One of our first encounters with Athens was a middle aged man in a business suit spray painting the side of a building.
Graffiti is everywhere – admittedly, we are staying in a <25 euro / night hotel room and you don’t exactly find those prices in the posh neighborhoods, but the amount of graffiti is still striking.
We arrived late at night an spent the following day adjusting by touring the Acropolis, the museum and the Theater of Dionysus.* I had yet another moment, sitting in the shadow of the Parthenon where I was very much aware of how blessed I am to have had this year. Never let it be said that I am not grateful for the opportunities I have had this year. Deciding to leave for India back in June of 2010 is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I didn’t leave until the following January, of course, but the decision triggered applying for graduate school2 as well as about seven months of world travel.
The Acropolis, at one point, probably offered the same sort of gut punch that that Taj Mahal and the Angkor Temples offer. The sheer awe of man’s accomplishment. I must say it falls a bit short in its ruined state – like the ruins in Italy, its current state is more of a testament to the fragility of our great civilizations. It makes me wonder about our own. How many of our buildings, our institutions, are built to withstand the wear of time? What will be left of us in a thousand years?
So many of the ruined sculptures and reliefs are filled in with modern plaster to give the viewer a better idea of how the original sculpture once was. I prefer the other style – where the bits of sculpture they do have are held where they once were by metal platforms and you have to fill in the rest with your imagination. There’s a lot of both here in Greece, when I see a complete figure it’s a novelty. Even a complete face is notable, and I have yet to see a male figure with his bits still intact. Poor guys, that does seem to be the first thing that goes.
[As a side note, Luke and I are sitting in a cafe in Delphi overlooking the Corinthian Gulf and I am halfway through my second glass of wine so if things get fuzzy from here on out, I blame the 1/2 L jug of local white wine we ordered at three o’clock in the afternoon.]
When we left Athens, I noticed that our somewhat grimy neighborhood had orange trees growing through the little plots of the pavement. Orange and olive trees are quite common – it is possible I have olives embedded in my shoes simply by walking through the Delphi archeological site earlier today.
Once we got out of Athens on our five hour bus journey to Kalampaka, the country opened up into sparsely populated rolling hills that provide a plausible landscape for the ancient Greek myths.
I can completely picture the heroes of old walking through this landscape, fighting their great (and often foolish) battles underneath these trees, in these valleys, or on the mountain tops: the myths suit the landscape, or perhaps the myths themselves are a layer of the landscape.
1. As a student at an EU university, I have free admission everywhere. It’s pretty bad ass.
2. It remains to be seen if this was actually a good decision. We’ll see after my grades post.