by Fifi LaMode
Athens is great. It's big, it's busy, it's noisy, it's teeming with life. After a 10 hour overseas flight, it's downright overwhelming. We stop at a cafe in Omonia Square, the business hub of the city, sip a cappucino, and people-watch. Stalls abound, selling newspapers, chachkis, whatever. People from just about everywhere converge on this metropolis (a Greek word, you know).
But a different Athens awaits us in the evening. We go to Plaka, and from the ruins of the old city we look up at the Acropolis. My husband suggests we climb to the top. I ask where the cable car is. He says the ancient Greeks had no cable cars. I reply that the ancient Greeks were dead by the time they were my age!
We climb. It looks harder than it is—actually quite a gentle climb. Here we are, the Parthenon, in all its splendor. You've seen the pictures, but it doesn't compare to the reality, actually being in the same place as Socrates, Pericles, Demosthenes, et al. And the view takes your breath away. I'm choked with emotion and can not believe I'm actually here.
All the ancient history and mythology I studied as a child comes back to life in front of me. I touch one of the marble columns and feel it channelling the past. Athens, the birthplace of democracy. It's truly hard to convey in words what it feels like to be here. Looking out over the city, we wonder what it looked like for the ancients when they stood in the same place. It's hard to tear ourselves away.
At the bottom of the hill, we come across the ruins of the Agora, the marketplace, the forerunner of the shopping center. Now it's a tranquil place: There are just columns, some stone benches (where no doubt weary husbands rested while their wives tried on the latest jewelry and sandals), and some sleeping dogs. But it's huge. This was the real center of town in its heyday. The philosophers strolled down its streets with their pupils, along with ordinary citizens going about their day-to-day business.
When we see the crowded streets in the new part of town (actually, practically all of Athens is the new part of town—this is the only old bit), we stop and think what travelers a few hundred years from now will see of this busy city. But for now we ponder how short our time here is compared to the millenia of history we view during our travels. Puts all our problems in a different perspective, doesn't it?
Two hundred years from now, will it matter how much we saved at Macy's last weekend, or whether we saw some new film the first weekend it played? Will it matter 2 weeks from now? So what remains after OUR agoras have turned to ruins? If we live wisely, the same as in Athens: The principles, the philosophy, the art this wonderful civilization passed on to us.