I have been thinking a lot these last few weeks about the Parthenon Marbles. Obviously,the issue has been all over the media with the recent statements from Mr Clooney and then the rather bizarre riposte made by Mr Johnson. It’s a very divisive issue, that’s for sure.For me though, I think that before commenting on this, a visit to the Acropolis Museum ( and of course the Parthenon itself) is required.
The new museum was opened in 2009, a time when the country was still basking in the warm glow left by the fabulous Olympic Games of 2004; a time before the ghastly reality of the economic crisis had really hit home.
The new museum is a stunning building in one of the most amazing settings in the world. Initial access is by means of a glass floor that reveals the excavation and archaeological remains beneath. The exhibits and displays on the ground floor are all fascinating and impressive but nothing – but nothing prepares you for the gallery containing the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon.The orientation of the museum is the same as that of the temple itself and the gallery, ostensibly from glass, allows you to see Phideas’ remaining friezes and sculptures in the way that they were intended to be seen; in the light from the Aegean sky and with the Parthenon in view – so close you feel you could reach out and touch it.
There is no out and out campaigning for the return of the marbles here. The campaigning is made more effectively than any banner or placard by what is missing, rather than what is there.
Along the part of the frieze still in Athens, the stark white casts standing in for the London-held pieces stand out from the honey-coloured marble originals, like poor prosthetics. The space for the missing caryatid , wrenched from her sisters so long ago, is as awful as an amputation.
It is here, in this space, with this light and with this view of the Parthenon, that you realise the wrong that has been done here. I hope the ‘powers that be‘ come to their senses soon.
So, in my own way, I like to recapture my first visit to the Acropolis Museum in 2009. After having been blown away by the exhibits and moved by the trauma of the missing artefacts, we went for lunch in the gorgeous museum restaurant; bathed by the Aegean sun, we dined – my version is here.
Acropolis Museum Mezé
300 – 250 gm hard salty cheese – ideally Cretan graviera – I have done it using a good pecorino sardo
150 gm finely chopped dried or crystallised fruit, i.e.citrus rind, or dried apricots, figs or plums. Feel free to use your instincts!
Several pieces of finely sliced ‘mostarda di fruta’ – or pickled watermelon rind (see recipes ) this is not essential but if you can be bothered it is beautiful (first pickle your watermelon !)
Fresh sprigs of thyme.
Slice the cheese into 8 – 12 fairly thin slices, it’s good if you can achieve thin triangular shaped slices.
Finely slice the dried/crystallised fruit and ‘mustarda di fruta’.
Assemble the cheese and fruit on a plate and drizzle with honey.
Finish with a sprig of fresh thyme.