Yesterday did not start out auspiciously. We have both hit the wall, as they say: really exhausted from travelling, disoriented by being in a country where we have to learn a new alphabet, missing a new grandchild, and both of us sick besides. We nonetheless persisted, and after checking online (twice!) to make sure the Acropolis Museum was open late, we set out to go there at about 3:30 in the afternoon (Greeks do everything
hours later than everyone else!). By the time we got to the Museum–we were told it was closing! Apparently winter hours have not been correctly posted on the English-language sites.
By then it was 5 o’clock, it was threatening to rain, and the Metro workers were going on strike the next day. But we regrouped, and decided to walk around the Acropolis to the Temple of Hephaestos and back to the Metro and home.
What an opportune decision! Along this arcadian walk around the Acropolis, there were few people, no crowds, no tourists–just us, a few Athenians out walking their dogs or strolling in the park, some quiet music wafting from somewhere, and otherwise stillness. We were able to walk up to the base of the Acropolis, and touch the Stoa of Eumenes, built in the 1st century B.C.
We could also look into the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, built in 161 AD, destroyed in 267 AD, and rebuilt in the 1950s. This is where the Athens Festival happens; Maria Callas sang here in 1957 in a famous performance at its re-opening.
And all along this route were ruins and evidence of ancient life. These ancient pots stacked up against the Stoa looked like they were still in use.
We walked around the side of the Areopagus Rock, toward Thisseo Park, and were delighted to find that it is a wildly natural preserve right up against the Acropolis. Up on the other side of the Acropolis was Filopappou Hill, where, my map told us, Socrates’ Prison Cell is located. Throughout are ruins, some Roman, some Greek, some Byzantine. We saw a mosaic floor from a Roman house, right in the middle of a meadow and walked on by magpies; a Sanctuary of Pan, the cult of the semi-deity of fertility and sexuality; and several other bits of ancient debris. Even the trash cans here were charming: one was made into the shape of a Byzantine church!
From here one also gets a fantastic view over to Mt. Lycabettus rising above the Stoa in the Agora. And all this for free!
We then walked over to the magnificent Temple of Hephaestus, god of fire and metal-work, built in the 5th century B.C. and still standing largely as it appeared then.
Finally, we walked back to Monastriki Station, where some of the best of the antiquities found on site are displayed. We love that each station exhibits the artifacts found in situ. And what finds they are! Can you imagine what it must be like to try and build anything in Athens? Every time you dig anywhere, you will find the most amazing treasures!
In the end, then, our seemingly abortive expedition turned into a tranquil walk through what our friend Evy describes as a “place of Zen” in Athens. Really a quite dramatic and magical space. And always, always, the cats of Athens!