Greece, Day 6

Another free day in Athens instead of sailing the Aegean Sea nonstop with Gate 1.

But first, you have to see the insane little elevators at our hotel, the Callirhoe Athens Exclusive Hotel:

They make us laugh every time.

Believe it or not, this disruption of our tour is actually a silver lining. Tours are great, but they are nonstop. You visit many places, but don’t really get to see a lot of any of them. Having three days to stay put is a wonderful opportunity to explore places here that we either didn’t have enough time to on the tour, or didn’t see at all.

For example, on our romp through the Acropolis, we did not get to see the Theatre of Dionysus, the birthplace of Western theatre, because it was at the bottom of the hill not the top. That was our first stop.

Here’s a statue of Silenus, the tutor of Dionysus, regarded as a symbol both of wisdom and of riotous drunkenness. I’m okay with both.

Notice his shaggy body, sharply contrasted with the oh-so-smooth skin of your regular Olympian. Actors portraying Silenus and other satyrs wore hairy body suits (and outrageous priapuses, but let that pass).

Another Silenus statue:

On the way up the hill, we passed the compound of temples/altars dedicated to Dionysus.

And here we are.

One thing to remember is that the seating extended all the way up the hill. This place could seat tens of thousands, and that’s important because theatre in Athens was a crucial civic/religious event. You didn’t just go see a play, you went to see three tragedies (a trilogy by a single playwright) and a comedy (by a different playwright) every day for the length of the festival. It was not only a religious gathering, it was a competition: the winning playwrights would be awarded an ivy wreath/crown.

Backstage:

Another angle of the theatre. You can see where the stairs went all the way up the hill.

The front row was where the dignitaries and judges sat. They got actual seats, unlike the rest of the crowd.

There were two temples to Dionysus in the compound. This is where the old one was:

And the new one:

Me, declaiming something, probably the lyrics from “Comedy Tonight.”

The altar was outside, because who wants to burn a sacrificed ox inside?

After we had soaked in the ambience of our origins as much as possible, we headed over to the Acropolis Museum, which you will recall we had visited on our first day. Now, however, without the pressure of the tour schedule, we were able to take our time and dig deeper into the archæology and history of the place.

Here are the ruins uncovered in its construction. Notice how the building perches above them. Excavations are ongoing.

Inside, again, there are glass floors which allow you to see all the way down.

Of course, as a kilt wearer I was acutely aware that they also allowed you to look all the way up. I tried to walk on the beams. (Frankly, the skirts of the kilt are so voluminous that I doubt anyone two stories below would have seen anything to be shocked by.)

Many interesting artifacts on display, but these I found especially fascinating.

They are mortars and pestles used by the artisans who painted all the sculptures and buildings, and what I realized is that they’re more ergonomic than the ones we use in our kitchens today: the bent handle means you can use it like an iron.

After the museum we strolled for a while, bought some gifts, and then rested for a while before a lovely dinner somewhere I already cannot remember.

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