Acropolis or bust!

The adventure of finding my way into Athens yesterday wore me out and I did not wake up until almost 10am.  I stumbled down to get breakfast and lots of coffee before venturing out to view the Acropolis today.  The citizens are calling for more strikes on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, thus I figured I better go see what I came here to see before the shit gets shut down again, regardless of the fact that it is miserably cold and rainy. After finishing breakfast, I went back to my room to add more layers to my skinny ass, grabbed my raincoat and camera and headed out of the hotel, dodging protesters and garbage, to view the ruins.  Of course, I got lost – because I don’t understand Greek – I can’t read it, I can’t speak it and it doesn’t make any sense.  The lettering is different, the vowel and consonant combination they have adopted are better spoken if you have a side lisp and everything ends in “enos”, which is awfully close to “asinos” or jackass (I will come back to that).  To make things worse, the city planned the street layouts in triangular form.  So, while I thought I was heading towards the Acropolis for five minutes, I actually ended up on the opposite side of the city in the industrial area of town.  I quickly located a policeman to ask him where I was and how to get back on track – and again got yelled at for being by myself.  (I am sure you are wondering HTF did you not see the Acropolis, dude, it is on top of a mountain?!  DUH!  Well – you can’t really see the mountain when you are swimming in garbage, sorry).<

Now the officer was H-O-T, Hotty Hot, so, I was hoping he would have just walked me to the Acropolis since he was so worried about me being alone, but I guess he had a job to do – standing there minding the riff-raff and pickpockets.  I would have to settle for his yelling at me, then giving me a swaggerly smile with a flirty wink as the content of our brief encounter.  I followed his instructions to “just go straight that way” back towards the Acropolis (through 14 winding streets mind you, the Greeks have got to work on how you give directions to people, because their idea of straight and other people’s idea of straight are VASTLY different).  Finally I arrived at Montastraki Square, and then hiked up the damn mountain to get to the ruins, and guess what?!  THEY WERE CLOSED – due to the personnel strike.  I think I have done pretty well up until now with unexpected hiccups, travel snafus, museum closures, or other weird crap that has happened along my journey, but I am not going to lie – I completely lost all sense of rational composure at this point and pitched afull-blown, 2-1/2 year-old style temper tantrum, complete with Asian couple staring mouths open at my rampage for no less than 10 minutes.  When I finished stomping around, screaming “f**k the Greeks!” at least 20 times, I sat down and cried with my head in my hands, and I cried.  After I finally pulled it together, I spent some time walking the grounds, took a few pictures and bought a ciambella (because sugar makes everything better).  Then, I took some deep breaths, cried again, cursed the Greeks and their stupidity for shutting down a revenue stream in the midst of trying to recovering from  overwhelming debit three more times, and then I stomped back down the hillside.

At the bottom of the hill rests the Agora ruins (which were also closed), where I sat down to breathe and reconnect with my more rational side.  Across the street I watched a man desperately trying to sell umbrellas to passing tourists, along with two African men playing beautifully depressing music from their homeland.  Without understanding the words, the timbre of the music spoke of the struggles in their own country.  By the way they postured themselves, and the expressions of angst displayed on their faces, while they sung the lyrics, you could sense the anger, mixed with deep respect, regret, fondles and love.   I sat and listened for some time, then I realized I was behaving like a complete jerk about the whole mess and I really don’t mean it when I say “f**k the Greeks”.  At that moment, another man entered the scene as he walked up to the umbrella guy and handed him a sandwich.  I turned into a total puddle of regret for having thought such awful things, and my heart broke with the feeling of suffering and poverty these people have been living in for too long (unnoticed by most of us in the world).  I looked over to find the African men starting at me with perplexity, and one of them asked why I was crying.  I told him it saddened me to see what has become of a great city full of ancient wonder and mythology.  Of course, he was all too familiar with how a corrupt government can quickly erode the entire foundation of a civilized society.  We spoke for some time about life and his family back home.  I asked him if he had any recordings of their music to take with me as a memento.  He was overjoyed that someone appreciated their music and I am now the honored owner of a Molisimo CD (which means “soul” in his native language).  As soon as I can find somewhere to upload the music, you will understand why this music touched my soul deeply, too.

The irony, as I see it, is that much of our legal system of today was founded on what the Greek people established thousands of years ago and the city is now in complete disrepair.  Everywhere are signs of discontent, struggle and hardship.  From the trash piled in the streets (which has caused the government to declare a state of emergency due to the imposing public health hazard), to the buildings that are crumbling because there is no money to maintain them, to the graffiti sprayed on almost every structure in the city verbalizing the anger of the people, and the banners strung on many of the buildings show the signs of support for the people’s fight.  I understand part of their discontent, because they trusted the government to manage their tax dollars and investments better than they have.  And part of it I don’t agree with…..if the country is broke, and you have tourists willing to pay to see shit – why shoot yourself in the foot and shut it down?  From an economic standpoint, this is inefficient (and we know if there is one thing I can’t stand it is inefficiency).

The next day when the demonstrators took up more crazy protests (and began burning trash) in front of my hotel, I decided it was time to get the hell out of dodge.  I didn’t take pictures, because I didn’t want to have my camera stolen, nor did I want to get thrown into the pile of burning garbage, so I put my head down and hauled ass to the subway while it was still working (consequently it was the cleanest place in all of Athens).

I don’t want to see Greece fail, I really hope that they can come to a compromise and find economic footing soon, however – I don’t need to be caught in the middle of this shit (literally)……so peace out, asinos, I am checking into a hotel by the airport so that I can catch a quick flight to Santorini in the morning.


  1. Laura

    I do fear that we will have the same problems. In fact, most citizens fear that if Greece is ousted from the EU, then Spain, Italy and Portugal will default as well. This would cause a spiral that will most certainly effect the global economy. But, I don't know that we will ever become like Athens in the US – because we are too lazy to exercise our right to protest the things that we all bitch about on a daily basis. I have to give credit to the Athenians – they are organized in their riots and strikes!

  2. Jessica

    One of the things that I truly enjoy by your writing is that one minute I'm laughing… The next minute I'm learning something new… And the next a tear falls because of your sincerity. I'm glad that you made it out safe and thank you for your first-hand account of Athens. I hope the islands are better. Xoxo

  3. idolwench

    Birthplace of Democracy. Is this what we will become if we aren't more careful? There are lessons to be learned for all of us. I am sorry that your experience was so depressing. Back in '87 when we were there, not much was different. We were told to avoid certain areas of the city. The Acropolis was being cleaned and scaffolds were every where. So much of the ruins had been looted over the years that the only way to see them were in museums. I couldn't wait to leave the city and be in the islands. We also had to deal with terrorist alerts as it was only a week after the Achille Lauro incident and an explosion on an airliner. Yikes!

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