Monday, 30 April 2012


its hard to believe that I have been here three days already. In some ways it feels like a minute and in others weeks... And yet today I have to leave to begin the long journey back north... First thing to say is that I absolutely adore Athens and can see why so many Brits come to Greece and end up staying... I could quite happily live here if they didn't have a chaplain already :0). In three days I have quite literally walked my socks off and covered most of the centre of the city. In fact I walked so much that there is not a part of my body that does not ache.... I have been to museums and galleries, flee markets and churches, tourist tat shops and of course more archaeological sites that I could believe could be crammed into one city, in fact so many I think I am likely to start seeing corinthian columns in my sleep. Needless to say its been absolutely bliss.... I am not going to bore you with everything I saw... If you want that much details email me and I can send you the guide book, but there were some highlights that I want to share. Firstly the city itself... I was so focused on marking up all the sights I wanted to see in the guide book that I don't think it occurred to me to also consider the city that they were in.... But truth be told Athens is a beautiful place. The old parts, like Plaka where I am staying have beautiful old winding streets, with flower filled balconies and orange ladened trees, this is surrounded by the nineteenth century city that has wonderful neo-classical buildings and there are some stunning modern buildings as well like the new acropolis museum.... Ok it has it's seventies ugly as do all towns but you can kind of look past that... In among this beautiful architecture is a fantastic cafe culture were you can sit out at the pavement tables and watch the beautiful people go by and look at the Acropolis which you do really seem to be able to see from everywhere in the city!  And the food, my God, it's awesome... Even in the most touristy restaurants the food is great and if you venture a little further afield you can be rewarded by some of the best meals You have ever eaten. It does help that I am a fan of Greek food anyway but ohhhhh it's been bliss... Though I think I might just turn into a block of feta cheese by the time I leave so much of it have I eaten ;0) Another highlight was the Acropolis museum.. A stunning piece of architecture in its own right it is also a building so perfectly designed for its purpose that you cannot imagine how anything else could have worked. You enter inside up a slope that mimics the one you travel up to get to the acropolis itself and then reach a floor full of sculptures and other finds from the site beautifully laid out in a sunlight gallery. The walls are almost entirely glass and so the light floods in and on the left you have uninterrupted views of the acropolis... There is a great spatial relationship between the museum and the site that it represents.  You then rise to the top floor of the building and it's zenith architecturally and emotionally. Here they have built the floor to be an exact spatial replica of the Parthenon itself. For the first time you can see all the remaining reliefs and statues in context to each other and follow their narrative arc around the floor as you once would have been able to follow it round the building. It is truly stunning. What really hits you though is when you turn the corner to come upon the great pediments at the end and see how much is missing. I have felt uneasy for a long time about the British governments refusal to even discuss the possibility of returning the Elgin marbles to Greece. Yes there was an argument that in removing them Elgin ensured their survival and I there was even the argument to be made that until recently the Greek government could not guarantee their safety in the pollution soup that often hangs over Athens.... But with the building of the new museum all arguments are moot. They need to be here, back in context with the other remains. They are looted goods pure and simple and the British have no right or indeed need to hang on to them any more..... It's shameful.  Last, but by no means least going to morning service at St Paul's Anglican Church. Being Just around the corner from the hotel meant I got a nice lie in this morning which is always a good way to start but I must admit I didn't go to church with any High expectations this morning... But how wrong I was. The service was led by the Reader, a women of such infectious enthusiasm it was impossible. It to get drawn in. There were plenty of hymns old and new, solid teachings and even a nicely cantored psalm. But most of all there was the most lovely congregation, so warm and friendly I didn't want to leave. From the minute I arrived the congregation, mostly expat Brits and Nigerians but with a good smattering of lots of other nationalities too, we're so nice. By the end of the service I had invites to stay, should I come back to Athens again and a very nice lady gave me her card and said I must go and visit her next time she was back in blighty.  The notices were delightfully full of appeals to make chutney for the summer fete, home made cards for sale, endless details of the upcoming coffee mornings  and plans for the jubilee picnic and the Sunday school kids we running around showing us the sheep they had made. Even better after church coffee takes place in the outside courtyard under the shade of beautiful palm trees (though apparently they are infested with weevils I was told rather conspiratorially by someone worried the would collapse before the fete!) and people could, and did, wander in off the street to get a drink and a pastry wether they had been part of he service or not. There was a real sense of God being present in this wonderfully eccentric group of people and it made me a little sad that I could not belong for more than an hour or two :0( So that was Athens.... I heartily recommend it to you... As do most of the congregation of St Paul's by the way. They said to tell all my friends to come.. So I am. They know more than most the difficulties this country is suffering, they can see the impact of the huge drop in tourism that there has been following the negative reporting of the civil disturbances. This country is hugely dependent on its tourism income so please do consider coming... It's an amazing place, I can't imagine that you will be disappointed :0)

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