The flags of Greece and Athens
We disliked Athens. I am terribly sorry to have to say this. The cradle of democracy, the city of the Goddess of Wisdom. In times past, a place of playwrights and politicians, where great philosophers thought and lectured and learned.
Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. All called Athens their home at one time or another. I could add other names you would recognise to that list, but frankly it would make me feel even worse for not liking Athens.
Our first negative impressions that we'd tried to look past were constantly validated: too much garbage, nobody smiling (we were like the smiley freaks), and too much graffiti, (though between you and me I admit to kind of liking this one):
Snail. Yeah. There's a street name for you.
There were crowds of young men selling purses and the like on the street, their wares carefully laid out on large squares of fabric that could be quickly picked up to flee from the police.
and with the general, overall feeling of unhappiness, well, we weren't impressed. Even the hurdy-gurdy guy and his young helper, who couldn't have been older than ten, in a black fedora who scampered around in lieu of a monkey, asking for coins, didn't have a smile for us when we obliged.
Sitting at an outdoor restaurant near the Acropolis the waitress reminded us more than once to not put cameras on the table, apparently not without reason. A man sat down nearby and while he appeared to be casually reading a newspaper, in actuality he had stuck out his foot and was pulling Aunt Terry's purse to him on the ground. (He was chased away.)
The changing of the Palace Guard was impressive, yes,
and I appreciated the whimsy of grown men twiddling their prayer beads, a national pastime.
Then there was the Acropolis. Terry had graciously agreed to take us there, and walk up a lot of stairs, even with her bum knee, which was super nice of her. It should have been the highlight of Athens. However the Acropolis was, for some reason, a letdown. I told Mike it reminded me of the bones of a chicken carcass, picked clean, standing alone above the city, and he agreed.
We dutifully had our photo taken in front of the Parthenon.
I wish I had remmebered at the time that the Acropolis was the only place Matt of Where the Hell is Matt fame, had been told not to dance. I would have thrown out some moves for him. In fact, Matt had been escorted off to the police station and threatened when he refused to erase the footage.
Now, I am a Matt fan, (he's modest, endearingly nerdy, thoughtful, and a Seattle homeboy) and am one of those who sheepishly admits that his video gets me teary, picking up a pack of Stride gum now and then because of it. (If you haven't seen this on YouTube , what rock have you been living under? Get on it! Read my post some other time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY)
Anyway, should you still be here, I have to say that the best part of the Acropolis, after climbing up with the all the other tourists walking around the ruins, (of which we'd gotten plenty throughout the entire trip, not Athen's fault, and perhaps if we'd gone there first in our trip we'd have been impressed), was the frozen lemonade (pricy but SO good) and the rock we spotted crawling through the grass that turned out to be a turtle.
Which we caught and examined, apparently to its displeasure. It's hard to tell with a turtle.
The tourist commission of Athens probably hates me now.
We had seen many, many street performers in Athens, and I need to give a shout-out to this young man as being truly exceptional (and maybe in the process get us not permanently banned from Athens...)
Dressed as a sort of tree nymph (can a dryad be male? One should overlook such technicalities when dealing with the arts, yes?) this performer would stand perfectly still until offered a coin, and then go through an incredible series of graceful motions with the glass orb.
I also have to say that the Acropolis Museum is utterly exceptional. Built over ruins, a wonderful glass-based construction where you can look down into the excavations below, and up four floors to the top floor (which is unfortunate in the case of skirt-wearing museum goers, but that's neither here nor there...if you are wearing a skirt and carelessly walk across a floor of clear glass with people underneath it, guess it's your own fault if you end up on the internet). The displays of ancient metal and glasswork, pottery and sculpture in that open, majestic space were fantastic.
Photography was forbidden, so at the end I dashed into the gift store to peruse the postcards. In the meantime Thomas was running around outside the main doors and a sudden gust caught his little hat and blew it off his head and down...down...down into the ruins not covered by glass.
Predictably, Thomas burst into tears.
Fortunately there was helpful security who went down there for us and retrieved the naughty hat, much to everyone's relief.
Thomas informed us he wasn't going to let that naughty wind play with his hat again.
After the meal where Terry's purse was in danger of walking away, all of us a more than a bit tired and worn down, it had been a long day. And it was about to get a lot longer.