There is something special about the mornings before a vacation. The air seems to be scented with the fragrance of new discoveries, and one can feel again as a kid in front of an unopened gift.
However is not morning, not even afternoon and I lean my head against the window on the row 29 F on a light load plane departing to Athens. “This is pleasantly unexpected”I thought when after a short glance at my minion posture, a nice gentleman jumped up in rescue and without the smallest effort, placed my bag in the overhead near to his seat, making sure he will be the one giving it back to me. I blushed, he smiled, and unable to think of anything flattering or smart, I mumbled a “thank you” and hided on my seat, pretending to be tired.
In reality, there is no shadow of tiredness in my body, maybe just my mind is a bit overworked from daydreaming my next 5 days in the city of the Philosophers.
Just a few days back, I had no clue where should I spend my mini vacation, and now, somewhere in between here and there, flying above thousand of dreams and hopes, it feels right. As if I was always supposed to go there.
I haven’t booked a shuttle, and I am not planning for a taxi; that would be too easy, I would feel as a coward trying to escape a fearful action. So for the bus I go and the bus is waiting for me as knowing I would be there. We depart in five minutes.
Closing the welcoming night, the hotel receptionist is waiting.” The last guest for the night” he said and smiled, half with politeness, half with relive that he can finely withdraw himself into the warmth of his room. Is still chilly in Athens at night. I smile back and rested my gaze into his hazel eyes for a last time.
A daring sunshine, obviously not interested in how less I have succeeded to rest, drags me out of bed. I have a weakness for the morning sun, lavishing careless on my balcony. “Good morning Athens!” And the city seems to answer back through every sound. People are already rushing on the streets and without remembering what happen in between, I am already in the lobby of my hotel, map in hand, my camera hanging around my neck, ready to embrace whatever the city has to offer.
As I am looking for the best way to reach Acropolis from my hotel, which is located near Omonia square, I discover a pedestrian street, tizzing my imagination with glimpses of ruins on the other end.
I will discover later that Athens is packed with narrow streets, inviting you to indulge in local delicacies as kourabiedes (walnut cookie) or Galaktoboureko (milk pie), choose from countless international and local brands or try the local olive oil base cosmetics or traditional style jewelry.
Eolou street is no exception, the street is filled with tourist enjoying their morning coffee, and locals, reading their newspaper or shop for the Ester celebration. The trees are painted in a dark purple, and maybe is the Ester season that fills the street with a delightful mood, or maybe is my childlike way of seeing the world, either way my feet seem to dance on a music everyone seems to understand.
In front of a church, a well dress gentleman, looking like his soul has forgotten the age of his body, is playing the violin. I joke to myself, thanking the Greek Gods for such a welcoming, and let loose a few coins into the man’s old violin case. He gifted me back a smile as if he just intruded my imagination and I take the corner to Plaka.
Spring is the best time to walk around the streets of Plaka. Heavenly scented flowers are embellishing the walls, and the balconies, painted in bright green, red or blue are taking you back in time.
The narrow streets, competing for space on the Acropolis Hill, are now crowded with nicely decorated tables and colorful sitting areas, as if in this place, people have no notion of time. Plaka feels like an old nostalgic memory, that people are refusing to let go of.
I got lost a few times, forgetting I go somewhere, lost in wonder and adoration. As I take a corner, a worm smile grandma’ with glittery eyes, thinking probably of the time her grand-kids will come for the Easter celebration, is watering the flower pots, proudly exposed by the freshly painted window.
I follow the street, turn right near a mouthwatering smelling restaurant, cross a few more streets, greet the locals, smile at tourist, and soon I find my way to the Acropolis. A dense forest is trying to keep the mystery for a few more minutes, but as soon as a few more meters were climbed, the majestic construction can not be kept hidden anymore.
As expected tourist were rooming around, mostly oblivious of the beautiful sight, trying desperately to catch a view of their smartphone, selfie sticks, professional cameras, anything but a true, deep breath into the beauty of history. A better angle is preferred to a better understanding this days. And once again I am glad I am alone in the middle of the world, no distraction and no selfie stick.
The sky seem to pour over the acropolis and I stare at it until my eyes sting and drops of pleasurable tears slide across my cheeks.
Did Pericles had any Idea of the greatness of his construction. Did he intended “immortality” by ordering the construction of Acropolis, or he was just building a monument as we all do this days; with a practical utility, not thinking of the far future, when tourist will wanna see it, as a symbol of an antique and different society?!?!
Does the building in itself makes us wonder and spend time and money to visit, or is the story behind it?!?! If you think about it, you will realize that, except you are an architect, you are travelling to see stories unfolding in front of your eyes, and not places. I have no clue about the importance of the building, the architectural complexity or the difficulty of execution; all I know is the story behind it. I imagine Plato and Socrates, walking the corridors of buildings like Acropolis, meeting for lectures in Arenas or Agoras. I can feel a wave of humbleness and excitement, walking the same ground as the biggest minds of this planet. Gazing at the same side of the sky they did, maybe meditating upon the same rock. 😅
The day unfolds between bits of history. Even if the city is filled with historical footprints, the majority seem to be condensed around the Acropolis.
At the base of the Acropolis Hill you can find the Roman Agora, a relatively small area, hiding a water watch and a few meters to its left, the Ancient Agora is occupying the space of an entire park. Bits of history scattered between rare trees and narrow paths. On the far end of the park you can find hidden, as if shy of its modernity, a small church and a museum, or what is now known as the meeting place for Art and Theater students.
On the other end of the hill from the most compact peace of architecture you can find on the Ancient Agora, I am now enjoying the best view one can have of the Acropolis. ( Except the view from the last floor bar of my hotel).
The Adrian’s Library, the Zeus Temple and the Stadium are the next stops, and a little after midday, I found myself in need of a break.
After a well deserved coffee and a bite on a salmon baguette'( I am a shame at trying the culture in food) , I decide to go for the biggest hill in Athens, or the Lycabettus Mount as they call it. “Sunset will be spectacular from the mountain pick”, in case I have the courage to stay on the mountain for the show, and descend on dark a 20 minutes walk trough a forest, followed by 1 hour walk to my hotel. If you are like me and and love walking, the time will pass like nothing. Up until the base of the mountain, you will be walking around shopping streets and surround yourself with noisy bars. From the base of the mountain you will have tree option: a cable car is there for the lazy ones or the ones which have walked their limit already, a paved road will zigzag trough the forest if you decide on a moderate walk and for restless people like me, small pathways, scattered around the mountain, will let you enjoy the beauty of nature.
I have decided to miss the sunset on the hill, after a long time gazing in owe at the view, and head back with the sun chasing me from the back. I felt a bit coward, the place is more than safe, however I convinced myself that a wine on the hotel bar is the best option. At the end, it is famous for its view.
The sky is bleeding fire, and from my spot, wrap in cozy blankets, the Acropolis looks like a giant worrier, watching over the city. My eyelids are slowly closing, the wine is worming up my body, and I let my mind drifting off. Tomorrow will go chasing for the Greek Gods again.
806, a grave voice is shouting, as he was shouting at a lottery pull. Room 806, he cries again, this time directing his inexpressive look towers me.
I nod, pick up my small backpack, hiding just my camera my lip-balm and my hand sanitize; this days I have renounced on caring my house along, travelling makes you realize, most of the time you wont need more than money and a good camera.
The short, grumpy looking man, taking me to the buss, must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, or maybe is just the passing of the years, imprinted on its perfectly round face, either way, his look can not hide his loving nature, betrayed with every time he stops to see if I’m following, the spark in his dark eyes as he is struggling to place each of us on the right buss. His name is Socrates, and he will be our buss driver today. Near Socrates, now looking more at ease, on the other side of the steering will, a middle age woman, armed with a microphone, brakes the ice in a Greek accent English welcoming us to Go Tours, “ladies and gentleman Il y a de francophone aujourd’hui avec nous?” she continues, reveling her secret weapon; her french accent is impeccable, if not for a few Greek translations, I would believe we got ourselves a french tour guide.
The 2 h and 30 minutes drive until the Mount Parnassus, took us trough 4 different regions of the country; all with very important mythological stories, as Miss D will make sure not to escape any detail. In vain I try to catch up on some sleep. The story goes one about the young man who became a king after answering a terrifying beast’s question: Which being is standing on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and tree in the evening?” Apparently the answer was” the human” and as I couldn’t get why without a hint, I have to give up my hope of being a Queen😂
The Mount Parnassus is now showing off its white pics on the right, and we get to know that right near Delphi settlement, one can literally see the center of the ancient world.
The legend says that Zeus sent two eagles from two extremes of the world, and they have met here. A more modern day theory sustain that part of the mountain collapsed into itself, forming a V-shape crevasse and releasing natural gasses, which gave the impression of being close to the center of the world.
The gasses released were used as hallucinogens, and famous stories have been born due to its powers. The Delphi oracle, based on the believe that trough the hallucinogenic gas exposure, a young lady, was in touch with the Gods, has attracted thousand of pilgrims every year.
According to history, and Miss D, the young girl predictions were understood just by priests, who were in return translating them, in double meaning phrases. Every pilgrim was therefore due to interpret his prophecy accordion to his personality and believes.
The Ruins of Delphi Oracle are deeply hidden in the mountain, protected by valleys and walls of stone. The beauty of the place is Apollonian, as Miss D loves to say, reflecting God Apollo love for art, music, sun and knowledge; a serenity hard to dismiss while you find yourself on the mountain where the same God used to be worshiped.
I have skipped the museum, situated at the base of the mountain, and as much as it saddens our tour guide, missing being the witness to her extended knowledge, I have decided to spend some more time, climbing higher in to the mountain, to a stadium they use as a race track.
Passing trough Arahova on the way back, we were delighted by the charm of the mountain side village, its narrow colorful streets and the houses competing for space, as if the mountain was too small to fit them.
We stop here for a late lunch and I get to contemplate the day, in seeps of wine and cheese pie.
Two days, two mountains, and my legs are burning with pleasure and pain.
In two days, my feet have crossed the entire city, walked every hidden street and wondered, places out of tourist maps. Mountains and hills, ruins and shopping streets, museums and cafeterias, they have all sink in. I have enjoyed every movement, every sound and every color, every aroma Athens can offer, the only thing missing, for completeness is the beach, the breeze, playing in my hear, and my eyes resting upon the waves, as a meditation technique.
Is my last day in Athens and with the morning sun playing on my skin, I head to the beach, no destination in particular, planning to stop, where the sky meets the sea.
The tram is full, and I am wondering what will it be in full season, in an oven heated summer. I dismiss the thought, happy is March and people are still running around their day, dreaming of summer time. The tram stops, and a handful of a person enters carrying two grocery bags, covering a third of her body. I stand, and offer her a seat. Proudly hesitating, she finally seats, and leaves behind a shy thank you, as if she took the seat, not because she needed it, but with the love of a caring grandmother, trying to acknowledge her grand-kid good intention.
It took another twenty minutes until I finally sow it: the blueness of the sky is overwhelming, and the see is calm, expectant.
I get down at the first stop, and start walking in silence, as not to disturb the sea. A few daring souls, were disappearing slowly under the still water, making the scene look like a baptism ritual, a soul purification. Coming towards me, on an average peace, was a shirtless man, his breathing trying to cope with years of smoking. he passes me by, as if I was not there, and I continue walking, aimlessly, or maybe just following the sun. It may have been an hour or two, when the cornice road, suddenly turns into a small docks area.
Where did all this people came from , suddenly I feel like I have just felt from the sky on a overpopulated planet. People are walking up and down the docks, children are playing on the far end park, lovers holding hand, and tourists obviously impressed are looking for a place to have their lunch.
Right in front of a luxurious boat, showing off in the afternoon sky, a open air bar, has catch my eye. its low, cozy couches, are inviting you into reverie.
Hours pass by and all I can do is stare into deep blue water, the sky has turn into a pale pink , as the flame of the sun fade out, hiding between the boats.
It´s time to let go I think to myself Saying goodbye is never easy, however, there will be no new beginnings without it. and life is movement.
I am back on Sintagma Square, and as I try to feel every step of the road, back to the hotel, from the corner of the street, a local band is performing one of the last summer´s hits. I take it as a farewell, remember the man playing the violin on my first day in Athens, smile at the memory and once again, thank the Greek Gods for the worm welcoming.
My eye lids are heavy and I lie my head on the window at row 29 F.