Touched by Human Hands

My free Saturday in Athens had two halves.  After touring the Museum of the Acropolis and enjoying lunch at the Museum’s restaurant, I went looking for what’s at the end of this long green tunnel.

I almost walked right past it!

I almost walked right past it!

Hidden behind greenery along a busy city street sits the Benaki Museum, which I found by googling “Athens Greece hidden gems.”  Like the Museum of the Acropolis, the Benaki offered me discounted admission with my student ID (even from a school in Nebraska!), and displayed archeological finds.  But the private Benaki collection travels all the way from pre-history to the Greek Civil War, in the 1950s.  It is a whirlwind tour, but the good news is that I could take pictures.

Tiny forms and stone tools -- yes, these are old.

Stone tools — yes, these are old.

I’ve found that in this kind of museum I’m most drawn to the little, humble and everyday objects.  Yes, grand pieces celebrating glorious battles are impressive, but it’s small pieces like these remind me that each of these was made by hand, by a living person.  I can imagine the lives of these people, our ancestors.

And sometimes, we all have stomach trouble.

And sometimes, we all have stomach trouble.

So here, a few pics of the grand sweep of Greek history, from from thousands of years BC to about 1500, compliments of the Benaki Museum.

One of my favorites: bird lady.  Plus her lady peeps.

One of my favorites: bird lady. Plus her lady peeps.

I cannot for the life of my understand how these earrings' artists made them with only simple tools and crystal magnifiers.

I cannot for the life of me understand how these earrings’ artists made them with only simple tools and crystal magnifiers.

Who knew that the baby Jesus had early-onset male pattern baldness?

Who knew that the baby Jesus had early-onset male pattern baldness?

The Benaki had a large collection of gorgeous, well-preserved and presented items of clothing.  This was from the 1500s.  All I could think of was, "My word, that looks so oppressively hot."

The Benaki had a large collection of gorgeous, well-preserved and beautifully presented items of clothing. This was from the 1500s. All I could think was, “My word, that looks so oppressively hot.”

Turkish windows.  The Greeks have a long history of being controlled by, and then fighting off, foreign invaders.  The Ottoman Turks controlled Greece from 1453 until 1821, resulting in a great deal of Turkish influence in its architecture.

Turkish windows. The Greeks have a long history of being controlled by, and then fighting off, foreign invaders. The Ottoman Turks controlled Greece from 1453 until 1821, resulting in a great deal of Turkish influence in Greek architecture.

About this time, I tired of taking pictures and began to wonder if the Benaki cafe was as nice as my online sources had told me.  So I investigated, found that yes, it was so, and ate watermelon.

Then I had to return to my hotel and call it a (very good) day.  I determined to walk through the Greek National Gardens on my way to the Metro.  Commissioned as Royal Gardens by Greece’s Queen Amalia in 1838, today the National Gardens act as an arboretum with many beautiful and interesting tree species.  They also provide a much-needed green oasis in the city, especially with their many water features.

Lovely light

A peaceful place for a walk.

Gurgling stone-lined streams wind through the Gardens.

Gurgling stone-lined streams wind through the Gardens.

Palm trees planted by Queen Amalfa

Palm trees planted by Queen Amalfa

Then it was time to return to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s adventure: flying to the island of Crete!

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2 thoughts on “Touched by Human Hands

  1. Oh, Shannon, I do so enjoy your sense of humor! Really enjoying reading about your adventures and your photos are wonderful.

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