This is probably the newest of Athens' museums and definitely a very different one from all other art, history and archaeology related museums. We went there last Thursday, using some Groupons for half the cost. The museum is housed inside the "Athenian Capitol", a commercial development that covers almost half a block and should be of great benefit to this distressed area at the center of Athens. It is located almost across the street from the National Archaeological Museum.
The museum, property of the "Theodore & Joanna Charagionnis Foundation", houses the automobile collection of Greek businessman and developer Theodore Charagionnis. In fact the collection numbers 294 vehicles, and the museum can only host 111 at one time, so there will be a rotation of different cars at different times. Car aficionados will have a field day here!
|Inside the spiral ramp - History of the wheel exhibition|
To access the museum you walk to the corner of Tritis Septemvriou (3rd September) St. & Ioulianou St. Avoid the escalators and go to their right, towards the inside of the arcade: The spiral ramp starts from the back of the ground floor and gives you free access to a visual and written history of the wheel, with wheel samples from ancient carriages to the latest sports car tires. The ramp takes you to the 3rd floor and the box office where you buy your admission tickets. You then go up to the 4th floor for the museum entrance. To your right you will see a wonderful recreation of an early 20th century car workshop, that takes you back to the begining of the automobile era in a nostalgic flare
|Hellenic Motor Museum - early 20th century car workshop|
...and then you proceed with a quasi-chonological order to the 5th, again 4th and finally 3rd floor to look at all the car models.
Currently, you can see a virtual history of the automobile through samples of various rare or exquisite models, starting from an 1895 horse-drawn water carriage made in Hungary to a number of late 20th century vehicles. Ferraris, Maseratis, Fiats, Lancias, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, BMWs, Fords, Chryslers and a number of now defunct, pre-war US or French vehicles are currently on display. The next phase of the museum will showcase a number of racing cars, the first of which is already showcased in the 4th floor. I will let the photographs do the rest of the talking as a small sample of what you can see in the museum.
|Hellenic Motor Museum - This 1901 beast is called American La France, and no, it was not a tractor!|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - 1926 Bugatti Type 23 Brescia|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A US-made car from the 1930's|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A French 1926 Avion Voisin C4 Roadster|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A very mean-looking 1939 BMW 328 CA.MO. Coupe|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A 1957 Lincoln Premier with California plates (XSK 437-could it be your dad's car?)|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A 1959 Chrysler Imperial Crown Convertible that used to be owned by Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A 1965 modified Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray that has a long history in Greek racing circles. It went by the nickname "the screecher" in 1960's Athens and is the first of the racing cars to be put on display.|
|Hellenic Motor Museum - A roomful of Ferraris... and Maseratis (to the right, not pictured)|
Each car has a small information plate in front of it, with text in Greek and English. Some of the information provided is more technical while some is more appealing to the general public. Overall a good balance.
|The Athenian Capitol and Hellenic Motor Museum Bldg. - Corner of Ioulianou St. & 3rd September St.|
One thing worth mentiong is the very nice, hidden plaza / garden with various grills and cafeterias at the ground floor which makes the Athenian Capitol a good place for a small stop or lunch break. The plaza crosses the block and has an exit to Patission St. and two exits on 3rd September St. A visit here could be combined with the National Archaeological Museum which is located right across Patission St. Just make sure both museums are open on the day and time of your visit. See here for opening hours and ticket info.
We chose to finish the evening a bit further away, with a short souvlaki stop at a nearby grill next to Victoria Metro Station at 15A Heyden St. The small grill (a virtual hole in the wall) is called "To Kalamaki tis Kyra-Sophias" (or Sophie's Souvlaki) and has one of the best souvlaki kebabs in Athens as well as a few other offerings that mainly serve to to accompany the meat.
So, there you have it. Art, technology and food in just a few blocks distance, enough to cover almost a full day in Athens!