Your Athens, My Athens

By Pria Jackson and Emma Moore

We kicked off the day at Hadrian’s Arch. Hadrian was a Roman Emperor in the second century who was nicknamed “little Greek” for his immense love of Greek culture. Professor Richter lead us in a discussion of the multicultural influences on its architecture, as well as its significance as a boundary between the Athens of Theseus (the mythological founder of Greece) and the Roman Athens of Hadrian.

Hadrian’s Arch
Next we went to the Jewish Museum of Greece. Professor Richter provided a brief historical overview to us and a few curious cats before we went in. Anastasia, an archeologist with the museum, guided us on a tour of the 9-story building. Each level took us forward through the history of Judaism and Jewish culture in Greece. The Jewish people have been in the area for over 2,000 years, starting with a group called the Romaniotes. In 1492, the Sefhardic Jews arrived in Greece as refugees after being expelled from Spain. Despite their shared religion, the two ethnic groups differed in language, custom, and culture. Over time the groups came together through cultural exchange, intermarriage, and ultimately the tragedy of World War II and the Holocaust.
entranceway to the Jewish Museum of Greece

The museum showcases many cultural and historical artifacts, which have survived despite the attempted eradication by the Nazi party. These items stand preserved as witness of the terrible atrocities of history and as testiments to the resilience of the Jewish nation in Greece and throughout the world.

Following the museum we made our way back through Hadrian’s Arch to the Olympieion–the Temple of Zeus. It is the largest temple on mainland Greece. Finished by the Emperor Hadrian, this site had taken nearly 600 years to build! It’s completion was a marker of Hadrian’s love and commitment to this city.

the class in front of the Olympieion

While there, we met some of the most beautiful stray cats of Athens (maybe the most beautiful cats in the world??). Lulu is the mascot of the Olympieion as a worker informed us. She loves baked pastries and long naps under the colonade.

Lulu

Marble was a friendly girl that Pria has declared to be the official mascot for our trip. This kitty enjoys basking in the glory of Apollo and receiving the well deserved adoration of large troops of American tourists.

the aptly named Marble
Nearing the end of our day, we were able to visit the Khora free store, an association that provides free clothing to refugees in Athens. We met a long term volunteer, Maria. A Californian native, she moved to Greece to fully dedicate her time to helping refugees trapped in Greece due to the closed EU borders. We were able to make a small contribution of needed supplies.

Though neither of the writers attended the cooking class that ended this long and educational day, we did hear that the group made tatsiki as well as chicken and potatoes. This hearty meal was the perfect send off from Athens. Tomorrow, we’ll be on the road again! Where are we going might you ask? Well, just check your syllabus or stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to find out!

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