April in Greece, part 4: Athens again

The National Archeological Museum in Athens is one of the most impressive of its kind in the world, and also one of the biggest. When I first visited Athens in 1982 I spent three consecutive days there.

This time (April 2022) my visit was shorter but the museum is still spectacular. A tip: If like me you have a journalist’s card, note the museum is free for journalists. This was something I did not discover until I had paid for a ticket online.

Another tip: If visiting from April onwards, book your ticket online to avoid the crowds. When I visited in January this year perhaps 20 people were waiting when the museum opened. When I visited in mid April the queue for tickets was more than a kilometre long. Opening hours in summer (from April to October) are from 8.30am until 8pm. Winter hours tend to be 8am to 3pm.

Easily my favourite item is the bronze statue of Poseidon or Zeus from about 480 BC. Most scholars say the the statue represents Zeus, the thunder-thrower and king of the gods.

But others suggest it might be Poseidon, the ruler of the sea. It depends on whether you believe he would have held a thunderbolt (Zeus) or a trident (Poseidon). I like to think it’s Zeus.

The statue is slightly bigger than life-size at 209 cm in height and seems to glow.

Allow at least four hours to see as much of the museum as you can endure, though endure is the wrong word for such a pleasant and fascinating experience.

The cafe and garden in the basement, next to the toilets and the museum shop, are a good place to rest your feet. Because your feet will complain about the hard floor of the museum and the large crowds. Expect to clock 10,000 steps there.

The representations of the male nude are splendid. The temptation to take lots of photos is strong. Some of the exhibits are compelling in the sense I needed to look at them for a long time to appreciate the lines and the talent involved in creating such masterworks.

To think that male face was created more than 2,500 years ago yet is appears so full of life today.

You will see superb sculptures of women. In the images above it’s Aphrodite. She was a busy woman, being the goddess of love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. In the right-hand photo she is fending off Pan while Eros looks on. Often Eros is portrayed as a winged youth but here he is a baby.

Pan is the god of nature, wild places, shepherds and flocks, and is often associated with sexuality and fertility. They were a randy bunch, those Greek gods.

This above is a scene from one of my favourite areas in Athens, the suburb known as Psyri.

Nearby is Kerameikos to the northwest of the Acropolis and one of the oldest areas in the city. It was the potters’ quarter. We derive the English word “ceramic” from the area.

It was the site of an important cemetery and the start of the Sacred Way, the road between Athens and Eleusis. The Sacred Way was the route taken by a procession celebrating the Eluesinian mysteries.

I was taken by this image of a tree. Remarkable how it has been shaped like a hand. Athens is a fine city for strolling in, and provides constant surprises if one is willing to take their time.

Finally, a bit of fun. This is a sign on a building near our apartment. It represents the thing that many millennials cannot understand. And the words below it offers the chance of their redemption when they answer that “it’s all Greek to me” to the question of what is syntax.

Categories: Greece, Not home

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