Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Athens

I slept throughout my travel and woke up with a start as the Air France aircraft hit turbulence nearer to Athens. I believe AF flights take it as a personal pride when their aircrafts shake and shudder in mid air. In fact, there had to be a procedural plug on the dashboard to be pulled to scare shit out of all aboard. At that moment however, I was glad it made such a commotion, coz dying in sleep is cool only when you are old and wasn't my idea of how I wanted to die right then. If I had to die, I rather look the death in the face, so I leaned and looked out with anticipation.




Downtown Athens, though inland, is in close proximity to Mediterranean Sea, and the offshoots thereof, such as Ionian & Aegean Seas. The aerial view of these islands is as beautiful as the names of these seas. Athens is located on the Argosaronikos Gulf, and it makes for a stunning seascape.



Everything I thought I knew about Athens from the newspapers and hearsay, I threw it in the airport dustbin the moment I landed. Two reasons: It was cold. It was posh.I hadn't packed much in the way of winter. I should have known the limits of European definition of 'sunny and hot'. For me it was still chilly.

The great thing about the Athens Airport was that it is open. Paris is dark and cold and makes a bleak appearance. Athens on the other hand made for an appearance closely resembling the Greeks as I was about to discover. I guess, the way a city welcomes you can be taken as a proxy for its overall disposition. I love Paris. But the carefree, sunny, relaxed disposition that Mediterranean climate bestows on the Southern Europe is sourly missing in Paris.

Northern countries make for better infrastructure though as they are less relaxed. Airport-Downtown Athens metros are every 30 minutes. I missed the frequency of Metros in Paris.

While loitering aimlessly on the train station, I saw this and I kept staring...


No way! This was seriously snazzy! Could I actually read Greek if I tried? The Greek alphabets were riding the flashes of my memory and all the highschool and college Physics started unravelling in front of my eyes. The shapes started making sense. Alpha, beta gamma, delta...so on till omega. So, I didn't always understand what it meant, but I could still read it! Can you? Try and you will succeed. Many of these words are of course similar to English. I love linguistics, especially the ontogeny and etymology of words, and it was a treat, these four days, just to keep reading and making sense of shapes, and then words. Another common word on the train station...ΕΞΟΔΟΣ (or Εξοδοσ)...Can you read it? It says, Epsilon-Xi-Omicron-Delta-Omicron-Sigma...Exodos...or exodus on more commonly, exit in English!

After a long train ride, I reached the heart of Athens. I checked-in, took bath, stepped out, got some food, ate, took a nap and then went out for a long night walk.

Every nook, every corner, in fact every road had something that was lying there since last 2000 years. Much of it is subterranean as the modern city has been built over the ancient ruins. Instead of making complicated pathways leading tourists to the sites of underground ruins, the Greeks have devised an ingenious way of exhibiting their treasure to the tourists. You will see glass portals on the roads and pavements through which people can look. It's a crazy contradiction. So, on my left and right were H&Ms, GAPs, ZARAz, MANGOs and C&As of the world, and below me were stones dating back to the BCs of the world. Are you fucking kidding me?!

I kept walking and came across a crossroad where a fellow was singing some folk songs and playing something like a Mandolin. I lingered around. I sat on a stone (who knows how old it must be) and kept listening to his sonorous voice. Gentle breeze, air strung with the smell of pizza and bread, and dim white light streaming from someplace. I looked up to see where is this source of light, moved a block, and met with a dazzling demonstration of architecture sitting snugly on a distant hill which we all know as Acropolis and Parthenon!



2 comments:

rathchakra said...

Much awaited! Beautifully written, I could feel the atmosphere in your description of the last two paragraphs. Isn't it fascinating to see the old and new rubbing shoulders...and the concept of "old" in cities like Rome and Athens takes a whole new meaning. The structures, streets, buildings, have been standing for centuries (and were the real sets for some of history's world-changing events) and when you get to be around them, see them, touch them, is an experience that has to be had first hand to truly understand the feeling.

I am hoping there are more chapters to this. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

wow! It is really a wonderful post. I can relate to your excitement on being able to decode the script (cheap thrills but thrills nonetheless), the awe of seeing something you have only imagined always, being on your own (i hope at least a few times) in an unknown place (especially a place you have always only wondered how it would be) must be such a unique feeling.

much love

bm