08 June 2008

All Rhodes lead to Athens

Like a Rhodes Scholar, I left dusty Rhodes (having accomplished my goal of visiting Rhodes not taken) and sailed to Athens. More precisely, since I didn't do any of the sailing (and the ferry was not wind-powered), I boarded the jumbo Blue Star ship "Diagoros" which cruised smoothly to Piraeus, the port of Athens (now and 2500 years ago). The classic way of traveling by ferry in Greece is to find a quiet corner in one of the lounges and set up a little camp. The ferries are enormous and quite plush, so comfort is not an issue. I even managed to take a shower. Luckily, June is not quite high season in Hellas, so the ferry was practically, for its size, empty, and I had an entire couch to myself. I slept happily for much of the 17 hour journey and read "Gulliver's Travels" the rest of the time. I did not throw up.

On arrival at Piraeus, I boarded the convenient metro to Ano Patisia station, from which I walked to the apartment of Lena, my Grecian Athenian host, who seems to have hosted most of the global couchsurfing community (or is currently). She wasn't home, so I was let in by Michelle, a Brooklynite also staying here. And I met Michael, an American (Baltimore) classicist-linguist-archaeologist (he calls himself a "Mycenologist" but you don't know what that means, do you, readers?) who explained to me--and I was eager to listen--the precise etymological reason why the Grecian words "zoe" (life, as in zoology) and "bios" (life, as in biology) are really the same word. Cool stuff, I warrant you. After lounging around waxing philolinguically for awhile, I set out for the National Archaeological Museum, my putative only reason for bothering to come to Athens again (which, I admit, I like better this time around--it's nice to be in a country for once where I can at least say "please" and "thank you" and where I even have a fighting chance at being able to read things). I spent about six hours there and was blown away by much of what I saw: almost the first thing was the famous gold mask called (erroneously) by Heinrich Schliemann (he got around) the mask of Agamemnon. I have to say, however, in all honesty, that the museum's collection is, judiciously speaking, not very good. Unfortunately for Greece, most of its signature archaeological treasures have been looted by Europeans. What remains are the remains, what has been donated, and recent finds (some of which are certainly impressive). The museum feels a bit empty, though the exhibits are well labeled, and the museum as a whole presents a decent overview of the history of Grecian art and sculpture--when it isn't being Hellenocentric, that is, and suggesting the natural and obvious superiority of everything Grecian (as in "My Big Fat Greek (sic) Wedding").

I got a student discount, of course, though I have discovered that EU students get into all these attractions for *free*. They always ask me where I am from, and I have become tempted to start lying, much as it pains me (while I readily tell untruths, I do not like to lie). I started back to Lena's place but ran into her outside the metro station and therefore turned right back around to head to the beach (she's a fun lady) to join a couchsurfing party in progress. Once again, and not at my expense, I got trashed. We finally made it back (note the lacuna) to the apartment after 4 am, covered in sand, and Lena, myself, and her son all collapsed in his room. Today, I woke up late, walked around the Acropolis, and sat down to finish Gulliver's Travels. Plaka, the historic part of Athens, is still a FTT. Ah, just as I remember it. Tonight, I'm going to *another* CS party.

I like these Grecians.


CaliforniaKat said...

Hi there, I always get notifications of people writing about their time in Greece, and I'm glad you're having a good time. Sounds like you're having fun.

Greek is a very interesting and rich language, where you can learn the root of a word and then know 10 more because of it.

It's raining now. But wait a few minutes and the weather will change ;)

kajori said...

The mask of Agamnenon - isn't there a photograph of it on the cover of the Penguin edition of the Oresteian trilogy? I'm very, very jealous!