It was time to wrap up our tour of Greece. We visited two museums that we missed earlier this month, mostly because they were pretty far down the list of must-see tourist attractions, through no fault of their own.
The first one was the National Historical Museum, which shows Greek relics ranging from the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to WWII. What was most interesting to us was the fact that the museum occupies the Old Parliament Building, which was used from 1875 to 1935. How nice to see that Greek school kids are here to learn more about their history and the formation of their modern nation.
We saw some very pretty and some very interesting things. But when you stand behind a school group drawing in its collective breath in front of a display, you know a national nerve has just been touched. Kind of like seeing Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat, if you happen to be American.
And then there was Lord Byron, that passionate Hellenist who helped fuel European support for Greek independence. This museum holds his traveling bed, which unfolds from a trunk and looks extremely uncomfortable. Both the trunk and the photo of the bed are heavily protected by what must be bullet-proof glass – a real tribute to his contribution to the movement.
There were lots of relics of King Otto and Queen Amalia, but since we think it’s a pity that an Austrian prince got put into power in Greece by the superpowers controlling its fate in 1832, we skipped most of them.
Our next stop was the Athen’s food market, which has all the charm and energy one would expect in places where animals are chopped up and fish are gutted. Amazing displays, though we eventually shifted to the more tame vegetable market, where the trick seems to be for vendors to out-yell each other to attract customers. Would love to have some of the olive sellers handy in New York…
We dropped into the Museum of the City of Athens, which happens to occupy the building that was the home of King Otto and Queen Amalia between 1836 and 1843. My feelings about them are clear, further compounded by the “no photos” rule of the current administration. No more need be said.
As the finale of our day, we returned to the Acropolis Museum, which has the most lovely cafe. We went to sit on the balcony, have lunch, and to take one more look at the Acropolis and its crowning glory, the Parthenon.
We visited it earlier this month, but it was a thrill to see it again. The Parthenon is – for us – the symbol of all the glories of ancient Greece, so many of which we now have been privileged to see. The classical age was a time of magic and genius. What happened three thousand years ago seems as real to us as our own time, and helps us understand how we got here.
We’ll never forget our trip to Greece – and will use this visit as our invitation to learn more and gain a deeper appreciation of the wonders of this world.
Don’s Food Corner
While we didn’t get the best table at the Acropolis Museum cafe like we nabbed a few weeks ago, the food remains the top-quality refined version of the traditional fare we have tasted over the last month.
Jo ordered the same dish that she loved so much when we were here before — a risotto with cheese and chunks of the most tender, most delicately seasoned lamb that you can imagine.
I tried the “slow-cooked” octopus. It was an unusually large tentacle, very meaty and very tender. It came with a side of millet that had been prepared with a touch of saffron.
We also shared the cafe’s version of Cretan salad, which is the basic Greek salad but with the soft cheese of Crete called myzithra and a bit of stale bread tossed in to soak up all the oil and tomato juices.
A delightful end to a fantastic trip.