V. Acropolis Now. The End (Athens, Greece)

Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 6:29 AM

Dearly Beloveds,

We are gathered here (disparate, unconnected except by virtual
communication and 12 hour flights from Athens to Atlanta) today
(perhaps your night, afternoon, morrow) to mourn the passage of a few
things (our European traverse, the Greek alphabet, these emails, the
peak of the bubble skirt fashion, and especially, political
incorrectness). Know that we share in your grief; perservere. Keep the
faith.

As we did for Athens over the course of our 24 hour stay. At our last
contact, we had all but made a colony of Corfu by the time we boarded
an enormous pink bus at 10:20 yesterday evening, bound merrily across
the Grecian mainland, through the mountains, over the river (the sea)
and through the ruins, to ATHENIA, pagan capital of the world. At 4:30
am, we were awoken for a late-night souvlaki pit stop, potty break,
etc. The place recalled something from 8th grade field trips
(somewhere the busdriver has chosen for his personal taste rather than
his passengers’) a dark and deserted food bar that incited fear and
desolation, confusion, panic, the feeling when your mother doesn’t
hear you crying, etc. After, we all slept as soundly as men on death
row, curling into the sprawl of Athens’ industrial suburbs just in
time for sunrise.

After regenerating at Easy Access Hostel just off Omonia Swuare, a
place situated snugly between a foreign pet shop and what appeared to
be either a police station, a homeless shelter, or (as Annie put it),
Iraq.  We set out in search of traditional cheese pie for breakfast,
abandoned marketplaces, and ways to hurt our feet in the name of
education and history. Success across the board.

We noticed immediately that in order to combat the raging city heat,
all upper level air conditioning units in our neighborhood had been
positioned so as to dribble their condensation merrily, refreshingly
upon the innocent passerby including us and our neighbors (the
homeless, the local graffiti artists, terrorists of all foreign
varietal). What excellent city planning! We bathed in the downpour and
filled our canteens as parched hikers at a hidden spring.

Next, we wasted 1.5 hours of our lives in the National Archeological
museum, a “must see” in all travel guides for anthropologists and art
historians alike. The jewelry corridor (rustic gold rings, a plethora
of solid gold laurel weath crowns) kept our rapt attention, but an
insufficient gift shop propelled us off the premise in search of more
devastated ruins. For ONE EURO, we gained entry to the BRAND NEW
ACROPOLIS MUSEUM, openned only a week ago in anticipation of our arrival, a glorious architectural feat of marble and
glass, but featuring (surely) the same vases and armless statues  from
our previous engagement, retitling them in an attempt to deter
tourists from the blatant fact that Grecian art is all the same
(rubble and… Yes). Plaster recreations replaced those festering away
as “stolen items” in the British museum. Tourists leered. We made our
rounds, telling stories from college to one another in blatant
inattention, taking care only to observe, but not in detail, the
effervescence of the aura of the building, which was enough to make
even a greek goddess wish she’d been an architect instead.  Hunger
struck, so we exited after a few hazy laps, bound for lunch in a
lovely outdoor shaded authenic sort of place in the nearby PLAKA
neighborhood, but ending up at a bit of a shabby student hangout, far
off the beaten path (as in empty), delicious and yet, unmemorable.
Lonely Planet fails again.

From lunch, we mounted the ACROPOLIS, a near vertical climb that
required a delicately maneuvered belay sytem that we rigged from
unused dental floss and olive pits. We summited the secular haven with
radience, our shirts soaked through, hands and knees caloused from the
occasional steady on a nearby rock made from the plasma of the sun,
triumphant, eager to learn but unwilling, as always, to spare a few
precious euros on an information guide. Instead, we amused ourselves
with our cameras, taking in the 360 degree view, posing as statues on
fallen pediments (which, to our misfortune, was followed by rapid
bleeting whistles of the guards who literally made us delete all
evidence of having mocked the guards…pagans indeed…it happened
more than once.  It happenned twice).

From the peak, we descended to the smaller mound of Mars’ Hill, where
Paul deplored the Athenians to abandon their manmade temples and
worship the One True God. Inbetween A-town and this little Martian
hill, we purchased a Smirnoff Iced Lemonade Slushy to split and took
it with to Chin Chin (cheers in Italian, which we’re still speaking,
having not learned a word of Greek) the struggle and victory of the
early church, clinking our plastic cups at the very place where Paul
preached (“this Bud’s for you,” Annie implored).

From Mars, we waddled down to the Agora, famed ancient marketplace of
Athenian locals, businessment and polititians alike. Traversing its
overgrown paths and toppled structures, we sweated out our continued
disappointment of the mess that famed Europa was turning out to be,
all ___ and ___.  And then, as if sent from God to confirm the worldly
Satanism of these temples and their unpruned habitat, we spotted a
garden snake in our path, and, lurching forward, chased it with our
cameras screaming ssssssssssssssssss and forcing the creature under a
historical rock. We harmonized hymns in a nearby empty chapel to the
bleeting of another whistle from a guard who we can only assume hates
all forms of joy, worship, and musical perception, and we wandered through
the wasteland of Agora looking for the USCITA as soon as we entered.

Over the course of the day, Amanda acquired an impressively vibrant
heat rash that covered her legs as thickly as stockings, so we called
it a day and ambled home through the Athenian ghetto to the
suffocating and stagnant air in our hostel room. To reward our
conquest of the entire Roman Empire, we rested and read the account of
Paul’s Athenian mission  in Acts 17:16-34.  For dinner, we consulted
Rick Steves’ website on best athens restaurants, selecting the rooftop
swankiness of a 5 star hotel downtown as our last meal, justifying the
splurge by our experience (and reexperience, in Annie’s case) of cheap
eating the few days before.

Dinner was excellent in all ways, thickly drizzled balsamic on
everything, a bottle of local wine, feta like milk, cinnamon salmon
and steak, tipping our kind waiter like Americans for the first time
this trip (Europeans do not require much, if any, gratuity… Or at
least we’d been acting that way).

We asked the nicest bellman at the world (at the nicest hotel), to
hail us a cab, realizing that the ratings on http://www.hostelbookers.com are
posted by idiots when both he and our cabdriver repeated the area we
requested to be taken (omnia) incredulously (WHERE?? That is unsafe!
You cannot stay there! Why are you staying there? Stay here if you
can!). We were aware that Saltimboca street where we were residing was
not exactly fancy, but these reactions confirmed that the nicely
dressed ladies on our street corner were a specific kind of socialite.
Our fatherly cab driver lectured us the whole way, refusing to let us
walk even half a block (it was 9:30) and stopping the meter early
before depositing us curbside at the hostel. For the 6 euro trip, we
paid him 10. Safetly inside the otherwise typical hostel abounding
with blissful naïve young travelers of all sorts, we locked the door
and windows of our room and blasted the AC. Keeping with nightly
ritual, Annie checked under the bed, behind all the curtains and in
the wardrobe for monsters at Amanda’s request (“only one, but he’s
small”). And, as usual, Annie began to snore within seconds while
Amanda ‘slept’ with one eye open, blinking awake ever hour on the hour
to check the locks on all doors.

We survived the night, endangered only by the hot air that nearly
bubbled in its thick mugginess. Thankfully, the AC trickled its
contents on our feet, humming and clicking intermittently as if to
say, “I’ll keep you safe.”

And so it ends. Amanda rose and left by 9 am to catch a few metro
stops and an hour long bus to the airport, weeping the whole way and
feeling disproportionately alone without her Fannie, wondering what
she would do for the course of the 12 hour flight besides finish a few
books and cry some more. She resolved to move with her and her family
to Annie’s neighborhood this coming week.

Fannie spent the day swimming in her tears as well.  Attempting to recapture the glory days, she wandered through all the old haunts … the bakery where we had our first Grecian pastery, the coffee shop where we waited for museums to open, the streets where we were lost for hours on end what seemed like only days before.  Annie did all of the things that we had spoken of but had somehow never gotten around to trying because we assumed (like all young couples) that we had all the time in the world.  She tried Greek coffee.  She ate baklava.  She read in the National Gardens (barely able to read through the cold tears of her loneliness and grief).  She found treasures that she knew Amanda would have loved: a rambling flee market, a store that sold only remote controls, a security guard peeing against a temple wall.  She went into a touristy tshirt shop, asked if they spoke English, and then spoke only in Swahili to confuse and annoy the locals. Foolishly, she attempted to see some rubble solo. It was like salty sweat in the still-bleeding wounds.  No one heard her complaint that Hadrian must be foolish to have a library with so few walls and no roof. No one did anything to make a guard whistle at them. No one was speaking in a British accent accept some British people. Everywhere she looked, pairs of friends were holding hands, sharing drinks, and breaking out in heat rash. But not Annie. Annie was alone with only her sweat and imaginary pet monkey for company. Despondent, bitter, and nearing heat stroke, Annie made her way to a cafe where she hit rock bottom and drank a milkshake alone. Realizing that food was no way to cope with loss, Annie went to see a retail therapist and work through some of her issues. Feeling revived and refreshed after lightening her wallet, Annie made her way back through the crime scenes to the hostel in order to finish the email that we had started together. It was hard to do alone, but she knew Amanda would have wanted their work to be finished. Although Annie’s flight doesn’t leave till 11 pm, she will leave the hostel by 5 in order to avoid walking through the ghetto at any point that is anywhere close to evening.

So we are Homeward Bound, like a Tanzanian golden retriever and a Tennessean house cat, our bags heavy laden with treasure (journals from Florence, postcards from Roman crypts, dried lavender flowers from Sorrento still in shorts’ pockets, decks of cards with erotic pictures from Grecian pottery that were given to us upon check out from the Plague Palace, Eurail passes with only half of the days used, and the memories that are as immortal as the statue of Athena). Amanda will go on with her life, pack up to move houses and move to the big city. Annie will fly to Africa where every drop of sweat will make her long for rubble and Amanda.

And  you, dear reader, what will you do? How will you cope with life without these email updates? That is out of our hands. We will be praying for you as you deal with this loss.  All of our love and best of luck.

THE END.

Annimanda.

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~ by soleilsphere on January 7, 2010.

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