Many museums have cafes or restaurants attached to them. In some cases the restaurant has become as much a destination as the museum itself. The restaurant at the New Acropolis Museum is arguably one of the best, with views to the Acropolis from its terrace, as well as good, reasonably priced food. It is one of the many ways that this museum breaks the mould in comparison to other state owned Greek Museums.
Reassembling the Parthenon
Nov 19, 2010
The best museums are those open in the evening. Funding is obviously an issue behind the reason why museums often share banking hours (which are admittedly more generous than a generation ago), but to walk around a gallery, with no large tourist groups and little noise, make for a great evening. Plus for large city museums, it offers folks to entertain clients or guests—and if there’s a decent restaurant, who would object to a night out amidst timeless art and antiquities.
The Acropolis Museum in Athens has mastered this approach. Built at a sum of 130 million euros, it opened last year and does not disappoint. The structure is brilliant: as you walk in, you see ruins of ancient Athens beneath you. As you enter, antiquities found from local excavation sites like the main hall. Go up a level, and sculptures are arranged in a breathless arrangement, and give you an idea of how majestic the Acropolis, and the Parthenon, must have been at their height.
Walk up one more level and a modern restaurant with a view of the Parthenon greets you. To visit at night is sublime: unlike other Western cities, Athens is not overwhelmed with billboards and bright lights, and you forget you are in a metropolis of several million people.
The brilliance of the Museum, however, shines on the top floor. Sculptures and panels that had not been poached by foreigners are rearranged in an enormous gallery, giving you an idea of how the Parthenon must have looked back in its heyday. Plaster replicas fill in the gaps, most of which are due to the pilfering of what are known as the ‘’Elgin Marbles’’ now in the British Museum.
The genius of the Acropolis Museum is the case that it makes for reuniting all of the Parthenon’s statues and panels. The Parthenon suffered plenty of indignities over the years: conversion to a Church, use as a munitions fort by the Ottomans, a marauding Venetian whose attack caused that ammunition to explode, and in modern times, caustic pollution due to Athens’ relatively gargantuan growth from village to crowded city.
But the most egregious damage to the Parthenon was due to Lord Elgin, a diplomat who was sent to Athens in the early 19th century. Lord Elgin and his minions hacked off pieces of the Parthenon, and eventually he shipped them to Britain, where after years of debate, the government purchased them and entombed them in the British Museum.
Debate rages over the proper place of these antiquities. The British claim the pieces were legitimately purchased, offer a safe haven where they can be interpreted, and have preserved them during the years in which Athens suffered awful air pollution. Times have changed, however; the Acropolis Museum now offers a showcase where the Parthenon’s past can be fully appreciated, the British obtained them under dubious circumstances, and the Greeks had no say at the time in which they were pilfered. In the end, they belong to the Greeks: the British Museum needs to stop the platitudes, excuses, and mumblings about charters and return them to where they belong. Walking around the Acropolis Museum presents the case forcefully and with dignity.