This is a continuation of our five day trip to Athens in June 2022; Part I is here. Our tour guide from our first day recommended traveling to the Monument to the Unknown Solider, as in front of this, in the square, there would be the weekly changing of the guard, where all the guards would march down the street. This happened on Sunday morning, so we got up early and made our way to the square; it was already packed with people; but that happens when traveling during the summer. There were about 50+ soldiers, all standing in lines, waiting patiently, as we did as well.
More onlookers arrived as we all cooked in the bright sun; there was no shade to hide under. Finally, they began to move, marched around the square, then down the street. It was solemn but underwhelming.
After they passed we dispersed with the rest of the crowd; they all went one way, we went another, and found ourselves at a coffee shop, where we ate some baked snacks before figuring out where to go next. I looked for a cultural experience, nearby and free, and we stumbled upon the Loverdos Museum, housed in the former Ziller Mansion. It was free, and we peaked our heads inside the large wooden doors, up a steep flight of stairs; there were two people at the top, beckoning us inside, so we went.
We were the only visitors, so a woman security guard escorted us upstairs where a collection of Orthodox art was on display, along with the interior decoration on the mansion. This art was salvaged from closed churches and collected here. Some of my favorites:
We returned back downstairs; a male docent asked if we wanted a tour of the rest of the house, and of course we said yes. In the rooms immediately below the staircase, he told us that the home originally the mansion of Ernest Ziller, the architect who shaped the City of Athens and later the residence of banker Andreas Loverdou. As we traveled through the home, down detailed and intricate staircases, under stunning carved doorways, there was art and beauty throughout the house. We first saw these pieces (the chair has a matching one, and is of Venice):
He was leading us, and telling us about the house, in an excited and thick Greek accent, to the lowest level. There is where Athens deals were made, and the rich and powerful of the city met, and we could see why. A perfect mosaic floor with different large animals, facing the gold archway, it was a stunning room.
At the end of the room, under the archways, was another mosaic floor:
More Orthodox art adorned the walls, and there was an alcove with Jesus on a cross, with gold mosaic tile behind him.
Our friendly guide took us through more rooms; we saw the collection of texts from the 1800s, along with more finely tiled floors and fireplaces, and a room with this ceiling:
Then he dropped a piece of information on us we were not expecting; almost all of this was rebuilt and redone (not the mosaic floors, phew), but much of the home was bombed by anarchists in the early 1980s; this home was not the only one, and it intrigued us enough to do some research on anarchists in Greece, and the recent (last 50 years) of Greek history, that we did not know. They even had a touch screen to see the damage, and pictures of the restoration. He said it cost “millions” to restore, and had only recently been completed. That is why the museum has only been open for a year and a half, and then Covid, so knowledge about the museum and thus visitors were few. He said they may open up a cafe on the grounds, which would be fitting.
He took us back upstairs, and there were two final rooms, filled with Orthodox art; we were truly enthralled and we were so excited and stunned and happy to have had the experience, it was truly one of a kind. Our guide told us, if we liked the design of this building (which we did) nearby was the Numismatic Museum of Athens; which was a coin museum (“if you are into coins,” he said), but more important was the cafe (of course). So, we walked and had drinks at the lovely outdoor cafe, and the building was stunning as well.
We did not visit the museum itself, since we had plans to visit the Acropolis that evening. The Acropolis stands high above Athens, and our goal was to visit either that morning, or that evening; so we thought the evening would be a good time. Well, we started walking there, but got lost due to the maps app not working as well as it should have, though we did get to pass by Hadrian’s Arch (we saw Hardrian’s Gate in Antalya, and it was a very big deal for the Roman Emperor to visit one’s city back then, obviously):
As it was really hot and humid, we took a taxi to the Acropolis, and, as we already had purchased tickets online, proceeded to the entry gate. It is not as bad of a walk uphill, especially if the taxi makes it a little easier, and we passed the Theatre of Dionysus on the way up too.
We arrived around six in the evening, and there were still a lot of people there, it was not overwhelming, and we could move about and not feel cramped. As we walked up the stairs, the giant columns of the Propylaea greeted us:
Once we entered through the columns, the Erechtheion was on our left,
and the Parthenon on our right.
We found some shade, a place to refill our water bottle, and enjoyed walking and taking in this ancient space and the views it afforded us of the city and the sea.
After we had had enough of the heat, we headed back down, not before appreciating the Temple of Athena Nike, which was much more visible upon exiting than entering.
We found a bench under some shade once at the base entrance to the Acropolis, and relaxed and finished our water, as we waited for the sun to retreat just a bit more before heading back to the apartment and dinner. On the way we walked past the Roman Agora, which also provided a nice look back up at the Acropolis.
We returned to the apartment, freshened up, and went to eat a whole lot of Greek Food; which, of course, necessitated a long walk about town, which will be detailed in the next post, of our last days in Athens! Stay tuned.