Athens (a little late)
While I, (Laurie), visited Athens on 3 separate occasions during our time in Greece this summer, I have not felt like writing about it.
Sometimes this happens.
Sometimes it is the place itself which fails to inspire – not the case here.
Sometimes it is that the experience feels too personal to share – again, not the case here.
I have no idea why this post is coming so late after our visit and I’m sure as a result I’ll miss major points and special things about it but I’m going to do my best to share what I can from our time there.
I first traveled to Athens probably 35 years ago and it was a total blur. I can’t honestly recall a single significant event from the trip, which is to say, it may as well not have happened. We were traveling aboard a cruise ship and I have found, based on our fair share of cruise ship cruising, that sometimes when we are unfamiliar with a region, details get lost in overall impressions. While experiencing so many new inputs over a short space of time, the impressions aren’t very deep – unless they are over the top bad or good.
It could be that my total lack of recall is related to something else entirely which may explain challenges I’m having with Jack right now. I think my newfound love of history may well be a function of age and perhaps bandwidth to be able to take the time to absorb all or most of what I’m learning. Perhaps in my earlier visit, I didn’t have the mental space or emotional energy. Perhaps I was simply not interested in the remarkable ruins which have been here for 2600 years, though I can hardly imagine ever being such a human. But we change and we grow, and our interests evolve. Perhaps Jack being 12 and this being his life, means that he has no concept of how special standing in this place is. Maybe he will come to appreciate it later – maybe not. I hope at a minimum our exposing him to it won’t make him hate it. Which is why we have decided to stop forcing him on tours and experiences. He has reached an age where he can remain behind alone. I’m praying that this decision will allow him to come to these amazing places in his own time and his own way. I’ll let you know how this goes.
But I’m off track – again. Athens…
Kelly flew to visit us in Santorini, then traveled with us to Paros where she needed to leave us to fly out of Athens. Since her flight was early in the morning, she would need to spend the night in a hotel. Not wanting her to a) miss Athens or b) spend the night alone in a hotel, I took the opportunity to travel with her and we saw the sights together.
Not only one of the oldest cities in Europe (the 3rd oldest), but Athens is also the hottest city in Europe. I knew this going in and it is one of the reasons that, despite our visitors coming and going from Athens, we were not going to spend much time there. Even before I began menopause, I preferred to be in cooler climbs for summers but now in the throes of my own person heat wave, being in the continent’s warmest city wouldn’t be my first choice. That said, who can miss Athens!?
So, dressed in my loosest, coolest linen dress and most comfortable waking sandals and we hit the ground running. I’m pretty sure that we hit 25,000 steps that day as we raced from monument to monument.
But Kelly is the single most motivated and active person I have ever met, and I was not about to let her down, so off we went.
Athens, continuously inhabited since at least 3000 BC holds so much history in terms of Mycenaean, Roman and many more civilizations. Most fascinating for me is that Athens holds treasures from the birthplace of Democracy in the early 6th century BC, and much of the Western contributions in art, philosophy, theatre, and government are the direct result of the work done in this era. We were in awe of the sculptures and stonework accomplished by hand in the Parthenon and later when we visited the museum with Jenn and Tracy, we experienced an entirely different perspective. Displayed in the Acropolis Museum are the actual Caryatids though there are reproductions on the actual porch of the Erechtheion (The temple of Athena) on Acropolis hill. A Caryatid is a female support taking the place of a column. A male support would be called an atlas or a telamon. We saw telamons in many of the ancient ruins in Sicily in Agrigento. But I believe these are the first Caryatids we have seen. Remarkable in their beauty and grace, they have completely changed the way that I think of sculpture. In my mind, this fluid and sensual technique didn’t begin until the 15th or 16th century, and I always gave Italy the credit. These Caryatids prove me wrong.
And if you read my post in Milos about the Venus di Milo, you may not be surprised to hear that I’m more than a little dismayed that 1 of the precious 6 of these “Maidens” is housed in the British Museum. Rumored to have been stolen by Lord Elgin, how this precious artifact landed in the UK should be of little consequence, but that she belongs in Athens with her 5 sisters should not be in dispute, in my humble opinion. But I suppose this is a matter for the courts to settle. Though it has been a source of long debates on board with Jack exercising his vast skills of debate and logic.
In Ancient times, the “Agora” was the main shopping district. There is still an Agora in the Plaka district. Closed to all but foot traffic, the area is full of cool shops and restaurants. But in the Ancient Agora is the Tower of the Winds. Perhaps my favorite of all the ancient artifacts, this was believed to have been designed by Andronicus of Cyrrhus around 50BC- but according to Wikipedia, may have been built prior to the rest of the Forum in the second century BC. The tower, standing 39 feet tall, is topped by a Triton which indicated the wind direction. Each of the “cardinal” directions (carved long before the first compass) is a carving of the 8 wind deities as well as 8 sundials. Inside the tower is a water clock which is driven by water coming from the Acropolis. This efficient and beautiful monument would be the world’s first (to my knowledge) weather station. The friezes line up perfectly with the 8 cardinal wind directions –
Given that we would soon be leaving the EU again where finding products is easy, Jack independently found a LEGO store. Agreeing that we would go with him to spend his hard-earned money, we took a train to the mall. Many toy stores have Lego – but there are very few LEGO stores, and these are truly special places for Jack. We gave him about an hour to meander and labor over his decision of what to buy. I was particularly touched that he chose a very large and expensive (Jack is more of a saver than a spender) Expert build of a bookstore- which he said he wanted us to build together.
Speaking of collecting things on our last and final stop in the EU, Alec and I had some things shipped to Athens. We have been coveting Ebikes since we used them last year in Croatia. Alec very wisely did careful research and, a year later, we are finally taking delivery of these prized possessions.
We have been riding them ALL over -ever since we left Athens. They have become our primary source of transportation, allowing long rides involving cobbled stone streets, and enormous hills. I’m not sure if their use will involve less or more exercise since we are riding bikes rather than using public transport, but we love them!!!
Our final event in Athens involved spending the day with our nephew and his bride (and our newest Niece). We are so very proud of you Michael and the amazing things you are doing in the world, and we love your choice of brides – Marianne you are lovely. Welcome to the family.
I’m writing this in Istanbul about 6 weeks late. I can hardly get busy in writing about this amazing city.