At least today we intend to start late. Yesterday turned out to be long, despite a very slow and argumentative start. Today we start late with intent, and will keep it short. The rains are harder and colder today. Fortunately we did the outdoor stuff when it was nice.
Across the street from the Herodion hotel (nice enough, solid continental hotel) is an adorable cafe and bookstore called ‘The Little Tree’. They have some of the best food we eat in Athens, including a cake that tastes like a big Kit-Kat candy bar that Amanda and Lily like, and a lemon creme tart with cream overflowing onto the plate that Emma and I prefer. The coffee and croissant today are perfect.
In the rain we bundle up and head to the metro, which is clean and effective and cheap. I expected less, owing to the long decline of the Greek economy. I guess they made this a priority. They supposedly uncovered a ton of ancient stuff when they dug the tunnels. Several stations, but not this one, have displays of artifacts or foundations of old buildings on display like a museum.
On board I snap a shot of the two girls, we’ve been calling them ‘Ninny and Fidlar’ When we were in Meteora a guy that spoke almost no English asked their names and I said ‘Lily’ to which he repeated ‘Nelly’, and I pointed to Emma’s hat and said ‘Fidlar’. He laughed. Nelly eventually became Ninny and ‘Ninny and Fidlar’ were born. (Fidlar is a band Emma likes. Actually, I like them too.)
Our only stop today is the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. It’s got the largest collection of Greek antiquity in the world. We walk about ten minutes from the metro in the cold. Athens looks pretty lively, aside from the cruise missile that hit this magazine stand. Nothing around it was affected. It looks trashed and looted. What does that?
Within minutes we are dazzled by treasures from the Mycenean period, gold and jewels and pottery and weapons. It’s a stunning collection. Emma loves this statue of Poseidon or Zeus – it kind of looks like Poseidon but the trident it never thrown like that. Zeus would have thrown a lightning bolt like that however. The guard asks me to delete the photo because Emma was making a silly face. I tell him yes, but keep it.
Lily decides her goal is to photograph every penis she can find and send them back in a gigantic snapchat story to her friend in the US who will wake up to a whole bunch of stone crotches on her expensive smartphone. I’m not sure if I approve or disapprove. I don’t know if she picks up much behind her teen eye-rolling perimeter and snarky defense.
Every once in a while we get Lily in a real conversation, but it almost feels like we’ve tricked her into not noticing that she’s acting like a human. Most of the time we get a lot of sass and attitude. She does still like to be teased, so I push her into a lot of doorframes and kick the bottom of her shoe a bunch and say she’s twelve years old instead of 14. Wait, who’s the adolescent here?
A new discovery for me, and I presume all of us, is the Antikythera Mechanism, eponymously given it’s name from a shipwreck that provided hundreds of works of ancient Greece, many in amazing condition. This device isn’t workable anymore, but is considered the first analog computer on earth. It provided astronomical calculations for calendrical and astrological purposes. It had almost 30 gears. Built in about 200 B.C., the engineering behind it was lost for nearly a millennium and a half. Similar scientific capability did not reappear until the 1400’s.
Emma has a great love for Athena, especially Athena with any kind of head-dress. We finally find the Roman replica of the giant Parthenon Athena that would have been larger than life on the acropolis, but is quite small here.
There is a ton more we look at – Egyptian, a special exhibit on works related to the Odyssey (which Emma read on her own as a young kid she loved it so much) and more Roman and Greek work. There are tons and tons of grave markers and heads that it becomes overwhelming. We lose steam and head for the cafe for an ice cream and hot chocolate and of course coffee for the adults.
Our dinner is expensive and shitty at a touristy place the hotel recommended called Daphne’s. It’s not bee easy to eat in Greece – although it’s never really easy to eat. The kids are a little picky and Amanda and I are vegetarian. We eat a lot of lousy pasta with red sauce. We head back to the little cafe afterward for a sandwich and some dessert. Much better…
The next day is our last in Athens and it’s snowing. Athens doesn’t get much snow, and when it gets a lot it can be very dangerous said a restaurant owner I talked to. “The city is not prepared. People break their arms all the time, slipping, and go to hospital. We don’t find it that bad, but there isn’t much accumulation. A broken arm would suck.
Fortunately we are just going around the corner to the modernist Acropolis museum. This museum was started and stopped several times in the last 40 years finally ending in this gorgeous building that is suspended above excavations one can see through the transparent floor. It is supported on pillars that extend to the bedrock below and are on bearings that can withstand a Richter 10 earthquake.
Arriving early on a snowy day makes the experience even better. It’s done beautifully, more than beautifully, it’s one of the greatest museums we’ve ever seen. Photography of the items was prohibited, but they did a fantastic job curating and displaying the art from neolithic to ancient times. We totally enjoy it despite seeing three days of greek antiquities.
But it’s time to leave Athens and Greece. Our flight departs from the Athens airport at 3pm and we fly for two hours to Vienna, where we will spend New Year’s Eve! Here are the Creekmore’s at the airport on our way to Vienna. This is a candid photo, not kidding.