April 12, 2006 – Wednesday – Athens – Roman Forum, Tower of the Winds, Monastiraki, Lykavitos Hill, Benaki Museum
I set my alarm for 7am, and I’m out the door shortly after 8am. I am at the Acropolis entrance when it opens and want to see the Acropolis Museum. The only problem is the ticket I have can only be used once for the Acropolis itself!
I am disappointed, but there is more to see using my combination ticket, so I walk down to the Roman Forum. The Tower of the Winds is of particular interest to me, especially after hearing the talk on sundials at the RASC Victoria Centre a few months ago. The Tower of the Winds holds special significance since it is a sundial, a compass, a weather vane, and a water clock. The tower was built in the first century AD by Andronikos of Kyrrhos, a Syrian astronomer.
I wander around Monastiraki for a short while, however it is mainly a shopping district and restaurants, so it is of little interest to me. I take the metro Blue Line to Syndagma, the closest station to Lykavitos Hill, which is my next target. The funicular train takes people to the top of the hill for €4.50 (return). There are also stairs to the top of the hill for those so inclined (pun intended). There are wonderful unobstructed views of the whole of Athens from the top. There is also an (expensive) restaurant and a small chapel dedicated to St. George.
I take the funicular train back down the hill, then walk back to the Benaki Museum (€6 admission – no photography).
I notice police paddy wagons parked in the side streets, and there is a protest happening across the street at the side of the Parliament. I quickly duck inside and the woman who sold me the admission said they were all crying a half hour ago, since the riot police had used tear gas.
This museum’s artifacts are mainly the result of bequests from private collections by wealthy Greeks. The quality of the artifacts is noticeably better, having less restoration, and the museum also offers a very diverse collection, which they cycle through displays.
The Benaki Museum consists of several sites. This one contains the Museum of Greek Culture, where ancient finds are on the main floor, and modern (to about 1900) Greek artifacts, textiles, and art are on the upper floors. I didn’t find liturgical vestments, gospels, historical letters and notes and other paper and parchment in any other museums. This is fascinating material. There is also a huge collection of jewellery, Greek costumes and folk artifacts (for those who are interested).
After returning to my apartment, finding Internet access is the next thing on the list. I go to an Internet cafe 4 blocks down Solomou which charges €1.50/hr. Warning: all the Internet cafes in Athens are smoky!
I go to Xapas, Methonis 58 for dinner this evening. I have pork simmered in a nice sauce with rice, and a Greek salad sans cucumbers. Cost was €15. The tomatoes the restaurants use here in Athens are so lovely and sweet – no doubt fully vine-ripened, unlike the horrible tomatoes we have available in Canada.