Today we had to get up bright and early, pack our bags and leave our rental house… We had a great stay here, so we were sad to leave, but we had all morning for ourselves, so we hopped in the car and drove to Nashville’s Centennial Park to see the Parthenon.
You read that correctly: Nashville has an exact, full size replica of the Athenian Parthenon. It was built in 1897 as a temporary feature of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, but it proved to be so popular with Nashvillians that they decided to rebuild it as a permanent building in the 1920s. It goes on, though: in 1990 they built a full-size statue of Athena inside the temple, like the original Parthenon had. It looks like they were really committed to being as historically accurate as it was possible back then: the sculptures were all made using plaster molds made directly from the original statues, which are in the British Museum of London. For those parts of the frieze that are missing, they based their design on descriptions and illustrations. Likewise, the real statue of Athena was destroyed long before it could be recorded, but they studied the accounts of contemporary Greek authors and other sculptures from the time to arrive at a satisfactory design, which they then gilded and painted according to classical Greek customs.
Having been to the actual Parthenon, or what remains of it anyway, it was a thoroughly bizarre experience to see this replica on a brightly sunny spring day in Nashville, Tennessee, on a grassy park from which you could see the Vanderbilt University football stadium. On the one hand, it’s as surreal as if Trenton, New Jersey decided to make a full scale replica of the Kremlin just for the sake of it. On the other hand, being inside this Disneyland reproduction is as close as you can get to imagining what it must have been like, in 400 BC, to be inside the then brand-new Parthenon.
We had lunch at Etch, a great fusion restaurant downtown, and then waved the city goodbye as we got in our car and drove to the airport.
Driving around Tennessee has been such a varied experience. Yesterday, when we were driving all over the place, we could see modest family homes, suburbs, trailer parks and wooden cabins, then all of a sudden we were in Forest Hills looking at impossibly huge mansions with fantastically preened gardens -this is where all the country stars must live!- and then five minutes later the surroundings would look rural again. The overpopulation of churches here is amazing: at one point we reached a crossing with, no word of a lie, three churches side by side and signs for four other churches just around the corner. They all had names like Ascension Lutheran Church, First Church of Christ Scientist, Seventh Day Adventist Church or Sta Teresa Holy Science Church, each one longer and more elaborate. I could not make them up if I tried!
As it turns out, it only takes about twenty minutes to drive from downtown Nashville to BNA. Imagine being able to get to Charles de Gaulle in just 20 min from… anywhere!!
A pet peeve of mine about these airports we’ve been travelling through: they all call themselves (Nashville) International Airport, and yet you see the list of locations they serve and it looks like this:
Can you find an international destination there? ‘Cause I think Muscle Shoals AL ain’t it!
Next stop: Charleston, South Carolina!