Kalispera, Atena (good evening, Athens)

The sky was a pink, orange haze – that old world haze that’s characteristic of these ancient countries.  As we descended over Athens, you could see the beachfront houses in neat little rows – they looked as of they were glued together and I imagined Greek neighbors yelling from one house to the other: the latest gossip, the price of tomatoes, politicking. It made me think of the conversation I had had with the young Argentinian lawyer next to me, he was asking about the social life in the US, is it really as fast-paced as they say? Are people very solitary and don’t go out? I explained that it depends but it’s easier to be less social when our houses are so spread apart (as opposed to the “flat-style” buildings so characteristic of the majority of the world.  The way of life makes it easier to drive home after work and stay home in front of the TV, maybe that’s also a cultural difference – it is a less social culture and people don’t feel the need to socialize and are fulfilled by being in front of the TV. (Or, maybe that’s part of what’s wrong with our culture, a lot of our depression problems may be because of a lack of social life…?)

The cab driver put our bags in the trunk without even making eye contact with us, I could tell this irked my dad – he really likes to make friends.  We got in and drove off, the warm Mediterranean air blowing through the open windows, the breeze was welcome after being in/on an airport/airplane (read: hot, sweaty, stuffy, recycled air) for 20+ hours.  The radio hummed zorba-esque music in the background and I was taken back to one hot summer in Damascus – we were eating dinner in the open-aired courtyard of an old house converted to a restaurant in the old city. There was a big Greek group dining and the guitar player welcomed them with the zorba, we were invited to join and we spent the evening dancing around the fountain in the center of the restaurant – starting slow and speeding up the tempo, as the zorba goes. I smiled at the memory and knew that before we leave this country, we would dance the zorba again. 
The cab wove through the streets – in that  “ordered chaos” characteristic of old-world-country-driving. Lanes are ambiguous and personal space, non-existent; pedestrians may or may not walk into traffic causing a fit of rage for drivers; motorbikes and vespas take advantage of their size and weave around cars.  The driver wasn’t shy to lay on the horn if traffic was taking longer to clear for him than he would like. He sat on a mat of wooden beads – for the heat and a wooden cross hung from the rear view mirror. 
The street signs made me think of my college physics and calculus classes, alphas and betas and thetas. What a beautiful alphabet, not to mention old…
Mama exclaimed that she had spotted the Acropolis! Although it was dark, we could see the Acropolis through the trees as we made our way to our hotel. As we pulled up to the lobby, mama handed the driver his fare and said “efharisto (thank you) so much.”

Time to explore! We left our hotel, and were almost run over by motorcyclists who seem to flirt with the cross walk line, anticipating the green light. We wandering around the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zues and Hadrian’s Arch – the columns mightily standing the test of time. This time when we crossed the street, we took extra caution – drivers here are reckless!  In the Plaka, we heard a man softly playing guitar and singing a ballad into a microphone; restaurant owners invited us to have a seat and eat at their restaurant, each claiming theirs to be the best one around. A man sat behind a cart selling roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob; another older gentleman had a compartamentalized cart of nuts “prova!” he proclaimed as we approached. We tasted various nuts, macademia, almonds, cashews and decided on roasted, salted almonds for an evening stroll snack. Men were selling these contraptions that light up as they soar through the air; another couple of young guys were playing with fire – the more daring of the two taking sips of gas and roaring out fire to please the crowds dining in the Plaka. We walked slowly through the olive tree lined allies stopping in each shop to admire the souvenirs, or sample candied fruit.

Ruins of Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece

More Ruins of the Temple of Zeus

kids messing around near the guys playing with fire in the Plaka, Athens, Greece

Greek yogurt + Greek honey = yummy

various yogurts

Multi-use  hollowed out log, planter

the Acropolis at night

 

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