Classical faces

Athens!

Birthplace of Western civilisation, the city-state where it all began, the axle around which the classical world revolved!

And for such a reputed smog-ridden overcrowded hadeshole, it's surprisingly easy to get around. There's a Metro stop right at the airport, just a few stops and you're in town. My hotel – for once I prebooked; must be getting old – was just the other side of Omonoia Square. Pleasant little place, all narrow corridors and twisting staircases that'd give any British building inspector a heart attack.

But what I noticed first, this being my first time in Greece, were the faces. It's uncanny seeing people you recognise from the British Museum only not realised in marble. On the train, I saw a Poseidon, a man of about 50 with tight peppery curls and a neat beard, a canonical face that hadn't mixed with non-Athenians in eighty generations. Then an Apollo, a fair youth of strong shoulders and flawless skin. And of course several Aphrodites, beautiful young women with faces straight out of a Homerian epic. I'm launching my ships already.

This is Greece, and I'm going to see a lot of over the next few days. But first, tomorrow, comes the starting point, a 25min walk south. The greatest building ever constructed, one of the few perfect pieces of architecture on the planet. The Parthenon.

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