Treasure hunting at the Archeological Museum in Athens
On the day that parts of Athens flooded due to a torrential rainfall and cars were drifting through the streets in other neighbourhoods of the capital, I set off for the National Archeological Museum. Having visited Athens only a year before with my family, I was familiar with Athens’ ways. And one of them is: looking for the city’s cultural heritage is hard work. Whether you are heading for the Acropolis, the ancient Agora or – in this case – the National Archeological Museum, signs in which direction you should walk are to be found nowhere on the streets of Greece’s capital. So there I was, at Victoria metro station, taking shelter from the heavy rain, wondering which way to take to the museum.
Streets had turned into rivers by now, so I was not the only one waiting for a brief stop in the heavy rain to continue my way. The other thing that strikes me about Athens – next to the non-existence of direction signs – is the friendliness of its inhabitants. People went out of their way to help me, whether it was finding someone who could tell me the way or even offering to walk with me so we could share her umbrella. It appears that there is no need for signs pointing you the right way. Who needs signs it there are so many people who are willing to help you out?
Soaking wet, I arrived at the museum, which is only a five minute walk from the Victoria metro station. I was on my own that day, but if you are traveling with kids, you should keep in mind that this walk for the most part takes you across a busy street.
National Archeological Museum
Most striking to me at this magnificent museum is the telegram Heinrich Schliemann wrote to King George I of Greece in November 1876 on his formidable discovery at Grave Circle A. Somehow, standing amidst those treasures I had known nothing about before setting foot in this museum, this letter brought tears to my eyes. This brave archaeologist found these ancient treasures and offered them graciously and caringly to the country they belonged to. As a visitor who knows that so many of Greece’s cultural heritage is on display in other parts of the world, this strikes an emotional chord.
And the artifacts Schliemann found in Grave Circle A and B are among the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Perhaps it was the combination of the letter and being in this city that has such a long history, but looking at the golden adornments, the death masks and the pottery, jewelry and weaponry found in the graves which date back to 1600 BC held me breathless for a while. In the same exhibition area there are also founds which were discovered in Mycenae’s Acropolis, dating from the century, such as the well-known Warrior Vase. If you only were to visit one part of this museum, it should be this one.
Museum visit with children
And when traveling with children, we all know that it is key to make your museum visits short and simple. There were many families visiting the National Archeological Museum that morning, mostly with children under the age of ten. I noticed that some parents choose the same approach my husband I always take: find items that will interest the kids. Sometimes we ask our children to find items which display animals and to find an animal they especially like, or which they have never seen before. We ask them to take pictures of the artifacts they most enjoy. And indeed, this is what I saw other parents do as well. There was a boy around eight or nine years old, who happily walked along, taking pictures of statues of horses and vases with octopuses.
Unfortunately enough, the National Archeological Museum does not offer any tours or educational family backpacks for children (yet). But this is a not-to-be-missed activity when you visit Athens with your family. I even enjoyed it more than our visit with our kids to the Acropolis museum. Especially if you are visiting with younger kids (under ten) and you only have time for one visit, I would advise you to not dismiss the National Archeological Museum in favor of the Acropolis Museum right away.
Did you read my post about visiting Athens with children yet?