Monday, 16 September 2019

Athens: Acropolis and Archeological Finds

The mask of "Agamenmon" with a breastplate in gold
Today we dived fully into Greek culture and history with a visit to the National Archeological Museum followed by the Arcopolis.

We got to the museum via the Metro, which is 1.50 euros per ride and Google maps. It's a very large museum, the biggest holding archeological treasures in Greece. Many of the items were found from excavations thanks to German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann.

Jockey of the Artemision is a lively yet unproportional statue
One of the highlights is the gold mask Schliemann found on top of a body that he believed was the death mask of 13th century BC King Agamemnon. However, the mask is actually dated 300 years before then, but the name Agamemnon stuck.

There are many funeral objects in this museum, from jewellery to vases, sculptures, friezes and miniatures of everyday objects found in graves. The jewellery designs in particular are so modern and fresh in brilliant gold, while sculptures, even though many were headless or armless, revealed so much about the artistic merit of the bodies' shapes and their supposed poses.

Some friezes were scenes of family members saying good-bye to loved ones in a solemn manner as death was not something people talked about openly.

Beautiful designs stamped on thin gold buttons
One dynamic sculpture is the Jockey of the Artemision. The bronze horse looks like it's about to jump over something, while a tiny boy rides on its back. Apparently the sculpture was dredged from the sea, but is restored into a very good condition.

The museum overall is pretty good, though the staff sitting in each of the rooms don't wear uniforms, and casually chit-chat with each other.

And someone needs to fix the museum shop -- there is nothing in there that would interest tourists in buying any of the merchandise in there!

We went back to our hotel, which happens to be very close to the Acropolis, and grabbed a bite to eat. We ate our first gyros -- thin slices of meat with lettuce, tomato -- and French fries! -- with tzatziki sauce before heading out to the new Acropolis Museum at 4pm. However, when we got there, the museum had closed for the day on Mondays! We didn't do our research.

The Parthenon has some scaffolding for a restoration
But it was late enough in the day to head up to the Acropolis (which we had planned to do after visiting the Acropolis Museum), so we bought the 20 euro-ticket and made our way up there. It was still quite hot, but armed with sunscreen, a hat and umbrella we managed to keep as cool as possible. The walk took about 15 minutes and towards the top we had to be careful walking on very polished marble that was very slippery.

There were quite a few tourists already there, but thankfully not packed. The Parthenon, dedicated to Athena, was sadly not as awe-inspiring as I had hoped, mainly because there is scaffolding over some of the columns and as well as cranes in the temple to help with restoring the structure.

Nevertheless, it was still neat to see the building in person against the deep blue sky. The most interesting architectural aspect of the Parthenon is entasis, a technique where there are gradual curves in the lintels, stairways and pediments, while columns have bulging centres. This optical illusion gives the impression the building is completely straight horizontally and vertically.

The Porch of the Caryatids featuring five female statues
Nearby is the Erechtheion and the highlight is the Porch of the Caryatids. There are supposed to be six women, who are believed to be novices serving the goddess Athena. However the five standing here are copies -- the real ones are in the Acropolis Museum, while the last one was taken by Lord Elgin in the 1800s. He also took -- or stole? -- lots of other things from the Parthenon too that can be seen in the British Museum...

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