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.