Today I forced myself to go to the New Acropolis Museum. I was quite proud of myself because for the past week I have not left the air-conditioned apartment before 8pm but it was not a very hot day, actually it has not been a very hot week, or August for that matter. So I walked to Victoria, got on the metro, changed
at Omonia and got off at the Acropolis station where it was a lot hotter than Kypseli but right around the corner from the museum.
I have seen a few articles on the Acropolis Museum, one critical of the architecture of the building, claiming that it did not fit in with the Plaka. But the museum is not in the Plaka. It is in Makrianni and to fit in with the architecture of this neighborhood the building would have to have been a 5 story concrete apartment building with houseplants on every balcony. The building, in my opinion, pretty much steals the show from the stuff that is in it. I don't
want to seem like
too much of a neanderthal but there are only so many pieces of white marble statues that a human being can take in, in one lifetime, and to see them all in one hour is a mind numbing experience. There are just so many of them that after awhile you just think, so what? There's an interesting collection of Byzantine coins, a lot of pottery, and even a freize from an earlier temple that stood where the Parthenon is now with figures that are other-worldly; 3 headed snake people and stuff like that. But
for the most part it is a massive colelction of white marble states and a few other pieces thrown in to break up the monotony.
The metope marbles that Lord Elgin left behind are on display, with copies of the ones that are in the British museum so that you can see the whole procession that used to line the Parthenon, on the top floor of the museum. But after awhile your eyes get tired of marble squares and are drawn to the giant
windows and the spectacular view of the Acropolis and the back of Vangelis Papathanasiou's house, which the Ministry of Culture have not managed to tear down yet, though they have issued a decree which prohibits them from doing any
work on the house, like painting the door, for example. I suppose the theory is that if the Greek government can't tear down the building the decree will assure that the house falls down by itself in the next few hundred years. It is pretty pointless actually. A few large trees would hide the last remaining buildings. Already they have draped fake ivy from the roof like hair extensions that reach halfway to the ground.
Much of the floor of the museum is glass so you can see the ancient buildings and streets below which can give you a kind of scary feeling. I found myself walking on the part above the girders, not wanting to be the first person to fall through the glass and be impaled on the ancient stones. To expose these ancient city streets
and buildings is a great idea, in fact they should do this with all of Athens though probably if you had glass sidewalks they would soon be covered with gum and scuff marks and eventually you would not be able to see anything. But it kind of works in the Acropolis Museum though I think they should have used magnifying glass so you feel closer to the ground and can see more detail. Not that there is much to see. It just looks like the building is suspended over a construction site actually. But if you keep reminding
yourself of what you are looking at you can convince yourself that its pretty cool.
There is a decent restaurant which serves mostly salads and light fare but I was very impressed that of all the ouzos in Greece they chose Barbayannis and Babatzim instead of the Plomariand Mini that have taken over every restaurant, cafeneon and ouzeri in Athens. When the museums have better taste in ouzo than the ouzeries you know things are headed in a strange direction. They also served sardeles pastes, gavros marinatos and lakerda though they were all the packaged
kind you can buy at the Alpha Beta supermarket. Still we are talking about a museum cafe so I have to give them some credit. And for those who want to eat their lunch or early dinner with a view of the Acropolis without paying
an arm and a leg, this could be your best bet.
My biggest complaint is that you can't take photos. To me that is just silly. Photos of the museum circulating on Facebook and people's travel blogs is free advertising and the benefits overshadow any of the possible reasons they could have for not allowing it. The whole attitude that somehow ancient Greek civilization belongs to
these modern Greeks and we are just guests able to view their culture for a couple euros, but not permitted to take anything home with us, like a
photograph, unless we pay for it seems kind of arrogant to me. I can understand not allowing photos in the National Gallery because you could make postcards of paintings and sell them or god-forbid make a website of Greek artists. But why can't you take a photo of a statue, or a foot, or caryatid or a big hall full of statues? Maybe they will come to their senses. I was able to photograph every metope in the British Museum but was unable to photograph their companions in the Acropolis Museum. If they can't
be reunited in Athens they can at least be reunited on my website right? Nope. So if you want to see what is in the Acropolis Museum I can't show you but you can see the ones in the British Museum by going to my Elgin Marbles page.(The above photo is from the British Museum)
My feeling is that I am glad I am not still a kid and my parents didn't take me through the Acropolis Museum and stop to look at every single statue and fragment. There are some interesting things in there but unless you are an archaeological fanatic you will soon find yourself on auto-pilot and you probably won't remember much of what you saw. But you will probably be impressed by the building itself and these facts, courtesy of Athens Plus: The museum was planned
and took 8 years to build at a cost of 139,000,000 euros. It has 25,000 meters total space, 14,000 square meters of exhibition space and has 4,490 square meters of glass which enables you to see almost everything by natural light. It is an impressive building that though chocked full of ancient artifacts seems like it is missing something, like the Elgin Marbles for example. According to the Guardian's online poll 94.8% of the people who responded think they should be returned to Athens.
Does this mean that
now the Elgin Marbles will be returned? I don't know but if they are I hope they let us photograph them. But even if they are returned I don't think that will change the fact that in the Acropolis museum, the view out the north window pretty much steals the show, with or without Vangelis' house in the way. (But you can't take photos out the window either)