Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hadrian's Arch, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Archaeological Museum

I slept in this morning, but by 10am I took the metro from Omonia to Akropoli Stations again, but this time I was heading for Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I initially walked in the wrong direction and ended up in the Koukaki district at Syngrou-Fix metro station, but soon found my way back. Hadrian's Arch is located outside the fence around the Temple of Olympian Zeus, right on very busy Syngrou Ave. It is very impressive in size, but has limited decorations. Admission to the Temple of Olympian Zeus is part of the €12 combination ticket I purchased for the Acropolis. It is a huge temple, but there are only 15 marble columns left standing out of the original 104. The rest of this site is mostly rubble, however the remains of the Roman Bath is worth a look. I then crossed the street to see the Zapion and the National Garden. The Zapion and surrounding fountain, gardens and restaurant is impressive, however the National Garden is mundane. I tried to visit the highly recommended Benaki Museum, however it is closed on Tuesdays. I obviously didn't read my guide carefully! The Parliament is across the street from Syntagma Square, and is an easy five minute walk from the Benaki Museum. The guards wear ceremonial dress, including big puffies on their shoes! The real guards to the Parliamentary precinct (which is closed to the public) are armed police. Since the Benaki Museum is closed, I take the metro from Syntagma to Omonia Station, and revisit the National Archaeological Museum (www.culture.gr). When I first visited the Museum on Saturday, it closed before I could see the showpiece gold artifacts recovered from Mycenae. This time I spent a full two hours viewing this important gallery. I saw the famous funerary Mask of Agamemnon, as well as many other superb artifacts (many made of gold). The side gallery showcasing Cycladic art was a surprise, since these are pre-Mycenaen. I believe this civilization was one of the first to form after man moved out of caves! I must confess I'm not a fan of history, however visiting all these ancient sites in Greece and seeing so many fascinating artifacts brings ancient civilizations alive. I can understand why thousands of Greek schoolchildren visit these sites and museums every day. I have used the Athens metro to get to some of the local sites. It is inexpensive, safe, and easy to use, so I would recommend visitors to the city make use of this form of transportation wherever you can. You must purchase a ticket, then validate it as you walk to the train platforms. If you get caught dodging the fare, you risk an on-the-spot fine of forty times the fare, so remember to buy and validate those tickets.

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