Friday, August 10, 2018


Athens is empty in July and August, George tells us. We are here on a Sunday and there aren’t even any cars on the highway. Four lanes leading from the airport to the city positively devoid of traffic. The sun is blistering. It is SO very dry. Only the tourists come here in the summer, George says. All the Athenians go to the sea but not to the islands like the tourists, just to the shore. The soil is like chalk, pale terracotta or yellow. Olive trees everywhere, with their blue green leaves shimmering in the sunlight. George deposits us at the hotel where we attempt to recover from a flight in practically upright seats two rows away from an infant who managed to scream bloody murder for at least four hours of a nine-hour flight. The poor parents!

We head out for a wander to explore the neighbourhood. We avoid the obvious for now but climb Philipappou hill in the late day sun, our efforts rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree view of the whole city and the sea beyond. From a distance we watch tourists swarm the Acropolis like so many ants. There is no shade to be found anywhere. To say that the Acropolis towers over the city is a gross understatement. Walking down certain streets earlier in the day we found ourselves regularly gobsmacked by glimpses of this structure that dominates the skyline. I’ve often found that, having seen photos of a famous place for an eternity before experiencing it first-hand it sometimes makes me a bit “m’eh” about the first real-life view but the Acropolis does not disappoint. It is just wow.

Athens itself is cool. Just the right amount of gritty for my taste, except for the uber-touristy (what Wil calls Disneyland) Plaka and Monastiraki neighbourhoods. The people are generally nice if a little grumpy — maybe because they’re the only Athenians stuck in the stinking hot city serving the likes of us. Little byzantine churches seem to be around every corner. It’s tough to get away from ancient history in this town. We are very happy our hotel has a rooftop with a pool and some shade because there are a number of hours of the day that are just too hot to do anything very strenuous (like moving). It is, however, dry as a bone and I’d take 35 and dry over 25 and humid any day.

We decide to tackle the Acropolis the next day and spend a few minutes in an endless line before using my cell phone to buy tickets online to skip the queue. The structures have seen better days. In a city that has seen its share of warfare, it is understandable that the roof is gone (note to self, never keep explosives inside). What is harder to believe is that Lord Elgin basically bribed the Turks to let him rob elements of the structure so he could use them to decorate his home. His house must have been quite a place. He ended up having to sell them to the British Government when his ex-wife took him to the cleaners in his divorce settlement. Britain persists in refusing to return them, arguing that Greece doesn’t have a suitable place to display them (condescending or what?). As far as I’m concerned, the Acropolis Museum wins the argument for the Greek. The building is all clean lines and light, hanging over an archeological dig that is cleverly displayed through the glass floors. Having spent a few weeks trying to master the greek alphabet it totally blows my mind that I can read inscriptions that were carved in stone almost three thousand years ago.

Tomorrow we get our car to go check out the Pelopponese!

1 comment:

Jenny Wren said...

Lovely to read your first blog. I can imagine the heat, but as you say dry heat is much easier than the humidity. Rob, Grace and Lily just arrived as I was getting up, and are now asleep. Andrew had to cancel as has to finish editing his film. Nic arrives today with Tucker. That will total three dogs! We will mis you all. Have a great holiday and keep writing. It is a stunning day here, humidity gone and a cool breeze. Love to you all. J/M