Athens: That City ‘Mess’ Up

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In an ode to the colorful grammar used by one of my sister-in-law’s former 3rd grade students, I have to say Athens is a little ‘mess up’ right now. The ruins are in ruins, of course.
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My little Hercules at the Temple of Zeus
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But even the modern buildings suffer the scourge of relentless graffiti and urban decay.
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Being in Athens often felt like what I imagine NYC was in the 70s, or at least the pre-Rudy Giuliani era.
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That said, it seems like everyone and their mother warned us about Athens, about the crime, about not going out at night – we even met a woman on the subway who lived in the OC for 35 years. Even she warned us to make sure we were home before dark. I don’t know though, people in Orange County probably say the same thing about LA too. Still, parts of Athens were certainly no trip to Disneyland.

And speaking of theme parks, we went to the site of the 2004 Olympic games.
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Here’s her hurdles pose
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But those stadium grounds were pretty mess up too.
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It felt like being in an abandoned theme park.
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We were told by a lone security guard that the stadium was closed, but we managed to finesse our way in for some quick photos. The stadium was immaculate inside.
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Architecturally speaking, I loved this building – the Velodrome.
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Inside (through windows) you can see the bicycling oval track. We saw signs taped to the window regarding a bicycle race in 2011 so at least the place isn’t a total ghost town.
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If you know Kiran, you know you don’t go to Athens and visit just one Olympic Stadium, you visit two. Here’s the site of the 1896 Olympic games, built on the site of the ancient Olympic games from a couple thousand years ago.
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Kiran ran inside. I waited outside to save the €3 admission fee. That little spot in the center row at the back is Kiran.
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Here’s the shots she took from that point
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When I say Kiran ran inside, literally, Kiran ran inside.
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You study the Parthenon in history, you see the pictures, but like the Great Wall, you really can’t know what it’s like to see it until you’re actually there. Built under the direction of Pericles in the 5th century BC, the Parthenon and the hill it sits upon and the surrounding structures (the Acropolis) have seen numerous changes. The Parthenon has been a church, a mosque, and an army garrison headquarters. One of the surrounding buildings, the Erechtheum, used to house an Ottoman governor’s harem. The Parthenon also used to be a gun powder storage house, and when it was shelled by the Venetians in 1687 during the X War, the building blew up, causing much of the damage still seen today. Sadly, much of the Parthenon’s statues were looted by the English and now sit in the London Museum. Shouldn’t the Brits give that stuff back?
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Anyway, this was our best self-photog attempt
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Some stank face self photog
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Regarding safety in Athens, and anywhere where you travel, they say to avoid demonstrations and large crowds. And, generally, being right outside the US embassy isn’t the brightest idea either.

So when Kiran and I were walking through Athens one evening and we heard a guy on a loudspeaker and a large group of people shouting chants in unison, you know I had to go check it out.
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Well, it turns out I took Kiran to her first neo-Nazi rally! Technically, it was a gathering of Greece’s far right “neo-fascist party,” Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn members say they are nationalistic and racist but not neo-Nazis. Either way, at first, I didn’t think anything was that suspicious – half the people there didn’t even look white, not by Scandinavian standards at least. But as soon as I saw some guys with shaved heads and white shoelaces, I thought it was time to get the h-ll outta there – get Kiran out of there at least, I figured I was safe with my blue eyes.

The lack of police, or any people protesting them whatsoever, was really surprising honestly. Sad really. Later I read that Golden Dawn is a minor but ever growing political force in Greece. And assaults on brown/ black people by members of Golden Dawn are quite frequent. WTF Greece?

I still say however, if you live in fear, then the terrorists win. So before we left, we made our requisite pilgrimage to the US embassy in Athens.
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Then, next door in a park, we heard another person on a microphone and saw another crowd gathering. Undaunted, we went to check that out too.

Turns out it was a sound check for an awesome blues band.
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We stuck around and spent the early evening listening to some great R&B in a city park with the beautiful American flag waving to us in the background. Look in the upper right hand corner. As CEO of Silverado Hospice Loren Shook says, “Love is greater than fear.”
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Leaving Athens, we took an early AM ferry to Santorini on June 1st and we’ll celebrate my birthday there on June 4th.
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For my birthday, I said the only thing I wanted from Kiran was to NOT go out to eat. No restaurants, just stay home. I think that’s what most men want actually.

Lastly, thank you to Bruce and your wife not only for dinner but for the awesome restaurant recommendation. Neoklassiko was AWESOME and so cheap!

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2 responses to “Athens: That City ‘Mess’ Up”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Kiran and Scott- Loved the Olympic venues, spooky really, adn I am afraid that is what Brazil will be like after all the flags leave. So much love to follow your travel and again making our tunnel vision of the world an issude that we all need to address. Hugs from “77”. Dad and Pam

  2. Jeffrey Zimmerman says :

    Ruins? Maybe (with the exception of the Gyro) that’s all that Greece is good for. Maybe someone once said “We held the first olympic games and let that get ruined, now we’ll have another and let that get ruined too!!” As far as the track is concerned, I’m in. Me and Kiran either on foot, or G4 vs S2000.

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