A short walk in Athens

We visited Greece for the first time in April and it was good. The trip started and finished in Athens, so here are some images of the city, because, like us, you may only be able to conjure up the Acropolis.

Air travel is amazing, but is by no means painless. The big new windows in departures at Stanfield are striking though, don’t you think?

In Athens the Parthenon is, of course, the essential destination. Before the visit I wondered if its grandeur would be diminished by the hordes of visitors, but the building and the site were truly impressive.

Made me think about Peggys Cove, another dramatic, rocky landscape with an iconic building, that can also accommodate throngs.

And when one of the most important buildings in western civilization is on a hill in the middle of your city, of course you don’t build tall buildings that would diminish its impact.

We enjoyed walking in Athens, particularly away from the tourist streets.

This felt like an idea we could use at home. Many streets were very narrow, but newer buildings often had ground floors set back to create generous sidewalks and some weather protection. Perhaps unplanned was the parking for motorcycles.

Of course I’m easily amused by little things, like sidewalk textures, under streetlights.

Readers of my posts will not be surprised that I was delighted to notice several boot scrapers, evidence of muddier times. The post on Halifax boot scrapers is here.

Bicycles did not appear to be popular in Athens, but a hipster hotel we stayed at did offer guests cool-looking wooden bicycles.

Athens is one of those graffiti-rich cities. We were told this happened since the financial crisis, and was a symptom of high levels of youth unemployment.

All the museums we visited had wonderful collections, very well displayed. The Archaeology Museum has many objects that I’ve known from images for my whole life. I remember when the Neptune Theatre in Halifax used an image of this statue of Poseidon (Neptune) on a poster in the mid-1960s.

We saw hundreds of sculptures of Greek men from ancient times, and they all appeared to shop at the same tailor where the emperor got his new clothes.

They even played nude hockey. Perhaps that’s a promotional concept for Windsor: visit the Birthplace of Hockey and watch a game with players in their birthday suits.

A new name I learned was herm. It is “a sculpture with a head, and perhaps a torso, above a plain, usually squared lower section, on which male genitals may also be carved at the appropriate height” (Wikipedia). This is an enduring sculptural style for representing dead white men, but I’d never seen them with the manly bits. That’s a tradition we could re-introduce.

Imagine the herms in the atrium of Founders Square on Hollis Street with some extra parts added. That would make you stop and consider the legacy of Joe Howe.

A big surprise of the trip was realizing Greek mythology and material culture felt so familiar, and that I sensed some kinship with the ancients. Of course much of our architecture uses ancient Greece as a muse. On our last evening in Athens we visited the amazingly well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus, completed about 440 BC.  Countless buildings have followed this style, but I thought particularly of the Court House in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, completed in 1854. It is one of the best examples of
Greek Revival architecture in Canada, and a very long way from Athens.


Our last night in Athens was in a hotel overlooking Monastiraki Square, a gateway to bustling tourist districts, with the Acropolis in the distance.

The next morning was the first of May, and the normally busy subway station, in the yellow arched building, was empty because workers were on strike so they could attend traditional May Day demonstrations. We took a taxi to the airport.

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.