Everyone I met in Greece told me to spend as little time as possible in Athens as possible, or just skip it all together, but that seemed like a ridiculous idea. Who goes to Greece and doesn’t visit the Acropolis? There´s a reason its one of the most tourist ridden destinations in the Mediterranean, but also curious why it never makes it on any Seven Wonders of the World lists (not even the Ancient Hellenic list).
Athens is a huge city, sprawling with construction, reconstruction, and suburban spread. It looks nothing like the postcard picture of Santorini, the bleached white homes exchanged for stained stone and marble. Still, the center of Athens is a walkable maze of old streets and stone steps, laying under the shadow of the Acropolis. The Acropolis is a citadel, built on the top of a platform mountain, in the city dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena. The Parthenon is the pillared, ruinous temple that makes Athens and ancient Greece so famous. Its big and impressive, but shrouded in construction canes and all the good stuff has been taken out of it and placed in the Archaeological Museum nearby. The view from the Parthenon over Athens is something to remember, but you really have to stretch your imagination to recreate in your mind how this city once looked or functionied in all its glory.
I couchsurfed in Athens with Yannis´ brother, my host from Crete. He took me to a ‘hipster’ bar, the TAF (the Art Foundation), a courtyard in the center of an abandoned building whose ruinous rooms offer exhibiting space for artists. Then we went to a forested courtyard bar called Six Dogs where the most trees in Athens congregated for a luscious green space between high rising, crumbling buildings. We always went out with is best friend, who was also originally from Crete, and after learning about my blog, advised me that Crete should be a whole chapter. Then, he warned me not to drink too much raki before I wrote the chapter, since ever glass of raki makes the brain one year younger… as his own jokes became more and more immature.
My brain was exploding with new Greek terminology: as the reading of their alphabet had become accessible to me, I started to realize how much English vocabulary has been borrowed directly from ancient Greek. Words for astrology, astronomy, physics, mathematics, algebra, philosophy, medicine and many other sciences are derived directly from Greek, and I found myself reading and understanding store front signs for ‘Pharmacy,’ ‘Apotek,’ ‘Optometry’ and ‘Orthopedic’ in strange letters. It’s a wonder why the ‘lingua franca’ was ever French, or now English, since Greek language and alphabet is the oldest recorded language in the history of the western world (younger only to Chinese).
The history in Greece was also flabbergasting, since everything was thousands of years older than any mentionaly anthropological history of Iceland or North America. Their rich Greek Mythology and Ancient Minoan culture provide millions of unanswered questions and curious wonderment, like how did they have flushing toilets in the year 1750BC?
I finally made it to Delphi, recommended by a fellow medievalist from Massachusetts, known as the center of the world in Ancient Greek mythology. Lonely Planet described the hilltop town as a place surely to be discovered and exploited by tourism eventually, since it was magnificently perched in the snowtopped hills of Parnassos mountain over to the Gulf of Corinth, with every house, hotel, restaurant and bar a million-dollar view you never had to pay for.