A Travellerspoint blog

June 2015

I learn that there is nothing new under the sun...

Yesterday was Friday and I went to a couple of places. The first was the Library of Hadrian, which is a ruin and not really anything to write home about. The next place I visited was the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos which is a very long and columned , two story porticoed building in the ancient Agora ( the old forum and marketplace of Athens). It holds a museum with a good number of statues and treasures found on the site dated from 600BC onwards. I had a bit of a shock while looking around the museum when I saw a 2500 year old pottery item that was used to potty train young children ( there was even a photo/drawing of a child sitting on the potty). Further into the museum I saw casserole dishes on braziers and cooking implements like a barbecue and a pizza oven. This amazed me and began a train of thought that has continued until today Saturday when I visited the very large National Archaeological Museum and found other items from 1000s of years ago that were so like modern goods. To finish my day on the Agora I walked up a slight hill to the Temple of Hephaestus and on my way back down struggling with aching legs and a bit of heatstroke I sat under a tree for a few minutes and took stock of where I was and what was laid out infront of me. I had to remind myself that I was in Athens Greece and was sitting in the shade on a beautiful summers day with a view that included the Acropolis and the Parthenon in the distance. I was in a place that many only dream of, and a few aches and pains and a thirst that could be dealt with were a small price to pay for being in such a privileged position. That was just what I needed to hear to make me open my eyes again and appreciate what was going on around me. I will remember those thoughts if I find myself wallowing again. Back to the amazing Archaeological Museum, and today. It didn't take me long to start seeing things in the display cabinets that could be in anyone's homes in the present. There were things like colanders, safety pins, frying pans, and coffee cups that were being made 5000 years ago in the bronze and iron age civilisations. This whole idea was really difficult to get my head around. The shapes and forms that people found pleasing 5000 years ago in many cases, have stood the test of time and are still aesthetically pleasing and useful today. I remember John Lennon saying that there is nothing you can do that hasn't been already done, and today has just confirmed those words for me. 5000 years may seem a very long time, but in the affairs of the human spirit it is but a heartbeat ago...

Reproduced Stoa of Attalos (covered walkway)

Reproduced Stoa of Attalos (covered walkway)


Shops along the back wall of the Stoa

Shops along the back wall of the Stoa


Shady on a hot day

Shady on a hot day


They had a thing for curly hair

They had a thing for curly hair


400BC Potty Trainer for children !!!

400BC Potty Trainer for children !!!


Casserole & Brazier 600BC

Casserole & Brazier 600BC


Barbeque and Pizza Oven 500BC

Barbeque and Pizza Oven 500BC


Statuette of a Satyr holding a goat

Statuette of a Satyr holding a goat


Theatre Masks 400BC and figurines

Theatre Masks 400BC and figurines


400BC Child's head jugs...cute sells

400BC Child's head jugs...cute sells


Intricately carved capitol (top) of a column

Intricately carved capitol (top) of a column


Temple of Hephaestus from Stoa

Temple of Hephaestus from Stoa


Temple of Hephaestus (god of fire)

Temple of Hephaestus (god of fire)


I sat under a tree & looked at the view

I sat under a tree & looked at the view


The National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum


another YMCA pot

another YMCA pot


Horny satyr and shy nymph

Horny satyr and shy nymph


2500 BC Child & dog - cute sells

2500 BC Child & dog - cute sells


2500 BC and so does cheeky (but why squash a duck)

2500 BC and so does cheeky (but why squash a duck)


a selection of 5000 year old frying pans

a selection of 5000 year old frying pans


a 3000year old well used comb & bald guy

a 3000year old well used comb & bald guy


some things will never catch on, like this

some things will never catch on, like this


and this

and this


and this

and this


maybe useful, but for what?

maybe useful, but for what?


I used to have a whistling kettle that shape

I used to have a whistling kettle that shape


5000 year old colander

5000 year old colander


some of these have stood the test of time

some of these have stood the test of time


can't beat a bit of jewelry

can't beat a bit of jewelry


especially if it's gold

especially if it's gold


and more jewelry

and more jewelry


I thought the safety pin was 20th century

I thought the safety pin was 20th century


Someone could have patented this 5000 years ago

Someone could have patented this 5000 years ago


more frying pans

more frying pans


now either a stupid cup or a funnel

now either a stupid cup or a funnel


that's just beautiful

that's just beautiful


and so is that

and so is that


and that

and that


that one is a 6000 year old keeper

that one is a 6000 year old keeper


I'm sure I used one of these in hospital

I'm sure I used one of these in hospital


goats head cup-drink and be horny

goats head cup-drink and be horny


drink and become an ass?

drink and become an ass?


The one on the right is rocking that flute

The one on the right is rocking that flute


2000 BC Aphrodite

2000 BC Aphrodite


I told the hedgehog not to move

I told the hedgehog not to move


Might be in this position for a number of reasons

Might be in this position for a number of reasons


I once looked like that

I once looked like that


4000BC old macdonald had a farm

4000BC old macdonald had a farm


E-I-E-I-O

E-I-E-I-O


and on his farm he had some goats..

and on his farm he had some goats..


This is Sparta ( or Zeus )

This is Sparta ( or Zeus )


warrior gravestone

warrior gravestone


another warrior headstone

another warrior headstone


Shaking hands means saying goodbye

Shaking hands means saying goodbye


goodbye

goodbye


where does it hurt

where does it hurt


you don't look too good...say ahh

you don't look too good...say ahh


he wouldn't bite anyone

he wouldn't bite anyone


1600 BC painted wall of boys boxing

1600 BC painted wall of boys boxing


1600 BC painted wall of young fawn

1600 BC painted wall of young fawn


just beautiful

just beautiful


200BC Bronze sculpture

200BC Bronze sculpture


Was found in pieces and reasembled

Was found in pieces and reasembled

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Hot up on the hill, and military funny walks

I set off early (about 8am) to make the short climb to the summit of the Acropolis before it got too hot, and before the bus loads of people off cruise ships arrived to fill up the site. I got to the entry at 8.45 and was pleased to see it was already open. With a hat on my head and a bottle of water in hand I began the uphill trudge to get to the first pausing point. This was a partially reconstructed Theatre of Dionysus (Greek god of both wine and the stage) which was first built on the site in the 4th century BC. The old stone seating is impressive, and I have included a photo of the theatre site as seen from the top of the Acropolis. There were probably another four or five steepish slopes or sets of steps to climb before reaching the impressive gateway to the Acropolis, which is in the middle of extensive strengthening and restoration. Having passed through the gateway the extent of the site lies before you and it is clear that there are going to be many years yet of reconstruction before the site can be cleared of cranes and scaffolding. The largest and most amazing building has got to be the Parthenon. The scale of the buildings is gigantic, with pillars so high and massive, that it overwhelms you when you get close to them. It is easy to see why it has been called one of the treasures of the ancient world. The rest of the site has several projects taking place and a smaller but more complete Erechtheum Temple which has its porch balcony held up by replacement caryatids ( the originals have been transferred to the Museum). The views of the city from one of the highest places in Athens are truly beautiful and spectacular and worth the climb to get there. It was good as I was leaving to see the queues of hundreds of people starting to form and I was glad I got there early enough. Once I had got back to the metro station I decided to check out a site called the Temple of Zeus, and so I made a short trip to the area it was in and got lost. Luck has it that I got lost in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier and found myself there in time to see the changing of the guard ceremony. A couple of hundred people were pushing and shoving to get a good view of this so my photos barely capture what went on, but it gives a taste of what was involved. After that little bit of excitement I did manage to find the Temple of Zeus, but after seeing the Parthenon it was so underwhelming that I didn't bother to include photos. All that was there was a total ruin with a few pillars sticking up in the air. I'm going to check out the ancient Agora site tomorrow then I think I will be totally over classical Greek architecture......

Theatre of Dyonysus seating plan

Theatre of Dyonysus seating plan


Looking down to Museum and Theatre of Dionysus

Looking down to Museum and Theatre of Dionysus


A fairly steep ascent, but doable slowly

A fairly steep ascent, but doable slowly


Stopped for a breather

Stopped for a breather


approaching the entrance

approaching the entrance


The gateway being reconstructed

The gateway being reconstructed


On top of Acropolis

On top of Acropolis


Erechtheum Temple

Erechtheum Temple


Other side of Erechtheum Temple

Other side of Erechtheum Temple


copied caryatids holding up roof

copied caryatids holding up roof


view of Athens

view of Athens


view across Athens from Acropolis

view across Athens from Acropolis


The Parthenon north side

The Parthenon north side


Parthenon south side

Parthenon south side


west side

west side


another view of Athens

another view of Athens


leaving through gateway

leaving through gateway


on the way out

on the way out


as I was leaving, cruise ship 1000's arrived

as I was leaving, cruise ship 1000's arrived


high above the city

high above the city


In front of Parliament and tomb of unknown soldier

In front of Parliament and tomb of unknown soldier


relieving guards arrive for inspection

relieving guards arrive for inspection


same

same


relieving guards

relieving guards


relieving guards

relieving guards


relieving guards approach tomb

relieving guards approach tomb


two sets of guards meet at the tomb

two sets of guards meet at the tomb


departing guards

departing guards


same

same

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

A tale of two Museums, a big un and a little un

Yesterday I visited two Museums in Athens. I was really excited about visiting the Acropolis Museum because it rates as the #1 attraction on Tripadvisor. It is a new modern building and all of the statues and treasures that were left in the ruined buildings on the rock called the Acropolis were moved here. The first two floors are full of damaged but beautiful remnants from the Parthenon and other Temples from the site. There are a dozen guards on these two floors that will not tolerate any photo taking, so the only views I could take of these floors were from balconies above. They have however done a wonderful job of recreating how the Parthenon would have looked when it was first built in 440BC as a Temple to the Goddess Athena. The floor is built to the same dimensions as the temple and friezes that ran round the upper part of the temple have been reconstructed at a level that is easy to see and appreciate. This was done in part to try to convince the British Museum to return the portions of the frieze called "The Elgin Marbles" which were taken from the site by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum in the 19th century. There are spaces in the frieze where these should be, and gaps where pieces have been destroyed over the centuries. The Museum showed a couple of films which made one aware of how glorious the Parthanon was for several centuries, and how even today in it's ruined state it typifies an era when Greek culture was at it's height. Today I visited the site itself and am glad that I saw the Museum first. Anyway it was too hot when I left the museum at 2pm to make the climb up to the top of the Acropolis, so I thought I would try to find the ancient cemetery area, which was supposed to have a nice little airconditioned museum to look around. I almost gave up trying to find it, but got there in the end. I'm glad that I persevered because it was an amazing place, full of lovely things they had excavated from graves in the area. Mainly graves or burial plots that were used over the 1000 years before the birth of Christ. This area was used as a burial ground up to 3000 years BC by people of the iron age, and the numbers are staggering. The first item I saw was a little child's toy horse on wheels, and I thought I was seeing things when the label on it said 900 years BC. The small items in the cabinets were fascinating but the really beautiful items were in the courtyard and passages off it. Starting with a bull, which was so real you could hear it breath, then the life size statues of what were once living people were so beautiful and real it felt humbling to be in their presence. The little Museum really outshone the big un. Back in the real world of sun and sky outside the Museum, it didn't take long for the heat to get to me, so I tried to find my way back to the metro station, home and a well earned cup of tea and a lie down in my room. It was possibly 30 degrees but felt a lot warmer out of the shade...

big new Acropolis Museum

big new Acropolis Museum


entry to Acropolis Museum

entry to Acropolis Museum


Only photo I got on first 2 floors before told NO

Only photo I got on first 2 floors before told NO


totally lifelike and 2200 years old

totally lifelike and 2200 years old


frieze from around top of Parthanon

frieze from around top of Parthanon


section of frieze

section of frieze


another frieze from fight between men and centaurs

another frieze from fight between men and centaurs


model of gable end statue grouping

model of gable end statue grouping


actual piece from that grouping

actual piece from that grouping


and others

and others


second floor where best statues are

second floor where best statues are


model showing caryatids supporting roof

model showing caryatids supporting roof


only view I could photo of  actual caryatids

only view I could photo of actual caryatids


one for the nature lovers

one for the nature lovers


cheeky little Greek church

cheeky little Greek church


Can't find the entrance to the ancient Cemetery

Can't find the entrance to the ancient Cemetery


got into it eventually

got into it eventually


burials along 20km of sacred road for 3000 years

burials along 20km of sacred road for 3000 years


Church attached to cemetery

Church attached to cemetery


one of many burial markers in cemetery

one of many burial markers in cemetery


The 600 BC centrepiece of a burial plot

The 600 BC centrepiece of a burial plot


lifesize burial statue 400 BC

lifesize burial statue 400 BC


800 BC lifesize burial statue

800 BC lifesize burial statue


500 BC Mother and child tombstone

500 BC Mother and child tombstone


400 BC servant and Mistress burial statues

400 BC servant and Mistress burial statues


Lifesize and so lifelike

Lifesize and so lifelike


500BC Pottery

500BC Pottery


same

same


Mourners, I don't think it was YMCA song

Mourners, I don't think it was YMCA song


3000 year old face

3000 year old face


This may have been part of the YMCA set.

This may have been part of the YMCA set.


3000 year old spoon

3000 year old spoon


600 BC child's toy for the afterlife

600 BC child's toy for the afterlife


The weird and the wonderful

The weird and the wonderful


I still haven't seen a unicorn version

I still haven't seen a unicorn version


Sorry the head broke off

Sorry the head broke off


800 BC chooks

800 BC chooks


Maybe horses looked like that in 800BC

Maybe horses looked like that in 800BC


this one looks more horsey

this one looks more horsey


900 BC child's toy horse

900 BC child's toy horse


900 BC gold jewellery and pretty box

900 BC gold jewellery and pretty box

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

My first day and finding my feet in Athens

After a really good sleep I did what I normally do and wasted the morning waking up slowly. When I was fed and showered I headed out on a beautiful morning to tentatively find my bearings in Athens. I managed to work the ticket machine, even though it was in Greek, at the nearest metro station and took a 10 minute two stop trip to Monasteraki, which is one of the central places in Athens. It is from here that most people begin their climb up the hill to reach the major attractions of the Acropolis and the Parthanon. Today I just wanted to familiarise myself with the area and see what it felt like to just wander around aimlessly. The first thing I noticed was the church of the Pantanassa which is across from the Metro station, and is a lovely bit of 10th century architecture. It is all that is left of a large monastery on the site, and I thought I was good to pop inside and take a few photos. As soon as I got to the door though I had a hand shoved in front of my camera and a little guy yelling NO PHOTOS at me. "No worries mate" was my reply as I backed out of the door before he called the cops with guns. Walking down the so called fleamarket lanes past ancient ruins on one side and a busy main street on the other was a buzz. So many things to see and wonder about. The street could be anywhere in the world, but every so often you would get a reminder that you were walking in the shadows of the capital city of ancient Greece, the cradle of European civilisation, and that's where the main buzz came from. It was the 'I can't believe I am really seeing these things" feeling. It was a hot day and after a couple of hours of wandering around my legs were feeling the strain, so I headed back to my lodgings to have some late lunch and plan what I was going to do in the next couple of days. The first couple of photos show what I consider to be street art I passed on the way to the local metro station. It is lovely compared the massive explosion of just downright ugly graffiti that deface half of the buildings in this and many other European cities I have passed through....

Nice bit of street art just around the corner

Nice bit of street art just around the corner


and next to it is this

and next to it is this


which leads to this

which leads to this


The 10th cent. monastery church in Monasteraki

The 10th cent. monastery church in Monasteraki


A quick photo from the door before I was told NO..

A quick photo from the door before I was told NO..


The Stoa of Attalos, a reconstructed ruin..

The Stoa of Attalos, a reconstructed ruin..


Start of bazaar

Start of bazaar


a hundred or more shops

a hundred or more shops


shop on side street that only sold birds and cages

shop on side street that only sold birds and cages


ruins of Hadrian's library looking up to Acropolis

ruins of Hadrian's library looking up to Acropolis


zoom view of Acropolis from Monasteraki

zoom view of Acropolis from Monasteraki


by the cafe an ancient site being uncovered

by the cafe an ancient site being uncovered


lots of careful digging in the 28 degree sun

lots of careful digging in the 28 degree sun

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Bologna is boring..and that is just what I needed.

I hadn't really realised how tiring constant travel can be until I arrived at Bologna. I found myself searching through tripadvisor looking for places to go and things to see, and apart from a few churches and half empty museums there was nothing. My host Matteo who took off to see his girlfriend in Switzerland the day after I arrived told me that I had to walk into the centre of Bologna from the apartment, because it wasn't far. So I did. By the time I had walked around the centre it was a six or seven km walk, and I had seen pretty much everything that Bologna had to offer. It is not a pretty place. The old town is quite dark and medieval and looking in need of a bit of renovation. I think they do one every couple of hundred years, so it is due. It's main claim to fame, apart from the sausage, is that the first University was established here in 1080 AD. There is a museum in the square where you can go in and look at the lecture room where for hundreds of years they did the dissections of dead bodies on a table in the centre of the room , so that potential doctors could see what was going on inside a person. It is also a fact that Mozart, at the age of 14, spent a few months here and gained his masters degree in Music. The University is still going strong. Another claim to fame is that the whole city is connected by about 40km of portico'd walkways. A law was passed in 1280 that new buildings had to include a portico, and that it had to be tall enough so that a person riding a horse could easily pass under it. I suppose that the areas between the walkways in those days were possibly open sewers. Anyway it makes getting around the city easy, and I have enjoyed their shelter during a couple of heavy thunderstorms. The other main attraction is two brick towers, built in the 1300's. The tallest one is 100mtr high and has another one of those 500 step internal staircases to climb up and take photos from a platform at the top. The one next to it had to be shortened a fair bit soon after it was built, because it developed a serious lean to one side. It has more of an angle than the Tower of Pisa, but is still standing. In the 1400's it is estimated that Bologna was a medieval New York, with up to 180 brick skyscrapers, and there are still a couple of dozen left scattered around town. I did find a special little church on my travels, one that was founded in 1280 to offer shelter and a hospital to pilgrims, It is on one of the busiest streets of central Bologna, and as you walk through the doors it offers a beautiful little sanctuary from the hustle and bustle outside. What really makes the church special though is that around a corner from the altar is a group of figures which have been called one of the masterpieces of Italian sculpture. The figures that make up the group known as the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, are life size figures that were cast in clay (terracotta) by Niccolo del'Arca in the second half of the 15th century. They are absolutely stunning in their portrayal of raw emotion, and seeing them was the highlight of my visit to Bologna. Tonight will be my fifth night in Bologna and tomorrow is going to be one of those days where I am up at 5.15am to catch a bus, then two trains, then a plane, then another train, then a 1km walk to get to my next place in Athens. For at least half my time in Bologna I have had nothing to do but catch up on my washing, make cups of tea or coffee, and pop across the road to buy lunch or dinner at a couple of really good food shops. I'm talking takeaway cooked chicken, fish, or mince lasagne with good helpings of vegetables in sauce for an average of 6 to 8 euros a meal. My other staple is very drinkable Carrafour red wine in a ltr box for 1.37 euro. I needed time to catch my breath and boring old Bologna has given me that...

from where I'm staying 2km of portico into town

from where I'm staying 2km of portico into town


never need an umbrella

never need an umbrella


part of 40km of porticos in Bologna

part of 40km of porticos in Bologna


porticos in town

porticos in town


That's a tall one from the 1400's

That's a tall one from the 1400's


some upkeep needed in places

some upkeep needed in places


medieval streets

medieval streets


more

more


more

more


more

more


Medieval building by square

Medieval building by square


medieval still works

medieval still works


Entry to Piazza Maggiore

Entry to Piazza Maggiore


basilica of St. Peter

basilica of St. Peter


free concerts in front of Basilica steps

free concerts in front of Basilica steps


Free concerts and movies in the piazza

Free concerts and movies in the piazza


Town Hall

Town Hall


Dean of Bologna University 1763

Dean of Bologna University 1763


Hanging around Neptune's fountain

Hanging around Neptune's fountain


four nymphs at the base of fountain

four nymphs at the base of fountain


Neptune at his best

Neptune at his best


Bologna's two towers

Bologna's two towers


base of taller Asinelli tower

base of taller Asinelli tower


built in the 13th century

built in the 13th century


A couple of hundred stalls

A couple of hundred stalls


something for everyone, but me.

something for everyone, but me.


make up a decent market

make up a decent market


lots of women buying

lots of women buying


very crowded in places

very crowded in places


I nearly bought a hat, but I got two already.

I nearly bought a hat, but I got two already.


My front door

My front door


my big bed

my big bed


my bedroom

my bedroom


my room in Bologna

my room in Bologna


line on balcony outside kitchen

line on balcony outside kitchen


It's a long way to drop a sock

It's a long way to drop a sock


Second load almost dry

Second load almost dry


kitchen

kitchen


Now this is a special bookshop

Now this is a special bookshop


About five windows to peek through

About five windows to peek through


entrance to the bookshop

entrance to the bookshop


It is a University town

It is a University town


the arcade is just full of bookshop

the arcade is just full of bookshop


Sanctuary of Santa Maria della vita

Sanctuary of Santa Maria della vita


I wonder how much they pay them to stand all day.

I wonder how much they pay them to stand all day.


No, just very lifelike 16th century statues

No, just very lifelike 16th century statues


Inside church

Inside church


Interior decoration

Interior decoration


Emotionally eloquent statue grouping

Emotionally eloquent statue grouping


Saint John and two Marys

Saint John and two Marys


Jesus taken down from the cross

Jesus taken down from the cross


Mary Magdelene, and Mary Cleopas

Mary Magdelene, and Mary Cleopas


meanwhile just outside door of Church

meanwhile just outside door of Church


are ten little pidgeons sitting on a wire..

are ten little pidgeons sitting on a wire..

Posted by astrix7 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)