Athens is not a pretty city, and it should have been the Paris of the East. I was here almost 50 years ago, and of course, hardly anything is recognizable from that time, but even so the city seems to have suffered more than it should at the hands of bad development, unplanned shoddy building, and now, serious neglect, given their financial woes. Our dear friend Evy, who is a lifelong resident of Athens, has pointed out all the places where beautiful old Neoclassical buildings and places were torn down in the 1970s to make way for ugly office blocks or cheap apartment buildings.
But the people! As I have said elsewhere, the Greeks must be some of the friendliest, most gracious people on earth, and what is happening to them now is simply unfair. I know the politics are so complicated, but this is my gut feeling: just unfair. They have not turned their backs on the hordes of refugees flooding into the country trying to get across to Northern Europe–and now those countries have closed their borders, and Greece is having to deal with the refugees stuck on the edges, and still landing on the islands. Come on , European Union, help the Greek people!
Enough. Above is a shot from the neighborhood where we are staying, in Papagou. The suburb was built for the families of the Greek army, and is up against Mt. Hymettus, thus offering a relatively inner suburb with open fields nearby. Very pleasant. We are staying in the apartment of Evy’s friends, both of whom speak German–so we have an entire apartment house in which to live! It even has an avocado tree in the back yard.
Almost as soon as I arrived, my gastric issues erupted big time, so I have been pretty slow on the uptake. But we have been able to visit Evy’s lovely house, and meet her pets, her husband and her daughter. Evy is deeply into patchwork and quilting; here she is holding the first quilt she made. She has been such a guide already!
After lunch at Evy’s, she drove us around the inner city, where we saw the few remaining old buildings, such as the National Library and the Parliament House, ironically built by an Austrian, Theophil Hansen, in imitation of Vienna’s Parliament,
which was, of course, modelled on ancient Greek edifices! Along the way, we saw policemen everywhere, some of them in full riot gear, going where we do not know. We did see some demonstrators protesting about the treatment of the refugees, and assumed that’s where the police were headed.
Today, after a very slow start, we did manage to make it to one museum. But first we took the Metro, which is very sleek, clean, and easy to use (if you can figure out Greek letters, it’s helpful, although most signs have both spellings). And each Metro station has a display of some of the artifacts uncovered while building the site. We’re talking REAL artifacts: the ones we saw at the Evangelismos station dated from the 1st century B.C., and included a pottery kiln and a part of a Roman aqueduct! We are still in awe of the fact that these are all ancient objects, that we are standing on ground where Pericles and Plato may have stood. We can’t wait to check out the other Metro stops!
Talk about old: we then went to the Museum of Cycladic Art, which houses one of the most complete collections of works from this ancient period. I love these elongated primitive female figures that date from 2700 B.C. The Museum is a real gem, four floors devoted to very early Greek (and Cypriote) culture. And the restaurant there is stunningly good: on light rations as I am, I had a pumpkin soup, and George had a fantastically elegant ceviche. The museum also has a very upscale shop, but unfortunately the jewelry does not include reproductions of the magnificent pieces in the collection!
Finally, we came home by Metro and bus, during which time we stopped at one of the many pleasant little green spaces around the city. George, et in Arcadia ego?