Thursday, May 31, 2007

What’s So Sardonic About the Sardonic Gulf?

Ok it’s really Saronic….not sardonic…..that would be different now wouldn’t it?

We spent the day in Athens, Greece, which is in the Saronic Gulf.

This is where it all began, a couple of hundred years to dream up world changing sacred and intellectual ideas. Some ideas have flourished thousands of years later and others are now relegated to myth and legend. The same society that created the foundation for democracy also believed that their protector was a woman god (ok, not a bad start) who was born from her father’s head (that’s where you lost me).

It makes you wonder what ideas we hold today will be mocked thousands of years from now.

Athens has what every great city needs, location, location, location. But it looks like someone just dropped incredibly ugly concrete buildings everywhere. It stuns from the blue water of the harbor in spite of itself. Very populated and very very loud. Did I say very loud? Good! But loud in a nice way, not a Bronx kid of way, more in a bunch of college kids on spring break kind of way. These are happy people having a good time.

Walking though the streets I was transported right back to the Greek pizza restaurant I used to work at as a teenager. Hellas, Hellas I heard everywhere I turned.

When I first viewed the Acropolis with my own eyes, all I could think of was,
this is the place that I used to color on the placemat of so many of my dinners as a kid. The entire day was the adventure I dreamt about while I waited for my pizza and looked at the pictures of the places the restaurant owners were so proud of. The Greeks had a good corner on casual dining in the area of Connecticut that I grew up in. I couldn’t find an Athenian Diner though, no Spartan’s Pizza, no Pizza Castle, but of course we did find the Athenian McDonald’s. This thrilled my Alexander the Great to end.

Speaking of my Alexander, he took to the city right away and so did everyone who asked him his name. He looked at the Parthenon and proclaimed it his own, as if he were the conquering Macedonian hero himself. We risked the wrath of the acropolis museum curators to get a picture of the 2 Alexander’s the Great in the same shot. (One is a bust done several thousand years ago and the other live, I kinda think they look a bit alike).(I guess you are not supposed to “pose” with the antiquities, who knew?)

It was also an unexpected thrill to see the Dionysus Theatre. This is where theater was born, hosting opening nights for Sophocles and Euripides. Alex was thrilled to peer down a wide shaft behind the stage area and see tunnels. He exclaimed, “Hey Mom, look! It’s an ancient backstage!” They probably had to be quiet back there, back then too.

There was a group of older teenagers sitting in the seats, taking turns, standing up and reciting monologues to each other. So idealistic!

Alex was also amused by the ancient public toilets, that’s right in the 11 year old boy’s wheelhouse of funny.

We were also amused by the wit of the Emperor of the occupying Romans, Hadrian. This beautiful arch stood for hundreds of years with the inscription, “This is Athens the ancient city of Theseus.” If he had spray paint, I think he would have blacked it out, but instead he had inscribed on the other side, “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.” To the victor go the spoils.

Were also amazed at what appeared to be ancient piles of rubble. We learned from our guides that much of it was actual unused building materials, due to flaws or things they just discarded. How do you think the environmental lobby would look upon landfills that survive 3000 years? I don’t think my plastic grocery bag is really going to make it that long.

It’s a sea day tomorrow and off to Pompeii. Till then, Hellas!


Here's a link to Alex's photos from Athens and Santorini. This is what the view is like when you are less than 5 feet tall.

Alex Athens & Santorini

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