats - a real restaurant with a view, and ... a shop. It is very easy to see why it gets such good reviews in the tourist books I did my homework on.

I got two Greek ties today and an owl paperweight. The tie from Notos is purple - a fashion, the salesman said. The one from Benaki has a boat from Skypos which I will think of as an honorary trireme. The owl is marked Athena in Greek.

Must do email tomorrow to keep the backlog manageable.

About 22 C today. Not too hot, but sunny and fine.

A feature of Greek TV is talking heads - public affairs, I guess, with 4 - 6 heads on a split screen. Usually half of them talk at once, two of four, or three of six. Or one person talks all the time while the other three or five stare at the camera. The moderator-journalist is in the middle, talks without end, and the others cut across. The screen occasionally cuts to pairs who may or may not be talking. It is utterly exhausting to watch and listen to. The more people talking at once, the more they shout, the more frantic. There is also face-making and arm-waving. We say the first of a six episode version of PD James' "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman". Must get it on DVD and follow it through.

By the way the talking head teams can be on three or more channels at once, each featuring a different team. Both morning (we saw on ferry-TV) and the afternoon and evening.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

18th October, 2007

Travel day back to Piraeus and Athens, but that is not until 5.30 pm. Now 8.30 am. Now I really know what Island Living means - Pizza for breakfast! Wake up, Oahu, and get with the trend! Meanwhile the New Tour Guide plots today's spin. She seems to have settled for a place described as lunar, which means featureless, colorless, and lifeless!

Well, we might as well see stuff around the island - we have a car. Tempting though it is to return straight to Paleohori and swim. Breakfast pizza is not my style. Yoghurt, honey and grapes, and half a small pear. Then a little flaky pastry, a boiled egg, and some kind of flaky bread stick circle. Well, the egg might be for later. Our destination is Sarakiniko where there is a tiny beach but most of it is white rocks from which you jump into deep water!! Sounds like me....

Sun screen today - I am a bit burned from yesterday. Not too badly, but I don't need any more. Island living also means ten hours of sleep every night. No later than ten o'clock to sleep, and up at eight. I could get used to it. This is our last day of island living, and it is memorable, delightful.

5.30 and we are on the ferry waiting to sail for Piraeus via Sifnos and Serifos. M has just terrified me by noting that we have many more museums to do and many more museum steps!!

Today we set out for Mandrakia then Sarakiniko. Apparently Michael the Navigator and Greek Scholar thinks that the greek δ is NOT a d (as in Manδrakia) so we didn't take that road. We found ourselves at Sarakiniko which was fine by me. It was spectacular. Very light with the sunshine reflecting off the white rocks. Brilliant blue water and skies. Caves carved into the hillsides, linking up inside as far as we could see (which wasn't far as we had no light with us.) We took slides, rather than digitals, so I've linked to a few representative images instead.

I got into my togs. Nobody else around at all. There was a LOT of litter on the little beach, which is really a small cove, which we collected and binned. Our bit for the environment. I waded out and swam. Alas I had trodden in some oily gunk and it got all over my hands and feet. I felt like one of those poor birds caught in an oil slick. Perhaps it came from the wrecked ship just around the corner. It looked like it had been there rusting away for thirty years. I swam - it was superb to have the whole place to ourselves. While swimming, the ocean was mine, looking out at rocky outcrops and islands in the distance while surrounded by those brilliant white sculpted rocks. I put my shoes on (Tevas) and went walkabout. Found a natural rock arch. The sea had done its fair share of rock carving too, and as the waves rushed under me into the rock caverns it made deep whoomping sounds. How glorious! Another swim, this time in my shoes. I hadn't done that before and found them quite buoyant and surprisingly pleasant to swim in. Back to the car - some people came (two couples) and so it was too crowded for us!! We retraced our steps and found Mandrakia. It is a tiny village perched on the cliff. Boatsheds with brightly painted doors were carved into the rock below. Boats bobbing. A tiny church. A dozen cats. A couple of people. We returned to our little car and drove, trusting to my stinks (instincts..) and before too long found ourselves back on the Big Road (private joke..) again, leading down to Adamas. I returned to the Hotel while Michael returned the car and bought great hunks of pizza for lunch. I had a shower and tried to scrub off the oil. Sand and a stick strigil had some effect but soap and hot water were better. Foot tapping then began and we sat around waiting for our departure.

Highspeed 3 is just now getting ready to shove off.

Nautical things are happening and the engine is hammering. The hawser is hawsering. Etc.

While K natated I sat in the shade and read a book. When two other couples came around noon it was time to escape the crowd. We are in motion. The day has been warm - say 24 C without a breath of wind.

10.15 and we landed. Tony was waiting for us (how wonderful) and drove us back to the Hotel Adrian. Room 105. Our bags were still here. Athens is certainly bigger than Adamas! Milos has under 5,000 people on it. I heard that a German couple were on Milos looking for real estate, a retirement option. Not for me! Give me Newtown any day. Milos is lovely, but remote. And nothing but Greek food. Everything has gone so smoothly, a testament to the Great Organiser.

8530 steps. Back on known ground, the Hotel Adrian. Reunited with our luggage.

17th October, 2007

Lights out at about 9.30. Woke at 8.00. Is that enough sleep? I think so. Struggled not to get water all over the bathroom floor, but the shower isn't designed that way. Now at breakfast deciding between chocolate pudding and chocolate cake. M opted for cake. I am about to eat a crispy creamy turnover and a cinnamon scroll. I have a boiled egg for later on. Had some plain yoghurt and honey with kiwifruit and plum. Orange juice, self-squeezed. We are on the hunt for hot springs atain today, aiming at Paleohori. If we don't find them, well, I'll go home and have a hot bath! Will have seen a lot of Milos - all that can be seen by car, that is. The world looks very different by water, I think.

About 3 pm now. A very satisfactory trip to Paleohori Beach. It was pretty much deserted apart from a couple of blokes sitting at the cafe - Volcanic Foods. Michael and I walked up the length of the beach and I decided it was definitely the place for a swim. I got into my togs in a sheltered cover, and swam. The water is lovely - clear and blue. Had my goggles so saw a few little fish. I swam to some rocks, around some buoys, then came out again. Asked a local (at the cafe) where the hot sprints might be found. "Out there" he gestured, from right to left. "How far out?" "About ten metres" he said. I'd been out a good fifty metres, and no sign of any heat. I am good at finding heat, usually! There was a strong smell of sulphur, though, and areas where if I imagined hard enough it might have been a tad warmer. I went back in and swam some more, and some more. The step count will be low, but the stroke count will be high! The rock cliffs were multicoloured with volcanic activity, the sea and the sky a deep deep blue, the water perfect. Michael had a bench to sit on - blue, with the name SIROCCO in white. He was happy. I was in heaven. I lay on the warm dark sand in the sun. A few others came down but I largely had the ocean to myself - they just dipped briefly.

We returned to the hotel. M went hunting and returned with smoked beef and prosciutto, bread, tomato, baba ganoush, coca cola, plums and chocolate for lunch. We are now on our balcony. He has the IHT, shoes off. The water is sparkling. Life is awfully good.

She natated forth and back, while I kept watch, mostly on a book. We left about 1.30 pm and by then maybe a dozen swimmers, subathers had assembled, including some Greeks, one who brought two dogs who yapped at the water. Katester seemed to have a good time. It is 4.30 and I have retreated indoors from the balcony - too hot.

But he didn't retreat for long because he's still out there and it is 5.45. A light breeze keeps it from being too hot. I have finished my book (A Long Way Home, but Mary K. Pershall) and done the word jumble. Soon I am to be despatched to one of the three or four bakeries for spinach pie or cheese pie or whatever for dinner. The step count is barely over three thousand (3488) so the expedition will give me a few extras. It is very peaceful. What a relaxing day.

I drew the view from our balcony, making it a little more abstract than usual. Experimenting.

This is a photo of same view:

And this is a little drawing of the corner of our hotel room. It was a charming room in a lovely hotel.

Friday, November 30, 2007

16th October 2007

We early risers rose at 7.30. Now worried we will miss breakfast! Nemesis has struck again.
I slept log-like. Dreams of a librarian-friend becoming a silent nun (!) and rehearsing for the Messiah with the wrong score.

Breakfast is served until 11 so we didn't need to worry. I'm having yoghurt with honey, kiwifruit and plum, self-squeezed orange juice. Will move onto the protein next. Lukewarm coffee. The enthusiastic Danae offered bread which she had made yesterday. The table's floral decoration is a bowl of sprouted lentils. Tonight's dinner? Cute. Danae made us more (hot) coffee. I moved onto her bread (with crusty salt), a piece of what turned out to be marmalade tart and a small apple turnover. All delicious. Michael wants to go to Plaka today - 5 kms uphill. We think we won't walk, although he complains he didn't sleep well last night because we didn't get enough steps yesterday. We can fix that! I think it was the very late hour we turned out the lights - ten o'clock! Amazing how TV can hold your interest and keep you awake, while silence leads quickly to nod-land. The TV last night was Part 1 of something in English. Who knows when Part 2 will occur.

I bought an Internet card last night and cleared the mailbox of all junk. Not much else BUT junk. M. did the same. There is 10 minutes left on it this morning so M is clearing his again. If there is time left I'll send an email to Mum and Julie. Then we will get on our pins and get going.

We got going! Down to the waterfront to hire a car from Nikos. A small silver car EMZ 9521, manual. I drove.

We headed for Plaka, which we found. We could only drive a certain distance, then had to turn around. It transpired that we used the famous bus turnaround mentioned in our guidebook to do so. Plaka is a very small place. We parked where we could, near the Police Station, and found the obligatory Archaeological Museum which was, surprisingly enough, open. Two women sat in the back smoking and watching TV. The Venus de Mea Culpa was there. ( a copy generously given by the French government in return for snatching the real one.). Also the guidebook's "herd of perky little bulls."

The car is a Korean Hyundai Atos. Katester volunteered to drive - that's my distinct memory, and off we went to Plaka - site of the ancient city, and once there many more vertical steps.

After the Museum we enquired about the Folkloric Museum. Closed. Michael led us to the Kastro - yes indeed, many very steep vertical steps. Wonderful views, fabulous spot. White domed church, intense blue sky, views of the island of Milos and others. There were lovely paths painted blue, and many quaint houses. A few snaps shows how far up we were, and some of the lovely sights we saw on the way up.

After coming down noted 7,200 steps - verticals. Explored the town. It is a little labyrinth of white houses splashed with cobalt blue, pale blue, green, and bougainvillea and geraniums. One or two dogs, a few cats. Michael wanted to see the Utopia Cafe and my infallible instincts led us there. It was closed but we saw the view and a plaque quoting Thomas More. Many photos.

Wound our way through the narrow lanes, nothing open. It was everything a Greek village ought to be - tres picturesque. We returned to the car and tried to navigate out. Not an easy task, really. But we did manage to find Trypiti, and then the delightful oceanfront Klima, the ancient port.

We saw the ancient theatre and the spot where the Venus de Milo was found (nearby.) Back to the town centre, and tried to find our way northeast. But we found ourselves coming back to Adamas and that was fine by us. Tossed up about lunch but opted instead to see if I could find the hot springs south of Adamas. All we could see were choppy cold seas and no swimmers. It is clearly the end of the season. the hot springs are in the ocean so there are no markers. Alas! Cut over the narrowest part of the island to Provatas Beach. I at least got my toes wet and feet sandy but a swim did not appeal.

Back to Adamas for lunch at the restaurant inf front of the Hotel Portiani. We ordered too much. A Greek salad came first, which we demolished. Then a plate of chips which we made a big dent in. Then the mixed grill for two (meat, not seafood) which was enormous and included its own pile of chips. The waiter should have told us when we ordered it that it came with chips and we wouldn't need to supplement them. We ate what we could, including liver, but really were too full. Sitting now with a bit of sun, the rest of my lemonade. Did a little pen drawing of a patron.

We have reached 10,299. Enough for the day, I think.
I got some worry beads at Plaka, and suggested getting some for worry-wart June (Kate's mother). The Kastro (Frankish Castle) was built on the ancient acropolis, the highest point on the island. Many vertical steps on uneven rocks with slurry of chips and small stones. Then picked our way back and forth in the car trying to translate the Greek letters on the signs, or see some in Roman letters. Klima, the site of the ancient port, past the field where the Venus de Milo was found. The museum had a drawing with four or five alternative placements of her missing arms.

The worry beads are amber-coloured. The will be a perfect gift (or some similar ) for Mum, who is an ace worrier.

A quiet afternoon reading on the terrace followed by snoozing. At 7.00 we went for a passegiato, or to be more accurate, an ice-cream search. Found it in a gelato bar that also sold hone, preserves, spices. We had half and half vanilla and chocolate, and ate it over the rest of our walk. It is cool but not as windy as yesterday. All the shops are open at this time - they have been shut, most of them, all day. The tourists have just about all gone and it has taken on a decidedly autumnal air. Total 13,651 or 543 calories.

How many kilometres did we do in the car? Forgot to check. Probably not many. It's about 6.5 to Plaka. Then back to Adamas and on past the airport to Provatas and back, say another 6-8 kilometres, flatter and faster.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

15th October, 2007

Up early before bright at 5.30 am. Quick change and first at breakfast at 6.00 am. Yum. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in the street did not go on all night, and in any event I got my nods. I checked out while Kate found Tony the Taxi Man and loaded the car, and off we went into the darkness. Socrates walked to the end from Piraeus, but we took a cab. Tony found the right ferry (by asking) and squired us (carried the bags) on board. We are in seats 3H and 3I, up the front of the ferry. So far, so good.

It is comfortable and a large ferry. We have donned our seasickness wrist bands to prevent same, and are having a cup of coffee - a large mug of cappuccino for me. Nods hit last night at around 8 o'clock! The revellers below did not disturb me. There was no extra blanket so I was a little cold - two twin beds so Michael's warmth was not available! No tea/coffee making either. Should have packed the Brisk Brew. It is just getting light as we sit here. We are right at the front so can see blokes outside doing nautical stuff.
We left on time. Many announcements, first Greek, then English. Easy to understand. At 8.11 we are passing an island to port (left, to you 'lubbers'.) The coffee tasted like Nescafe. I read somewhere that Nescafe has been very successful in Greece, even replacing Greek coffee to some extent. Is this another example of the evils of marketing? Am I outraged? Moving on..

We've been turning to port after aforementioned island at 08.16 and now steering into the sun. First stop Stifano and then Mylos.

This section of the ship is nominally divided into smoking and non-smoking. It reminds me of aeroplanes and how they used to be divided too. It really makes no difference, but at least there is a recognition that people who don't smoke don't like being near it. The smell is of very dark tobacco - like Gauloise or Disc Bleu- names from my past! We are going straight into the sun so curtains are being drawn. It is choppy and there are whitecaps. Land is visible on both sides.

Forgot to turn on the step counter until we were on the ferry so we are now at 277. There wouldn't have been many more than that anyway. We have reached our first stop, Stifanos. Steep, rocky, white houses on the only available flat surfaces and clinging to the hillsides. 10.10 - Serifos? We can check the map in my bag for the name. Yes, it is island hopping. The ferry tickets I bought off the web and had delivered to the hotel worked. I have the map now: Serifos, Sifnos, then Mylos.

Arrived, disembarked. It is cloudy, windy, a bit cool. We walked along the path around the waterfront to our Hotel Portiani.

Danae behind the desk was very cheerful, very enthusiastic, but it appeared there had been no booking made. the travel agent strikes again. There was a room, however, at the top right (looking out) with a lovely view of the water. Delightful. We got some maps, discussed beaches and hot springs and lunch. Walked up a ways, then returned to the restaurant recommended, where we ate "tomato balls" (deep fried slices in heavy batter), "zucchini balls" - again deep fried fritters, then I had spaghetti with seafood (prawns, baby whole squid, mussels) and Michael had meatballs. We followed it with coffee. Michael had Greek coffee and I had iced frappe. Pretty sure it was instant, and it was awful. We discussed later that the coffee is disappointing generally.

Here in our room at the Portiani we have no kettle for making our own. Bless the Hotel Adrian for providing that small luxury! After coffee we were provided a sweet - a sticky semolina pudding with cinnamon. Feel like I am rolling. A short walk after lunch along the promenade but no verticals! We are only at 7220 steps. A rest day. I called Mum to let her know all is well. She, Majic and Lisa are doing fine.

We sat around, I got out my sketch pad and did a version of the view. I'm not particularly happy with this drawing - I just couldn't get the colours of those hills right.

There will be more tomorrow from the long balcony, and lots of photos. After our rest, some reading and tatting. No more eating!! (Apart from a Coke and some chocolate.....)

Went for a brief walk in search of the International Herald Tribune, but it wasn't to be had in all Adamas. Also in search of more steps, and we have made it past our mandatory 10,000 to 10,479. Phew! It is too cold and windy to be out too long, and Michael did not bring his windcheater so is feeling it. We'll see what the morrow brings.

Breakfast is not served until 7.30. We early risers will be starving by then. And no coffee can be made in our room!!! Aaaaaargh!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

14th October, 2007

I awoke a birthday boy. Kate the Great had acquired a musical birthday card on her trek to and from her meeting. It featured on the front a sunflower worthy of Van Gogh. The rest, as Shakespeare said, was all Greek to me. When I opened the card the music started. And we have Athena and her owl tucked away. A very nice birthday, and today is Sunday. At 8 am (now 6.45) it is off to Delphi and along the way, Chaironea with Taxi Tony. Before that we have to 1) cash up from an ATM, 2) check out and leave two bags at the Adrian, 3) get the Jason Prime telephone number so we can call and confirm and give an ETA, 4) tell the Adrian desk we will be back on 18th about 10 pm, and 5) get going.

I agree with Katester's comments on the Central Market. The fish and meat were certainly sizeable and the fish glistened only when it wasn't wriggling. But the vegetables, apart from the very red tomatoes, were neither bountiful nor eye-catching quality. When I remember the equivalent markets in Florence this market pales. There was one olive purveyor and he had 20+ varieties, but in Florence there were many olive purveyors, etc. The other feature of the Central Market were the destitute Albanians (a general term to include legal and illegal Balkan-Soviet emigres) selling the clothes off the backs of their children. So for us it is a site to be sighted, but I prefer Coles, Harris Farms, de Costi etc.

We see a lot of beggars, and often deformities. I've seen one lad a few times and his feet are turned in badly with talipes. Julie had a mild case of that when she was born. It took plaster casts for a few months, and special shoes until she was about five, and now you would never know. That this lad was in a wheelchair begging on the street for his living shows a terrible lack of medical care for those early years. There are old women begging, limbless people, and more.

The herb and aromatic shops are unlike anything we have (bar Herbie's in Rozelle) and they are redolent with all the different kinds of dried herbs. We see such bags of dried herbs at George's, our local deli, but nothing like the scale of these shops. We saw a couple of fresh cheese shops too, but didn't investigate very closely.

12,477 steps later, many of them vertical, and many kilometres on the clock, we are tucked up at the Jason Prime, ready for floppo and a 5.30 am wakeup call. It was such an interesting day. After breakfast at the Hotel ADrian we checked out and Tony collected us for our day trip to Delphi. First stop, the monumental stone lion at Chaironea (Kai-RON-ea). Sure enough, after about two hours of driving, there he was sitting by the side of the road. Michael had seen a picture of this lion years ago, but had no idea of the scale. The picture below shows that he is HUGE.

Pictures were taken, then off again. A rest stop a bit later narrowly avoided the tour bus throng, then on our way again. Tony suggested a detour to a Byzantine monastery where there was a crypt of St. Barbara. Must look her up. The monastery was lovely and the church and crypt beautifully adorned. It was cold with a strong powerful wind. Glad that I wasn't an 11th century monk! There was a church event, it being Sunday, and there were lots of people about. The shop was well stocked with religious trinkets and was quite crowded with buyers. Back up the steps (oh yes, this monastery was perched on a hillside high on a mountain) to our yellow taxi. Then down the mountain roads and up again towards Delphi. First stop, the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. A perfect spot, a lovely temple (roons, of course), quiet, the sound of goat bells.

Then the Gymnasium - more rock clambering. We made our way up the steps to the road, coming out just opposite the fabled water spring. Down the road to meet Tony. He drove us up to the next site - the very grand Temple of Apollo. More clambering. Lots of tourists, quite crowded.

A lot of climbing and clambering through the roons up to the theatre. Many vistas, and many vista snaps. The Delian League started at Delphi. The treasure was amassed in this remote, neutral spot sacred to all Greeks, until Pericles took it to Athens for safe-keeping.... to spend it on beautifying Athens.

The museum at Delphi is light and airy, as ethereal as the gods themselves. Including the rarest-of-the-rare - ivory carvings of Apollo and Artemis. There is also a round building at Delphi - another Greek rarity.

We finished all the clambering and gawking, and then got in the car and went to Delphi. It is a few streets cut into the hillside. Souvenir shop, hotel, taverna, one ofter another. Tony took us to a taverna and we filled up with a 2.30 lunch. Then back in the car, first to Arahova, an up-market area for the skiing set and general touristville.

Finally to the Jason Prime Hotel off Omonia Square. A dirty noisy area, but a large clean room with a full size bathtub. A big comfy lie-down in the with-bubbles bathtub, which is whence I have just emerged.

We looked at the tourist shops briefly at Arahova (the Athens side of Delphi) but didn't buy a fur hat with a fat fur tail, nor any embroidered cushion covers (thinking of Majic having his wicked way with all cushions and pillows..) nor any table linen to live in the linen cupboard or be ironed. Nothing, in fact.

The countryside was mountainous and very rugged and rocky. On the flat plans grew olives, some vineyards, and fields and fields of cotton. The sides of the road for miles were lined with fluffballs, looking a little like it had snowed cotton wool. Surprising in one way - cotton needs a lot of water and this is a dry country. But I knew there was cotton here, after all, I bought some. The taxi idea works really well in terms of getting sights seen with a minimum of angst. Tony knew where to stop for loo breaks, where to eat, where the sights are. We didn't need to navigate or drive, didn't miss anything. And we could have a mini-snooze on the way back. It was a grey and cold day, I was glad of my blue cashmere cardie and my windcheater.

Lunch was good - yellow eggy bread, cabbage rolls in egg and lemon sauce for me, moussaka for Michael and Greek coffee and baklava for afters.

13th October, 2007

We discovered last night while booking our wakeup call that we have nowhere to stay on the night of Michael's birthday. Our travel agent stuffs it up again. Next time we must check her stuff very carefully. This is twice she has us with no accommodation. We will try to extend the booking today.

My tallons screppolati (cracked heels, according to the label on the foot cream I bought) are dong much better on assiduous application of both the screpper and the crema. My feet are bearing up under the strain.

It was an early start for us, 6 am. Tony was coming to get us at 8 am for our half day trip to Marathon.

We breakfasted (plain yoghurt, honey, banana, grapes - yum!). Tony appeared on the dot of 8 (so much for the myths of Greeks being late for appointments - he was on time every time) and it was rather nice to be driven around! Our first stop was the funeral tumulus of the 192 slain at the Battle of Marathon, and a commemorative white marble pylon. We walked around the mound.

It was quiet, butterflies flitted, and the air smelled damp and resinous and rich and loamy. A glorious early morning. The Plain of Marathon is fertile and we saw crops such as eggplant and cabbage.

From there we drove down little country roads, and drew up at a big shed, or hangar, sheltering a site of some 3,000 BC graves. Bones still visible.

Next stop was the small but lovely Museum of Marathon, which had a very nice range of antiquities, from Neanderthal on. There were two very engaging puppies very pleased to have some pats and attention. There were also some ancient graves. Tony offered to take us on to Ramnous where the Temple of Nemesis stood. Again, it was down country roads through small villages, and when we got there it was so quiet and peaceful. There was no noise except the buzz of flies, us, and chirping birds. We looked out over the sea, and it must have looked like this centuries ago.

Here are Tony and Kate

Time to return to Athens, through the suburbs. Tony stopped briefly at one of his favourite Macedonian bakeries and shouted us a pastry. Delicious. It appeased the ravening pangs of hunger (briefly). We returned to the hotel very briefly then set out on foot to search for a tie shop Michael had spied. The search for a Greek tie continues. We found the shop but it was one we'd seen before, full of It6alian ties. We pressed on to find the fruit and veg market. Noisy, bustling. Not a huge amount of variety - we feel lucky in our choice and quality. It is romantic to see this kind of market but it would wear thin every week. The tomatoes looked divine, though. Getting hungry. Bought a Herald Tribune and opted for the Hermion taverna for our main meal of the day. Lamb chops and grilled veg for me, whole silver dory for M. It was a lot of food, and hit all spots. After lunch we decided to add more steps and walked around past the New Acropolis Museum to the Theatre of Dionysius. Alas, the part Michael wanted to visit was closed, as the big cranes are in place there for the moving of treasures from the old museum to the new. We did clamber over stones and took photos.

Ah, I should say that Michael was able to book us to another hotel - the Jason Prime in Omonia, for our Sunday night here before our very early start off to Milos on Monday morning. His birthday hotel! We discussed all this with Tony.

Returned to the Hotel Adrian for a bit of a lie down. Managed a respectable 14,000 + steps despite having been driven around all day. A brief snooze does help. We need to pack to leave some stuff here and take some to Milos. Tomorrow is our day trip to Delphi and Monday morning our ferry departs at 7.30 am. It is all go around here! 14,898 steps. I recalibrated weight and stride length this morning so this now represents 7.59 kms and 592 calories. I think we had been overestimating the kms and underestimating the cals.

Pretty amazing to use the cell phone to call the reservation desk of the hotel company from the front of the Marathon Museum while Katester patted the puppies. I took snaps here and there. Plan is to check out of the ADrian Hotel tomorrow morning and leave two bags here for our return. When Tony collects us tomorrow we take our island bags with us. Then at the end he drops us at the Jason Prime, not the Adrian, and he collects us Monday morning from the Jason Prime (which I should call - got to get the number - to double check the reservation and tell them we won't be there until 6 pm, say.) In addition Tony also pointed out the burial tumulus of the Plataeans, the Athenian allies, near the museum. It is behind a fence but utherwise unmarked or unremarked. I decided to replace the Tokyo owl dangly on my camera with something more durable. The wear and tear of going in and out of my pocket pulled one of the owl's ears out. I packed the owl away with the Kyklades head. (we saw some of these figures in the Marathon Museum.) I got one of the Greek blue eyes to string onto my camera.

I am amused when Tony the Taxi Driver talks about going to see the Tubes. I think that is Greek for Tombs!

We got organised for the day trip tomorrow, the shift to the Jason Prime Hotel, and thne on Monday morning to head to Milos via ferry.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

12th October, 2007

Rose and shone about 07.00. Beauty sleep effective once again. Now on roof top, eating. Today it is Piraeus: the Maritime Museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the Ancient Ship sheds on Sirangiou, then more eats! Got two out of those three. Also seeing other things to do! Ancient Eats, Hellenic Cosmos, Benaki Museum and Annex, Museum of Costumes, and more.

No doubt our programme will involve lots of walking! We are now at 333 steps and haven't warmed up yet. There is nothing on TV to watch. About the only English is CNN and it is stupid and repetitive. We saw a kind of shopping show one night. It appeared to be an auction, and it was extremely slow. The presenter was very laid back, none of the histrionics of the Italian version we remember so well and with such affection. So we read and then conk out. Made it to 9.30 last night - our record!

Afternoon: Piraeus and Syntagma cost us 20,739 steps, or 15.5 kms. Jeepers, creepers, where'd you get those creakers! (old bones..) Here I am, plodding on.

We caught the metro from Monastiraki to Piraeus where we debarked and began our walkaround. We had as our goals the Piraeus Archaeological Museum and the Nautical Museum. We passed the former without realising and found the latter after a completely useless bout of instructions from a group of blokes. The museum was heavy on modern war (those pesky Turks!) and quite light on ancient, but it was quite interesting. Back around the harbour (where ruins must have been lurking underneath) and up to the Archaeological Museum. It was shut, it being October, or Friday, or the day we were there. We breathed a secret sigh of relief, and pressed on around the harbour. Michael had his sights set on an ancient slipway visible in the foundations of an apartment building. He found them. The new pressing down upon the old. The layers of civilization are very clearly visible here and we often commented on how the new Athenians jostled for elbow room among the old. Pictured is a map of the original site, and then the view through the glass window into the foundations of the building.

We continued around and saw lucky people swimming, although I can't think the water would be clean or clear. On to Mikrolimano where eats were the order of the day. Such a choice! Eventually the man touting for business outside the Four Brothers was persuasive enough and in we went to sit. Blessed sitting! He wanted to sell us 80 Euros worth of lunch but that was much too much foodwise. Tzatziki for me, Greek salad for Michael, followed by grilled sardines for me and fried calamari for Michael. All delicious, and around 15 euros. Fish swam nearby feeding on scaps of bread thrown in by patrons and a waiter. A fisherman caught one of the fish on a line and bore it off - to eat? Greek coffee finished our leisurely meal. We sat right on the water - this is the view from our table.

The food was cooked in the restaurant across the street. We were in no hurry and neither was our waiter. Finally we paid up and creaked on our way to the station - Neo Filari. Validated our tickets and stepped straight onto the train. We've never waited more than 30 seconds for a train.

Being gluttons for punishment we decided to go to Syntagma Station and see the exhibition of the excavation for the metro. Very well done - informative, nicely laid out. Then set off for the Museum of Greek Costume. We made our way throught the narrow streets in the middle of the city. Found the Museum. It being Friday, or October, or 2007, it was closed. Alas. I had my heart set on that one. Ancient roons (ruins) might be interesting enough, but I wanted to see embroidery and textiles!!!

We made our way back to the Parliament where the guard was just changing. Good timing for once, for me to take my photos. Bought a couple of snacks for tonight's dinner and finally made it back to the hotel for complete collapse. Today is our record for steps. One of these days perhaps we will have under ten thousand! Maybe. Having a coffee now, sitting on the little balcony, thinking about showering off the dust. Tomorrow is a half-day trip to Marathon, I think. Yep.

Piraeus was quite grubby, very dense as usual. It is a little like a more up-market Cairo. We saw a supermarket with a meat van, carrying in carcasses. One set of ribs appeared to get dumped in a rubbish bin, but I don't think it was left there. Ferrying groceries to the top floor of those 8-storey buildings can't be fun!

Maybe we should have walked from Piraeus to the Akropolis as Socrates did. Getting to Piraeus was easy, but getting around was difficult - even fewer signs. We saw the inner harbor and those shipsheds - or the stone foundations of them. Several of the menus at Mikrolimanis listed a fish called Arrogant. Yep. It was very nautical: rows and rows of ever bigger yachts, more and bigger yachts than at the marina in Nice when we walked around there, whenever that was - 1994? I have now seen many models of triremes, but none explains its evolution or how it worked. The top rower had one very long oar to manage. One sign at the Natucial Museum said rowed by "Free Greeks, not slaves" (no Ben Hurs there). That is literally true, Greeks with very few Athenians among them. Most of the navy, Pericles recruited from the Ionians, the people of the islands, and paid them well. They found work in peace time in Pericles' vast constructions, and in war time there was ever more money to be made rowing. When the gold stolen from the Delian League ran out, the rowers were paid in another coin - Athenian citizenship. The Piraeus Archaeological Museum was closed for renovations, as was the Costume Museum. So our walk there was a zero though Katester asked about a Greek necktie at a shop. Nope, only two, and not nice.

Friday, November 09, 2007

11th October, 2007 (Greece continues..)

Awoken at 4.10 by the ringing of Kate's phone. Worrying. WEnt back to nods and it is now 7.10 am. Cool outside with chirping birds. Brisk Brew is on the job and Kate is in the half-shower. More museums today.

The phone didn't worry me much. The blood bank calling to ask for more? Amex offering me a platinum card? I didn't recognise the number.

Only 11.8 kms yesterday, 590 cals, 15,742 steps. There will be more (!). We are ready.

Last night we ate figs from a small fruit shop (wonderful) and a nectarine (floury, not nice) and some cold spinach pie. We read for a bit and I tatted, and just before nine we were conked out. All that walking around does get one ready for bed. Today we do Museums in the morning, and then I meet Robert Molho from Elidoc - a Vital user. I am looking forward to it. I may return to purchase another less expensive trinket I spotted near the new Acropolis Museum. Will take the metro around, I think.

Later that evening. Step count for me is 19,790 or 14.84 kms. Probably more for Michael as we separated for the afternoon.

After our breakfast we took the metro from Monastiraki to Evangelismos. Emerged to find our way down past the War Museum to the Byzantine & Christian Museum. That is a lovely moderm museum with very informative displays. Lots of icons, many double-sided. Some textiles and books. I saw some hooks and eyes for clothing of absolutely the same design as today's. This was the site where a new wing was to be built but they dug a foot down and the Archaeological Police decreed that this was Aristotle's Lyceum. We asked about it but alas it was closed and workmen were busy there. It being Thursday.... (private joke - whenever we are THERE whatever we are THERE to see is closed - it being Thursday, or July, or 10.00 am, or a Saint's Day, or 2005, or whatever.)

We also saw an exhibition of Gothic architecture in the Mediterranean which was very nicely done. In the interstices of those vaulted ceilings are usually lots of ceramic pots - they make it light but add strength. There are always lots of young women hanging around in these museums, with their mobile phones at hand and their handbags slung over their chairs. What are they doing? They are not in any uniform, seem not to offer much, or any, assistance. The shop was absolutely minimal. A few scholarly tomes in Greek.

Contrast that with our next stop, the Cycladic Museum. It was much more impressive. Only half the museum was open but that included those enigmatic cycladic figures.

One of the more unusual figures is seated, holding aloft a cup. There are lots of t-shirts showing that figure, with funny quips about drinking through the ages.

How intriguing they are. It is impossible not to see Modigliani's faces looking back at you.

Some of those figures are really large. The 'frying pan' thingies are very interesting too.

We went to the Byzantine Museum because it is currently supposed to be the location of Aristotle's Lyceum, at least according to one of our guide books. Wikipedia has it at the new Museum of Contemporary Art, based on a 1996 find. However that new wing is a construction site, which fits with one blog I found. I took a few snaps. Then Kate set off and I returned to the War Museum - free admission. Very very little ancient. Mostly the endless war with the Turks. I had hoped to see the foll Spartan body armor - about 60 pounds including shield and weapon. The armor would be for a man 5' 2" tall. But no. The I set off for the Numismatic Museum in Schliemann's mansion. And a mansion it certainly is. I was reminded that the one Euro coin has a national symbol on the back; those minted in/for Greece have Athena's owl. I put one aside. There were some very informative displays, e.g., one showing the gradual debasing of the Byzantine Empire - the coins got lighter (more alloys), smaller, and finally concave from use - some light and fragile. I guess they got bent. Others about the flow of commerce, aided or hindered by money. It was nearly all coins, not paper money. Then I crossed the street and trawled throught the Attica department store, looked at homewares for kitchen utensils. I also looked at men's wear for a Greek necktie. All Italian or Englishe that I saw. Then I walked past the Congress with the guards in national dress, caps, skirts, (with the 40 pleats celebrating something to do with the eternal war with the Turks), pom pom shoes.

Past the National Gardens, then slowly back to the hotel. Made it at 3 pm. SMSed KVB.
She got back at 5 pm. After a bit we did a promenade around the Acropolis, climbing the Acropolis, climbing the slippery rock Areopagus, scouting the Jewellery Museum. Somewhere along the way Katester acquired more stuff. Yes we went to the Cycladic Museum first. Those strange figures. I think the first time I saw one was in "The Magus." I had to have an aide-memoir so I got a head that will serve as a paperweight. Kate also got some stuff there, which I bravely carried back to the hotel.

It was paper - a few cards and notebooks so not hugely heavy, but I appreciated the carrying.

I had an interesting afternoon at Elidoc, comparing notes about VTLS. Must write that up separately - lots of notes. They are indeed isolated and are doing some interesting and creative stuff, especially their work with the National Theater of Northern Greece, managing all the objects in a performance. Here is the crew:

On our perambulation around the Acropolis we bought a couple of baguettes and boxes of fruit juice for our dinner, which we have just eaten. As M says, it is great to have dinner in your underwear after a shower, with no getting up to go anywhere! We both had showers. One of my purchases today was a Dr. Scholl's foot scraper and some heel cream which I deployed. All those steps take their toll. I'm wearing a Waikiki sarong and my new Athenian necklace which M persuaded me to buy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Iron Chefs


Just a quick blog note - guess what we did last night? Yes, that's Michael and I with two of the Iron Chefs. Did we have fun? Ooh yes. Are we hungry today? Oooh no.

Back with more Greek adventures later, and perhaps more pics of the food we ate last night. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

10th October, 2007

We stirred around 6 am. Lights went out about 9 pm. Much creaking from our creaky joints. Today we fathom the subway to go to the National Archaeological Museum which also includes the National Epigraphical Museum, and the Numismatic Museum. Altogether a big program. We saw the illuminated Acropolis in glimpses last night. Ooops, just realised that the Numismatic Museum is somewhere else.

We think we have the aircon set at about the right temperature - slept well. We are ready for more steps today. I have set the pedometer, wondering whether we can beat that high tally of yesterday. Museum steps. Is there a multiplication factor for them, as there is for vertical steps??

I've had my "shower." It reminds me of the setup we had in our Florence apartment in 1994, with this tiny square bathtub with a shelf in half of it serving as a seat. I put the plug in so my feet could have a bit of a soak, then used the water to wash out a few things. Washing is ongoing on this kind of trip. It will get to 28 degrees C today, I gather.

The Scottish National Tourist Board is needed here. Even in the tourist zones of the Acropolis and Pnyx there are few signs, and most of them are useless. No "You are here" symbol that I have seen except one. Still, "this is it" or "X marks the spot" or anything, would be useful. On the other hand the pricing is cheap. Twelve Euros for all the ancient sites in one ticket.

We have remarked how easy it is to deal with the locals here - unlike Italy (Florence) or France, despite the abrasion of endless tourism. In that respect it is more like Waikiki, where the locals seem genuinely happy to see you, even when you aren't spending. Without the history to sell to the world there would not be much to do in Athens. But without such a commodity, I guess, like the Finns, the Greeks would have to think of something like Ericsson or Nokia.

It is pretty amazing to have breakfast at dawn in view of the Acropolis. It was still dark when we ascended to the rooftop, but the Acropolis was not illuminated then. Any night photography expedition will have to be at night, not early in the morning.

Michael has a plan for the museums today, with some highlights specifically itemised. Although it is calm in this early morning the sound of jackhammers can already be heard in the distance. The sun has not yet appeared over the mountain.

We set off for Monastiraki Station where we bought tickets and validated them for our trip to Victoria Station, two stops away. Easily done. A train arrived immediately and we boarded. Alighted at Victoria and made our way to the National Archaeological Museum. I believe the step counter was not accurate because by the time we sat down for a coffee after being through the museum we had reached only 1100! Surely there would have been more! Anyway, we saw a lot of stuff at the museum. Too much, really. Bronzes, Cycladic figures, an Etruscan pottery bathtub (like a very big round pot that had been squashed into an oval tub shape, Korae, Praxiteles statues, gold masks and jewellery, and on and on. Crowds of tourists and schoolchildren made it noisy and bustling - a good thing for a museum. The shop was good, but we didn't buy anything.

When we'd had enough of the Museum we went out and around to find the Epigraphic Museum. A library or sorts - all rock! A dusty rock smell pervaded everything. Amazing to see those wooden racks piled high with stone, all inscribed with ancient writing. It didn't take long to have had enough of that too! Unless you are a scholar, it really is just a pile of rocks (I sound like a heathen...)

We traced our way back, past the Skid Row, through crowded streets. We found the Central Market. What a place! We found the meat market, plus poultry, plus the fish market. WOW! We saw cheese shops and nut shops. Alas we did not find any fruit shops and I am beginning to crave bananas. Specifically lady finger bananas. We did pass a fruit vendor near the Station with peaches, figs, pomegranates and bananas.

As we neared the hotel we saw an Internet Cafe. Oh no! Stairs! I ought some rayon thread (for bead knitted necklaces) and Micahel went on up. And up. And UP! I joined him - it was on at least the fifth floor - a marble spiral staircase just didn't seem to stop!! Did our email stuff and came back down - there were 79 steps (real steps, not pedometer steps.) No wonder the attendant was so slim. I decided to buy a kilo of Greek cotton (blue) for 26.40 euros. Pretty good, I thought. I am still mourning not buying a kilo of Scottish Wool (that Scottish Tourist Board was not quite persuasive enough) when we were at New Lanark a few years ago. I don't know what I'll make with this cotton, but something will come to me.

Back to the hotel for a relax and a cold drink. Total of 8974 steps but I am SURE there was a malfunction early on.

I have my appointment tomorrow afternoon so I was glad we had the opportunity to reconnoitre the rendezvous spot.

The metro was easy. Put the euros in, get the tickets out. Validate the ticket, get on the train. Two stops later get off. The National Archaeological Museum is vast. Saw Agamemnon's mast and much other gold. A roomful of Cycladic works too. And a lot more. Then out around the corner to the Epigraphical Museum where we seemed to be the only punters. Kate found the edict of Themistocles , and I snapped it.

We cooled our heels on a bench and then strode back toward the hotel down Aiolou Street, gawking at the central market. We saw fish, meat, cheese, and nuts, but somehow missed the fruit and vegetables.

Then on to our local Alpha Prime. Kate checked the price of a trinket - too expensive. Hmmm. While she bought the cotton I ascended those very vertical steps to check email. Kate made it up the steps too and did her email.

This arvo we head for the Temple of Zeus. It is the only way to get the steps we need.

We got the steps - 15,741, but we STILL believe there was a miscount. All those museum steps MUST have been worth more than 1,000. Am I being obsessive???

We went to the Temple of Zeus that took 800 years and a Roman Emperor - Hadrian, called the Greek because of his love of Athens - to finish, even longer than the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Huge. Many snaps of its columns. Its open ground afforded yet another perspective on the Sacred Rock - the Acropolis.

I went snap happy.

This one is of the column that fell during a storm in 1852. It clearly shows how the drums are connected to make a column.

(please bear with me as I figure out how to put images in that are hosted on Imageshack - Picasa complete album is in the right sidebar.)

On the say back Kate bought some fruit and eats for tonight. We;ll stay in with our wounds (feet) elevated. Kate bought ma a birthday present - Athena wih the owl on her outstretched arm. There are many many owls, but only one with AThena and the owl so that is it.

I also encouraged Kate to buy a necklace. She seemed to accept this encouragement! That's for tomorrow.

When we headed back from the Temple of Zeus I saw a glass roof. sure enough - the New Acropolis Museum. It seemed unfinished but Kate asked the man at the gate and he pointed us to the adjacent building where we found a small exhibit on the process of building the museum. It is being erected on, maybe "over" is a better word, an archaeological site. So this exhibit displays some of the finds on the site, illustrating the work - mostly by hand. A 1st Century AD Bust of that alien master Aristocles caught my eye. I walked past it and then turned and went bac. Yep, Plato, once again calling me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

9th October, 2007

Day Two in Greekland. Why isn't it called that? It was lights out at about 8.30 pm with much anticipation of a 6 am start. Hah! I got up at 8.00 am. Todayu= is the day for the Acropolis, or high (Acro) City (Polis). That hill top and if we persevere all that was Ancient Athens around it. First the relics today and then the museum in the following days. My turn for the shower. Katester has emerged.

Yes, emerged refreshed. Thank you Jackson for deciding to bring the Brisk Brew and coffee. We used it. Sunscreen and pedometer(on) equipped we are ready for breakfast on the roof. It is open air with canvas awning, and a spectacular view of the Acropolis. It is warming up quite quickly.

Breakfast was good - fresh fruit and excellent yoghurt, plus a greek salad offering of cucumber, tomato and feta, ham. Plus poached eggs and bacon. Boiled eggs were also available in the shell. Two of those will form snacks for late on. Fresh orange juice. It is a really lovely dining area and I can hardly believe we are here. The sky is bright blue, there is greenery all around. We are at tree height. We see pink and yellow buildings with half moon tiles, greet shutters. Sum total of 486 steps. There will be more.

Back in our room getting ready to sally forth and I found that I had packed a bogong moth! I think it is doomed here. Poor thing.

Later - at 2.45

Indeed the step count rose. We are now at 16,741, or 12.5 kms. Much of it was uphill, and just as much downhill! We set our sights on the Acropolis and off we went, through the Ancient Agora.... no, that was later - or was it? The Acropolis was in construction mode, and crawling with people. Nonetheless it was a thrill to be there, and every bit as magnificent as I had anticipated. MWJ says we did the Acropolis first - get the steep steps done first. Marble all around. It must be terribly slippery when wet and no handrails! The museums old and new were not open, in the throes of moving from one to the other, alas. After the Acropolis we did the AGora, including a rather lovely museum. The Stoa of Attalos. Then walked through up to the "Big Road" (private joke of ours when lost while travelling) Apostolou Paulo) and on up and up to the Pnyx (pronounced -p-nicka). What a contrast - quiet, peaceful, and only a couple of other people, and a few stray dogs. Wonderful views of the Acropolis from there. Onwards in search of the Prison of Socrates. Up and down, roundabout, getting hotter and crosser, much fruitless map consultation. Useless signs with what purported to be information. We retraced our steps and just as we gave up hope and were setting out to go home, there is was! Phew! Back around the Acropolis, skirting the Agora, back to the hotel and air conditioning.

A big day for relics. First the Acropolis - the High City - a lot of steps and a lot of people. A great many photographers trying to pose pictures amid the throng. I am sure I am in a good number of those pictures. Many seemed fascinated by the vista - houses and more houses. I concentrated on the scale and size of the buildings. It was good that I had seen the replica in Nashville to simulate something of what it must have been like - a kind of Disneyland of its day. By that I mean a sense of overall order amonth th buildings, some designed to relate to others, each more elaborate, painted, gilded and carved and textured. The Parthenon dedicated to the city's patron - Athena - the most spectacular of all. The whole thing built on a nearly inaccessible hilltop. "We choose to do this because it is hard, not because it is easy" JFK said of the Apollo Program to land on the moon. So Pericles might have said of the Acropolis. In both cases the result was a demonstration to enemy and friend alike of what we can do, if we choose to do so. Even more impressive in the Athenian case to know the hill top was scorched by the Persians before Salamis. Pericles devoted most of his 18 year political career to the Acropolis, and much of the building was done in 8 years, spending the taxes of the restive allies in the Delian league (a NATO alliance against the eastern tyranny of Persia.)

Then down from the Acropolis and a restorative ice coffee and cheesecake, before the Agora, starting with the Stoa of Attalos. The Agora was the market of its time. Here Socrates mixed and mingled, iand irritated one and all. I saw a Spartan sheild from Pylos in the Agora Museum. Neither here nor in the Oberlander Museum in the Keremeikos have I seen much sign of the characters from the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The Acropolis shop was a closet. The Agora had no shop.

Then it was time for another hill - the Pnyx. Off we went, up we went. Had it all pretty much to ourselves. Found the bema where Pericles, Diodotas and others argued their cases with the sacred Acropolis overlooking the proceedings from the right of the speaker and the left of the auditors. There followed the search for the prison cell of Socrates. The Borch Map which has our hotel in the wrong place and on the wrong side of the street led us on a pursuit of an untamed ornithod, as Mr. Data once said. We couldn't find it and decided to cut our losses and head back to base, and then a sign said "Socrates' Prison" and there it was.

Nota bene that our misadventure using the Borch map however took us by the tomb of Kimon and Thucidydes. The attribution of this tomb, like Socrates' prison, is inference from location.

Back to the slammer! Three rooms, one that was double behind locked iron gates. There must have been a stoa (porch roof) to give shade.

Then on back to the hotel. Kate took the key and went to the air conditioned room. I went to get the International Herald Tribune (IHT) and while doing so spottened Athena with an ol for later. Got the IHS and three drinks and trekked back to the hotel to the .....AIR CON! Whew! I think that's it for relics and steps! Although.....

We did venture forth once more. We saw the Athena statue with owl. I saw a fabulous blue cameo necklace. We went up and down a bit, then settled at the Ydria restaurant. Bread and olives and cheesy stuff to begin, then moussaka for us both. It was very pleasant sitting outside under the trees. No mosquitoes I saw or felt. Glimpses of the lighted Acropolis but no temptation to retrace any of our steps. Speaking of steps we reached 18,178, or 13.63 kms. More or less than yesterday? We'll never know.

Made contact with the repository people and will see them later this week. Definite day to be confirmed tomorrow morning. The alarm phone has been set for 7.30 so time for a shower, etc, the work call at 8.15, breakfast, then we'll hit the museums.