Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greece: Last Day - The Museum

A slight rain greeted us the next morning as we lie in bed at the Esperia Palace Hotel in Athens, Greece. This was both a good thing and cause for small worry as it concerned our planned day ahead. The vacation was winding down far too fast for anyone's liking but here we were, the last day in Greece. The long journey home started first thing in the morning but now, this morning, rain pattering on the window outside we had two things left to accomplish. After only the second late wake-up call of the week, it was time to be quick about getting up and getting out.

The National Archaeological Museum opened at 8AM but we were in no hurry and thought what better way to spend a rainy day; it was the afternoon we were more concerned about as we set out northwest on Stadiou Street to Omonoia Square and then north on Patision Street to the forecourt of the museum. When we arrived, the immediate impression is that if ever there was a museum dedicated to national history, art and architecture greater than this one it is simply gone from the face of the earth. The Louvre and British Museums are collections of showpieces from former world empires. This one in a sense is the same, featuring works from every major island-state and culture in the Greek world but all from what is now one nation.

Whole statues, fragments of works, shelf after shelf of "amphorae," the Greek clay urns and pots hand painted with gods and other heroes lay in every direction. Pick an era and simply stand in the midst of incredible art and exquisite architecture. In one display case was the fabled gold funerary mask of Agamemnon.
Another room featured a bronze of Zeus/Poseidon that was found at sea in a shipwreck. He is poised to throw his lightning bolt or trident, depending on which legend you read first that included a picture of the piece. For me it was Poseidon.

A few "Kouros" statues stood solemnly in still another room, braided hair hanging to their shoulder blades, deep chests trumpeting youth, power, vitality, etc. More than a few samples of jewelry, silver and copper coins and other shiny or dangly bits lined the walls, very few of which were more recent than 400 years BC. The crowning moment for me was the bronze of Perseus, inlaid eyes staring with deadly intent at some hapless victim, the forefingers of his right hand crooked as if holding a stone or just releasing one. In today's language the look on his face said it all: "I gotchoo, and I'm gon' bust you up!"

In familiar refrain we left the museum all too soon but had one more tour to take on this our last day in Greece. The rain had let up encouragingly as we quick-stepped back to the hotel for our 3:30PM pick-up in the hotel lobby. Wanting to say good-bye to Greece in style, our half-day tour this afternoon was to Cape Sounion, about 90 minutes southeast of Athens, to watch the sun setting behind arguably the most beautifully set temple in at least all of Greece.

Gotta go.

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