First let me say, it’s great being back home in familiar spaces, familiar smells and familiar onslaughts on the taste-buds.
But I also have to add that travelling also helps forming a wholesome perspective and underlines the importance of hanging on to what is worthy of continuity , of giving a due place to the memories of our past and its heritage as at the same time, appreciating the dynamics of change.
The city of Athens is all of that, unfolding before the curious traveller to the once so ancient and now modern city, steeped in fables of pagan worship , which got absorbed somewhere within the new religion of orthodox Christianity which the majority (around 97%) of the populace are now part of . Catholics are around 1% and just a miniscule belong to other religions. Religion, however did not come across as a public affair.
When one had been studying about the Mediterranean type of climate in school, for some reason, the imagination had cooked up pictures of orchards of different fruits dotting the landscape and greenery all around. Greece would be like that , one had thought. May be it is like that in other parts of that country. But Athens wasn’t. The hills that we spied as the plane descended were pretty barren and rocky .
Many areas along the route that took us to the hotel that we were to check into, looked familiar, much like Karol Bagh in Delhi or Commercial Street in Bangalore would be .
But what struck us almost immediately was the friendliness of the people . The driver of the pick up vehicle gave us a warm welcome , assuring us that we would enjoy the city tour and the visit to the Accropolis the next day. He was proud of the fact that it was in Greece that democracy was born and how power came to be vested in the people. He was a little sceptical though, about how it was being played out in the present times.
“It is all about money now. You have money, you have power”
Now that there , was very familiar ground. “And family is important for us”…Yep as we saw in the “The Big Greek Wedding”, familiar too for us Indians.
“Yes…and the woman is boss”, he chuckled “The wife and the mother…very important…the man…he just goes out and works”…Try listening to those words in the Greek accent , rolling the “r”s 🙂
The young man at the reception was equally warm and welcoming. After we had settled in, we took his help to find a small eating place nearby before settling in for the night. We tried out the salad, which was quite ordinary , and chicken gyros which was good. We would be experimenting more on that front in the following days.
We had to skip breakfast at the hotel because the coach that would take us around along with several others to be picked up from various other hotels nearby, was to arrive early in the morning. He left instructions however for having breakfast boxes ready at the counter before we left.
Of the morning, I’m going to give you a virtual tour through the videos I had taken , most of them while sitting in the bus. But you will then be able to see and hear from our guide directly.
Angela was a treasure trove of stories about the ancient past of Greece. She has been in this job for 38 years. She had started working as a guide when she was just sixteen or so and continued doing so even after she went on to college, during the Summer holidays. Then she took up a teaching job in a college for about five years but went back to working as a full time guide, as she found that more flexible and conducive to bringing up her children. Angela must She has been working thus for 38 years now. She has been to India on two or three occasions, Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
“We share a lot in common , you know…worship of the forces of Nature , our connection to mother earth and so on ..”
I’ll load all the videos by and by , in the order the tour progressed.
These videos are of our morning drive through Athens beginning with the stadium where the first Olympics was held and ending at the Acropolis Museum and then walking up to the Acropolis itself.
Photography is allowed in only certain parts of the museum which now lodges most of the artefacts unearthed below the Acropolis.
At the Acropolis there was a very huge crowd, and this was almost the end of the season. Couldn’t imagine how it would be like during the peak of the tourist months.
It was hot and we were herded along, almost.
But it was an experience, standing there at the top of the hill, looking down at the city that had spread out gradually all around. Once, long, long ago when Athens had just come to be established, the populace would have scuttled to the safety behind the walls of the fortress that then stood invincible, as soon as enemy vessels were spotted approaching across the blue Aegean Sea.
It would have been kind of spooky had the dusk been settling around, the tall columns casting shadows and you were alone there.
But this was midday , in the midst of teeming hundreds , literally jostling for space .
Still, it was an experience.