Thursday 25 August 2011

A Tribute to Athena

I am in GREECE, hanging out with The Adorable Nephew and his new little brother, The Adorablet.  On my way to see them I visited Athens for the first time.


Back in the day (and we're talking Olden Days of Yore here), Athenians and foreign visitors took part in the yearly Panathenaic procession.  They walked up to the Parthenon to present sacrifices and a specially woven dress to Athena.

And so, one morning last week, I performed my own tribute to Athena (who combined being the goddess of wisdom with being the goddess of handicrafts) put on my new dress and my bling-est sandals and set off up the Acropolis.

I was fortified by coffee and bougatsa (layers of phyllo pastry with sweet, creamy cheese) and just as well because even at 9.30 it was hot and crowded.

And completely worth it: for the views, the atmosphere and the absolutely jaw-dropping sight of the Parthenon up close.

Everyone has to pass through the Propylaea, the ancient gateway.  Not for the claustrophobic.  I overheard one American girl say to her friend, 'I guess they weren't thinking about people walking up here when they built it.'  Because the Ancient Greeks are famous for their invention of the funicular?

This is the old temple of Athena which got replaced by the Parthenon.  These ladies hold up the stones so gracefully and without complaint.

The Parthenon, which is really as lovely close up as you would hope:

The Parthenon cats:

Afterwards I walked down to the new Acropolis Museum.

Greeks I've met have spoken very proudly of this, and with justice.  The architecture (by a Swiss even!) is elegant and simple and does justice to the fantabulous collections.  It's not often you encounter a museum with a clear villain, but this is an exception.  The baddie is, of course, Lord Elgin, whose rape of the Parthenon marbles is mentioned often.

I've heard a lot of arguments for and against the return of said marbles to Greece; all I can say is that when I stood in the room dedicated to the Parthenon friezes in the Acropolis Museum and looked out the huge windows to the Acropolis itself ...  the marbles meant a great deal more to me than they ever did in the British Museum.

Edited to add, courtesy of Lady Traveller's Little Sister:

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