Friday, October 10, 2014

The National Archaelogical Museum.

One of the museum's treasure, the Artemision Bronze.  The statue represents either Zeus or Poseidon.

We had a few hours to kill before we have to get back on the metro and head to the airport for our flight to Izmir, Turkey. With our luggage safely stowed away in an empty in the basement of a small cafe in Monastiraki Square, we headed to the National Archaeological Museum. It was the one place on my Athens itinerary that we had not gotten a chance to see so now that we had the opportunity to go, we did.


The museum is located several blocks north of the Central Market.  We knew our way there.  Along the way, we made a pit stop in a small hardware shop.  Somewhere between our apartment in Oia and the guesthouse in Kamari, I lost the lock to my suitcase.  I needed a replacement.  The first store went into had locks but they were too large.  The second store carried just what I needed but they were key locks - good enough to get through this trip but once I get home, I will need to get a TSA lock.  Anyway, as I was looking at the various locks, I picked up a barrel shaped locked that was a combination lock.  It would have been nice to have a combination lock but it looked a bit flimsy so I put it down, settling for a small key lock instead.  When we went to pay for the key lock, the salesman (maybe he was the owner also?) threw in the key lock for free.  A gift he said.  How kind. I am going to miss the Greeks.

Our walk took us back up towards our apartment and then to the Central Market.  Of course, we had to walk through the market even though we weren't going to be buying anything.  Vendors were setting up for the day.



I have to admit, as many times as we've been through the market, I see new things on each visit.  Like this egg shop.  Right across the street from the fruit vendors but somehow I never noticed it.  If I had, I would have bought my eggs here instead of at the mini mart.

The shop sold just eggs.   Nothing else.  Just eggs.  Lots of different sizes and colors. 

It took longer than I expected to walk to the museum.  I think that was partly due to the fact that it was morning rush hour and there was a lot of traffic on the road.  We had to wait for the light to change instead of being able to just dart across the road.  Ah....but we weren't in any rush so it was okay.  Good thing was that it was a beautiful day for a walk in Athens.  It was nice to be back in the cool weather of this city; Santorini was still hot....though not humid.

We were walking through a very commercial area - lots of stores but few had yet to open for business.  And yes, we were back in the graffiti zone. Paint scribble on every surface imaginable!

The museum seemed to just pop out of nowhere.  Store, apartment, museum!  There was a large plaza in front with a few flower beds, emptied for the season.


Inside, we got our entry tickets and checked in our backpacks as we were not allowed to bring them into the exhibition halls.  Off the main lobby, there are three main galleries. We were instructed to start with a specific one - the Prehistoric Collection.  Apparently, you have to visit the galleries in a certain order so you travel through history.

The Prehistoric Collection.

We started with the Prehistoric Collection.

One of the most important items in the collection are these Cycladic marble figurines.  Very tiny but very cute.

The collection was well displayed and described.  There was a LOT of stuff to see!

A ceramic cylinder, depicting a procession of fisherman moving to the right.  (Circa 1600 BC)

There was a lot of pottery.

I loved these little animal figurines.  Very whimsical and charming!

There plenty of ancient bronze items in the collection.

One room was filled with kouroi.


The statue on the left is a kore, on the right is a kouroi.  Got the difference?  Dressed woman vs. naked man :-)

Grave stelae.

Looking back out to the museum lobby.

There's the Bronze Collection.  The most famous treasure here is the Artemision Bronze.

It's either Zeus or Poseidon.  Historians think it's the former.  (Circa 460 BC)

We went through a few galleries filled with dozens of statues, reliefs, stelai and sarcophagi.  There were so many items, it was dizzying.  Honestly, after a while, things started to blur - statues looked the same.

A very unusual shaped vase.


Grave stele.

Votive amphiglyphon in Pentelic marble with relief.  Artemis is on the left, three Nymphs on the right. (Circa 410 BC)

My favorite treasure in the museum's collection was this amazing bronze of a young boy riding a horse, the Jockey of Artemision.  The detail of the body of the horse is astonishing!  So realistic that it conveys the motion of the animal moving.  The delicate folds of the boy's toga was so perfectly rendered.



There was good sized room filled with statues dedicated to Aphrodite. No doubt she was the *hot* beauty of her day!  Ancient Greeks liked their women with curves ;-)



Sarcophagus in marble.  Circa 2 AD.

A collection of bronzes from Macedonia.



This bronze sheet was another treasure that caught my eye.

Sanctuary of Olympia.
A bronze sheet divided into 4 sections.  According to the description, from top to bottom:
1.  Eagles
2.  Griffins
3.  Herakles shooting his arrows at a Centaur during a battle.
4.  Mistress of animals.

Another of the museum's highlights is the Varvakeios Athena.  The importance of the statue lies more in the fact that it is a chryselephantine replica of the original gold and ivory statue of Athena Parthenos by Pheidias rather than its aesthetic value.  It's stunning statue even if it is a copy.



A statuette of Athena.  Greek sculptors were geniuses when it came to depicting motion!

And just in case, we hadn't already seen enough statues, there was huge gallery dedicated to nothing BUT statues.

The most famous member of the collection - the Antikythera Ephebe.



Statue of Poseidon.  A masterpiece in marble.

Aphrodite on the left.  Pan making an erotic advance.  Eros coming to Aphrodite's rescue.
Naughty Pan! 

A drunken threesome!  Dionysos on the right, Pan on the left and a Satyr in the middle. 

And last but not least, there is the Collection of Vases and Minor Arts. 


By now, I was more than ready to leave.  I was overwhelmed by sensory overload.  We had missed a few collections and completely forgot all about seeing the frescoes from Akrotiri but I was fine with not seeing them.

After retrieving our backpacks from the check room, we headed outside, found a bench to sit on and munched on the pastries we had bought from the coffee shop in Monastiraki Square.  They were as delicious as they looked and I wanted to get more.

Back at the coffee shop, we retrieved our luggage and bought a couple more pastries....for lunch :-)  The place was hopping with patrons.  The counter cases that had been empty earlier in the morning were now overflowing with scrumptious looking pastries and there was even a large pan of chicken and rice ready for the lunch crowd. That looked delicious as well.  Before we left, Bro snapped a photo of the owner and the young girl working alongside here.

The coffee shop owner in the striped shirt with a baseball cap and her equally bubbly employee!

From here, we walked about 50 feet to the Monastiraki station and caught the train back to the airport.  We arrived with plenty of time to check in and go through security.  We're on our way to Turkey and I'm feeling very bittersweet. I'm a bit sad to be leaving Greece.   It's been a wonderful two weeks here and I go with very fond memories of the places I've been to, the people I've met and the food I've eaten. I really want to come back some day and see more of this lovely country.  At the same time, I am very excited to be returning to a country that I fell in love with six years ago.  I'm looking forward to showing Bro the places I've been to and that I know he will enjoy going to as well.  I'm also excited to discover new places and share in new experiences with him.

Goodbye from Athens!