The road back to Kastraki from the Meteora was lovely and scenic and full of fragrant trees. We got lost, but did find a man grilling souvlaki on the roadside, who shouted at us until we capitulated and ate some. His wife served fried potatoes and a salad with olives that was superb, and we were only cheated minimally on the bill. We ran around like pointless idiots for a while until a nice gentleman stopped his Mesozoic-era jalopy for long enough to gesticulate at a dirt road through the mountains. His car stalled, but oh happy day: he was right, the improbable path terminated at the rubbish-tip behind our hotel. We made the train to Athens with plenty of time to spare.
Athens is underrated: excellent food, friendly people and superb sightseeing – including, of course, the Acropolis. On the whole, I’m quite pleased that we saw the Acropolis museum first. It put the whole Acropolis in context, the primary context being that the Athenians were apparently a proud, noble and just people who were buggered by just about everybody: the Persian, the Spartans, the Turks and finally and most hatefully of all, Lord Elgin of Scotland. The Persians razed the Acropolis to the ground and the Turks accidentally blew it up, but between 1801-1812, Lord Elgin, who always maintained that he was â€œconservingâ€ Greek culture from its imminent destruction, simply packed up the nicest bits and mailed them home to Britain. I actually saw the famous â€œElgin Marblesâ€ in London at the British Museum and they were very nice indeed: sparkling gorgeous marble frescoes that once decorated the very highest heights of the Parthenon. This is a highly sensitive political issue, as Greece desperately wants the Elgin marbles back, so the British Museum considerately pastes a sign on the exhibit that reads something to the effect of, â€œWe know that this is a highly sensitive political issues, but we’re keeping them anyway.â€
The British also nicked one of the six â€œkoraeâ€, which are 2000-year-old immense statues of beautiful women that are used in lieu of regular Doric columns to hold up the â€œEtheulaionâ€, another prize site on the Acropolis. Oh, and one of the korae was accidentally blown up by the Turks: a recurring theme in this tale. You can view the blown-up beautiful kora, sad and headless, in the Acropolis museum.