Articles By Gord
As I see it... Athens, Greece

September 2006 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

The way I see it... Athens, Greece

If you have ever said to a friend, to your partner, to your dog, the wall or your spouse, (the last two may be one and the same): “Greece, that's the one place I've always wanted to visit,” I want you to turn to that wall right now and say, “Next summer I am going to Greece. You can come if you want to.”

GO! It'll be the best money you've ever spent. (Well, very close to the best...perhaps topped only by the cash you had to dole out for Johnnie's braces, getting the dryer fixed and the new transmission, but otherwise...)

Go sometime between May and the end of September for a minimum of two weeks.

I have been lucky enough to visit Greece three times and I would go back again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow - “Creeps in its petty pace.”

I love the food, the people, the islands, the sea, the sky and the flavour of life at its fullest that seems celebrated everywhere.

Athens, founded by the Goddess Athena, (yeah, well... whatever) is the cradle of civilization. You're likely going to land there, so it's a good place to begin. Dump your luggage in the room, grab a quick shower and head up to your hotel's roof top.

Many of Athens hotels utilize this space, you will likely find a swimming pool, cafe offering light lunches, snacks and drinks. Find yourself some shade, park your carcass, order a Greek salad and a glass of wine and RELAX. There is almost always a breeze. You'll be glad of that.

Relaxed? Wander to the rail and look out over the city. It is sprawling, the buildings, are white, white, white...almost piercing to the eye. The white is brokenonly by shades of gray. You'll see the Acropolis; at night it is flood lit. You will also see high atop another hill the Chapel of Saint Georges. Visit it. There is a cable car that will whisk you to it's top. I promise you the view is truly magnificent. And coming from a blind guy that's quite a promise.

The Acropolis. The Parthenon. The temple of Athena. The first time I was there I was 22 and stupid. Knew it all, done it all and tamed all. Fresh out of university I'd trekked off to explore Europe. I had my eyesight then. And nothing I saw in Europe moved me as deeply as the Acropolis.

At that time you could still roam among its ruins. That first visit, a drizzly, gray November day, I stood on the marble floor of the Parthenon and with one hand resting on the cold remains of a column, I looked. The wind. The rain spattering against my leather jacket. Virtually alone with few others and...the cats.

I wondered how could man have created this? How could it have survived the ages? It was more than sight, the Acropolis was a swarming of the senses. I wondered what impact this must have been on a traveler two thousand years earlier. To have rounded a hill and suddenly gazed upon these glorious works...It must have drawn the breath right out of them.

The climb is a good work out and even more taxing in the blistering heat of summer. So be prepared - hat, sun glasses, bottled water, paramedics, sun screen. At the base of the Acropolis is the Plaka. An area that attempts to fulfill all the desires and wishes of every tourist. Restaurants and cafes upon more restaurants and cafés. Foods to please everyone, Chinese or French and of course, Greek too.

Shopping in the Plaka? There are only a few more shops than there are restaurants. Shops containing, offering, selling, bartering all that is within and most of that which spills without. Rugs, jewelry, clothing, souvenirs, (it's a good time to pick up those Greek worry beads, because you're going to need them when that Visa bill arrives). And like all of the Mediterranean, the Plaka zooms to life once the sun has set.

For another day, visit the Olympic stadium. The original, the first. Walk the track (don't run, the heat will kill you). Sit up in the stands, imagine the games playing out before you and marvel.

Take time to visit the new Olympic site, home of the 2004 games. It is easy to get to because Athens now has this super subway metro and at this time, it is graffiti free.

If your time is limited, latch on to a one-week cruise of the islands - Mykonos, Santorini, Crete. The cruise allows you to settle in, waking up in a new port of exploration each day. Catherine and I combined the cruise with a second week stay split between two different islands, Mykonos and Paros.

I'd be a complete idiot, if I wrote about Greece and didn't talk about the food. You, on the other hand would be a complete idiot if you went to Greece and didn't like Greek food. Olives, garlic, lemons, feta cheese, souvlaki, spanakopita, tomatoes, ouzo, watermelon, calamari, sea bass and octopus. Okay, okay that was more of a list than a talk, but I was drooling so much when I wrote it, I had to wear a bib.

(A quiz for my readers. In that list which one was not a food? I know the bulk of you picked octopus.)

Earlier, I said that a cruise allowed you to wake up in a new port of exploration each day. Exploring is exactly what it feels like you are doing as you wander the narrow, twisting lanes and alleys of most Greek villages. The lanes are cool, the sun blocked by the homes and shops, until the noon day sun can no longer be denied access.

Have a camera at the ready and explore every turn, crack, crevice, overhang and stairwell, you will get some amazing photos. Flowers cascade over walls and along railings and blue doors are everywhere. They are so sharp in contrast to the white of the buildings.

Often beside the entranceway there is the marking of the evil eye. It wards off, what else, evil. You wander these twisting alleyways until you emerge once more by a harbour or square and you find yourself saying, “Oh, we've been here before. But I've no idea how we got here.”

Sounds, or the absence of sounds have made a marked impression on me. I can't recall hearing birds in Greece. No robins or sparrows, or the equivalent thereof seems present. It seems so strangely quiet. I have assumed they are absent because of the intense heat.

But what you will hear are cicadas. Not a few, like we hear on those hot days in August, but millions of them. I've been overwhelmed by their sound. Every shrub, bush, and every limb of that bush, shrub or tree reverberates with the song of cicadas. And cicadas know HOT.

All of this is possible if you've ever said to that wall, “Greece... you know, that's the one place I've always wanted to visit.” GO.

One last word. I love Greece. I will go back again, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

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