“You will never do anything in this World without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour” (Aristotle)
Yassas! It was a welcoming return to Athens as our plane touched down in lovely 26 degree heat with the sun shining brightly and not a cloud in the sky. It was a warm Mediterranean embrace on the next exciting phase of our “Greek” Odyssey.
On this trip I wanted to soak up more of the ambience of Athens and also observe more of my surroundings, the architecture and the locals.
Our stay on this holiday was at the “Inn Athens” a centrally located hotel and close to some of the most famous sites in Athens.
I felt my adrenaline pumping at the mere thought of going exploring! We had an early breakfast, so filled with sustenance it was time to hit the streets for a leisurely stroll on a quiet and cool Sunday morning.
The streets were relatively tranquil except for those coffee lovers’ seeking their morning caffeine fix at the local cafes.
First stop, the Greek Parliament. I approached the Senior Officer (at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and greeted him in his mother tongue “Kalimera” (Good morning) and politely asked if I could have a photo with one of the Guards on duty. He nodded his head and said yes “but no touching or talking to the guard”. So an updated photo of me standing proudly beside an “Evzone” soldier was taken.
It was still early and by chance two tour guides were touting for some business. So after paying the required 16€ we climbed aboard the blue “Sights of Athens” tour bus and off we ventured!
(Note to sell – No. 1 before racing across the other side of an open air double decker bus to take an amazing photo, do make sure to “unplug” your commentary earplugs or you WILL seriously get an embarrassing case of whiplash! No. 2 Please also observe the safety signs which clearly indicate to stay seated and not to move around said bus).
It was interesting to note the graffiti tags on many of the “Neo classical” buildings throughout Athens. Apparently it is a “freedom of expression” by the youth of the city. Sadly for me it did take away from the cultured ambience and richness of a once great city and a past leader of the democratic world.
We alighted the bus near “Hadrian’s Arch” and bought tickets to enter the “Temple of Olympian Zeus”.
The building of the Temple began in 515 BC and was eventually completed by Emperor Hadrian in 131-133 BC. Of the original 104 columns of the Temple 16 survived until 1852. In this very same year one of the columns was toppled by a bad storm and remains where it fell to this very day.
On our way to the Temple and the Plaka you couldn’t help but notice the beggars. Some quietly pleaded while others were more insistent.
I had never noticed this before on my last trip to Athens. One poor guy looked severely disabled with one of his legs deformed and maybe experienced cerebral palsy? He was dressed in tattered clothing and his shoes were falling apart.
I discreetly tucked some euro coins in his hand, closed his hand and wished him a blessing. He whispered “thank you madam” and I heard his voice crack with emotion as if he was going to cry because someone cared enough to acknowledge him. In that moment I nearly cried too and my heart went out to him (it was all I could do and say a silent prayer for him).
Even it was a scam, in that moment my conscience was clear in showing a little humanity and compassion and giving without a thought to those less fortunate. I’m sharing this part of my story not to be boastful in any way but more importantly to raise an awareness and consciousness about the plight of others who are disadvantaged or even ignored by society (an awakening of sorts).
Travelling has opened my eyes in so many ways – it is not always about the glitz and glamour so to speak. Staying in a nice hotel, fine dining and the luxury details of travel.
It is also being aware of your environment – being enlightened, respectful and sensitive but mostly having a social conscience. As one person I cannot change the world, however, if it is within my power to show empathy and brighten the day of another soul – then I will at least try.
In closing, Athens is like a once grand and beautiful woman – eternally beguiling and enchanting but when you scratch beneath the surface you will discover all her flaws and imperfections; and this only enhances her appeal and character.
So until next time dear lady – Adio!
“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival” (Aristotle)
Have you ever had an experience that awakened your consciousness? I would be genuinely interested to hear your thoughts…….