Athens, cats, dogs and graffiti…

I’m finally in Athens, been here now for almost two full days and its pretty darn sweet!

Now, you may not know this about me, but I’m actually a bit of a history fan. It all came about through playing a game called Age of Empires, a strategy game where you could grow a number of civilisations, which in turn meant you could direct an army, which sometimes consisted of phalanx, guys with large spears and shields. My fascination grew when I started learning about actual battles from history where phalanx actually fought. I think also, credit must go to my 6th and 7th form classical studies teacher, Mr Mawson, whose enthusiasm and humorous way of looking at history rubbed off. So this is all looking to say, I’ve been looking forward/day dreaming about visiting Greece for quite some time now. I’ve found myself on numerous occasions taking stock of what my eyes are seeing and having a little laugh with myself, as it’s funny/strange to think I’m actually here.
The journey getting here was long. My flight left Japan at 12:35 in afternoon, it was a 12 and a half hour flight into Munich, which meant I should have slept on the plane, but being me, I didn’t. Sleep once again alluded me on the connecting flight, so when that arrived in Athens it was nearing 5am in Tokyo, so I was feeling fairly jaded. And yet when I got off the metro at my stop, aptly called “Acropoli” and walked up onto the street, I was greeted by a lit up Acropolis, a fairly amazing moment for reality to set in. Finally I had made it, and I was somehow revived. A good thing too as finding my accomodation was a little bit of a mission. The map location from airbnb, was way off, and even though some helpful taxi drivers pointed me in the right direction I just couldn’t find the place. At one point I was actually tempted to worry for the first time on my trip. Legitimate worry too, like where would I go? No wifi, the trains are now finished for the night, and I have no idea what is around me. I guess if it came to it I would have just asked another friendly taxi driver and perhaps it would have been all good. He was the reason I found the place. He walked me to my Airbnb with his GPS navigator thing so I was able to find my bed now that it was 7am in Japan, 1am in Athens.
I thought because I was exhausted my Monday would be a lazy one, but nope, I woke around 8am and ventured out to begin a day of exploring. My first port of call was the Areopagus, a place I have been interested in since I read Saint Paul’s experience recorded in Acts 17:16-34. Where after exploring the city and engaging a couple of Epicurean and Stoic Philosophers he was asked to come and speak at the Areopagus. So yeah, that was kinda cool to be in the same place as a biblical heavy. I also got to visit where it is thought Socrates was held prisoner before he was sentenced to drink hemlock, a drink not very conducive to life. I also got to see where Aristotle held his school. I stood in theatre where Herodotus gave his wonderful historical recitals, where the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides performed their works. Stood in the location where the Persian Army gained access to the Acropolis before destroying it, and saw the place where the ancient Olympic Games were held. It’s quite hard to appreciate the significance of the places I’ve visited from the often scant Archeological remains. Temples fall down, markets burn down and get rebuilt, library’s fall into disuse as did a lot of the temples actually, though some were reused as churches or mosques under the Ottomans. Walls crumble, cities grow, and people forget. Time marches on.
Though, if you have ever been to Athens or perhaps Edinburgh, you will know the distinctively timeless appeal of the cities centre piece. Be that a grand castle, or a bunch of old columns surrounded by imposing cliffs. So very out of sync with contemporary life and yet both have a certain impressive magnetism.
I’ve visited 4 museums so far, each very different, but all very interesting. I’m slowly ticking off the main attractions, the problem with some of them is they close early in the afternoon, so you really have to try and prioritise where you go and when. You can’t always avoid the masses. I did this morning though, at the Acropolis, and it was awesome! I got there before the gates opened, was 2nd to buy my ticket, and first through the gates. Which meant, I pretty much had the entire place to myself for a good 20 mins. The comparison being, I shared the Acropolis Museum with about 4000 other school groups… not so amazing. I had to laugh at one particular idiot on a school tour who obviously hadn’t done the reading. I was walking along the eastern slope beneath the Acropolis, and this putz was just ahead of me and a little lost by the sound of it. I heard him say, “we’re meant to be at the acropolis, I don’t even know what that is”… I was like “ummm look to your right, that massive hard to miss rock thing, yeah, that’s the acropolis…” I put some space between me and them, as there’s only so much idiocy I can handle.
True to form though, I’m still walking everywhere. And because I’ve come from very chilli Japan, Athens is practically summer. So naturally, I’ve busted out my shorts. Tis funny to watch people as they walk past me, or as I walk past them. They’re all wrapped up in jerseys, jackets and scarves, and I’m waltzing around in board shorts and jandals. It must get pretty darn hot here, if a 22 degree day is a scarf and jacket day.
I rescued a horse today, is that random? I thought it was. I had walked over to see an attraction that for some reason closed its gates at 3pm. So I decided I’d walk through what turned out to be a dodgy area that smelt like cat piss, cos there is a crazy amount of stray cats in Athens. Good thing there is also a bundle of fairly docile stray dogs, as one decided he’d happily walked along beside me through this run down graffiti filled area. Anyways, I get the park that links me back to my part of town, and I see a random horse, and I’m “huh, its a horse, just hanging out tied to a tree.” Then I saw another one, lying down, I thought perhaps he was scratching his back, as horses tend to do. But he didn’t look like he was scratching comfortably, and as I continued to watch I saw he had a leg caught on the rope attaching him to a tree. So I begin to weigh up the scenario of me getting a kick to the head by a random horse in a dodgy part of town, far enough away from anywhere that I’d be fairly ruined in that circumstance. But I couldn’t just leave him there, as he sounded pretty exhausted and who knows when his actual owner would turn up. So I walk down there, and introduce myself to this horse in Maori, figured it would perhaps confuse him long enough for me to free him. Which I’m glad to report it did. No idea as to how he got himself into that mess, but he was fairly stoked once I managed to unhook his leg and help him up. Job done.

No one else here to appreciate the beauty
An empty Parthenon is a cool Parthenon.
The side where the Persians gained access.
Aristotle strolled here…
Chuckling at reality
Bring your runners…

So yeah, I’m loving Athens, and Athens is loving me;)
I head to Corinth tomorrow, well near Corinth, to a place called Perachora, its 30 mins drive north and by all accounts, quite a nice place. I’m doing my first couch surfing experience for four nights. Hopefully, its a good one. I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

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