Greece: Athens – Kerameikos, Archeology Museum

Kerameikos, 12th century B.C. burial groundsStrategy for the day: make sure to wet my head before going outside. This turned out to be an excellent strategy for keeping “cool.” I mean, I was still sweating buckets in the 100+ degree weather, guzzling gallons of water. But the evaporative cooling effect helped immensely from feeling as if I was going to succumb to heat stroke.

My plan was to spend the bulk of the mid day sun indoors at a museum. I hopped on the metro, there were only three lines which made for another pleasantly uncomplicated underground experience as opposed to London, and headed for The National Archeology Museum. Little did I know that the museum wasn’t technically on it’s summer hours yet. Which meant the museum didn’t open until 1pm on Mondays. It was 9:30 and rapidly getting sweltering out.

I weighed my options, returned to the hotel to re-soak my head (and my sandals), loaded up on bottled water and huffed on over to Kerameikos the burial grounds of ancient Greece that had been used since the 12th century B.C. Monuments lining the Sacred Way, so called because it was the route followed by the solemn processions from the city to the sanctuary of the mysteries at Eleusis. (photo soon)

DSC_1368Ancient steles, the funerary slabs carved in relief with elaborate scenes depicting the deceased were scattered about the grounds. A particularly touching one illustrates a grandmother and her grandchild who died on the same day, the stele of Ampharete:

“Here I hold my daughter’s child, the beloved one, which I used to hold on my knees when, living, we beheld the rays of the sun, and now, dead, I hold the dead child”

(I’ll post more on this site once the photos are up)

Detail of AphroditeAfter an hour or so of baking in the hot sun I absorbed some AC over a lunch of Greek salad and chicken and potatoes roasted with lemon and oregano. The restaurants operate differently for lunch. The hostess seated me with a menu, opened it up and pointedly told me, “we only have chicken or stuffed tomatoes, not any of this, only chicken or tomatoes.” From our other lunch experience at a traditional taverna, it seems only a couple of items are prepared for lunch, you go look at them and pick out which one you want. Menu’s are irrelevant for lunch.

Trio of amphoraFinally, after lunch I made it to the National Archeology Museum. Here is the repository for the original artifacts, statues, steles, columns, bronzes and pottery from the myriad of archaeological sites of Greece. As with all the sites and artifacts I visit, it’s rather awe inspiring to be immersed in so much history. To think of the millions of lives and countless generations and beliefs these places and things bear witness to. It’s impressive. (more thoughts on this later…)

We had plans to join a few people Mark was working with for a late dinner, I insisted on getting something lite around 6pm to tide me over. Another Greek salad and some kefthedes, meatballs spiced with mint and oregano did the trick.

Our Greek hosts haggled and debated about which restaurant to go to, perusing menus, sitting at one but then actually going to another a block or two away with a better view and better menu. Rather like how Mark and I are indecisive and picky at the same time when trying to find a place to eat.

Detail of lekythosThey ordered many dishes for us to try, small whole fish, stuffed peppers, prawns with a heavy cheese and tomato based sauce, stuffed zucchini with a lemon bechamel-like sauce. Traditional dishes. Dishes I have never seen or would come to my mind in my experience of what is “Greek Food” in the U.S. There is plenty of seafood, squid and the like and much more lemon, oregano and mint in most dishes than I would have thought. And of course, my third Greek salad for the day and more tasty tzatziki.

We had and had some eye opening and fascinating discussions about the current state of Greece as a country (again, everyone speaks English in Europe) and since entering the E.U. It’s still a very poor nation and the transition to using the Euro has been difficult. Employment, education, housing, comparing to the London housing market, views and aspects of a society we wouldn’t necessary perceive merely as tourists.

Ouzo was the drink of choice. Served over ice and diluted with water, the ouzo becomes a cloudy milky white from the anise seed oil crystallizing. I despise all things anise or licorice and dared not take a sip. Our hosts commented on how tourists don’t drink ouzo the right way, it’s like grappa or raki in it’s turpentine nastiness when not served with water and ice.

We ended up staying out till 3 am after moving to a different venue away from the heart of Psyrri where we consumed far too many drinks and rounds of shots of a melon liqueur to toasts of our English, “Cheers!” and Greek, “Ya Mas!” (to our health!)