Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Sun on Sunday (Athens, part IV)

I woke this morning with no particular agenda.   Over breakfast I considered two possibilities – a trip to the one of the harbor towns on the south edge of Athens, or a visit to the National Archaeological Museum.  Since it was overcast and much cooler today, I chose the latter.  I took the efficient Athens Metro (which is now running except for the airport line) near the museum and walked the last several blocks.

Just before the museum I passed the Polytechnic University.  In 1973, students here protested against the military government that had ruled the country since a coup in 1967.  The protests were brutally repressed, but marked the beginning of the end of the government and a return to democratic rule.

The National Archaeological Museum is quite large and has an impressive collection.  The greatest amount of space is dedicated to classical sculpture, but there are also collections of Mycenaean, Cycladic, and Egyptian antiquities.  There was also a special exhibit of items from a shipwreck off of the island of Antikythera.  The ship, which sank sometime in the 1st Century BC, contained a number of Greek art works bound for Rome, where they were in high demand. 

After a lunch break at the museum, I returned by Metro to Syntagma Square in the city center.  I walked by the Parliament building and then strolled through the adjacent National Gardens.  This was formerly a royal park and in the early 19th Century was filled with exotic plants.  It is a lush, dense oasis in the middle of the city.

I then walked west from Syntagma Square through the city center’s pedestrian shopping area.  I popped into two small churches, listened to a busker, and found myself close to the Roman Agora, which I had walked to the day before from the other direction.  So, I decided to double back and complete the final third of the walk around the Acropolis through the Plaka neighborhood. 

This brought me back near my hotel, so I decided to return for a brief rest and a cup of coffee.  When I went back out a short time later it felt even colder and the wind was picking up.  I opted for a return visit to the nearby Acropolis Museum, which was a good decision as I discovered a number of interesting things that I hadn’t noticed, or hadn’t had the context for, on my first visit.

The day before I left Sofia, I ran into one of the Bulgarian judges I know.  We talked about my trip, and he told me he had a friend in Athens who I should meet.  So, after a few e-mails, Aias the Greek maritime lawyer and I made plans to meet for dinner this evening.   It was a fantastic time.  I always enjoy meeting new people, and I really like to meet people from the places I met.  Over five or six courses we discussed all sorts of topics ranging from the pros and cons of solo law practice to the settlement of rural Iowa in the 19th Century.  After dinner we took a walk and talked some more.  It was a great addition to the weekend, and gave a personal dimension to my impressions of Greece.

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