I Might Have Several Places In the World

I spent the last hour of my day at the rooftop bar of my hotel, sipping slowly at a glass of scotch and gazing at the glowing white spectacle of the Acropolis in the distance.

It was exquisite and a great way to end the day.

This day had begun much earlier, in Larissa, where I had risen and purchased my ticket for a morning train to Athens. I liked that town bout couldn’t stay any longer in that place. Not for now, anyway.

Then in the quiet streets of that small city I sought out the pastry shop I’d visited the night before. Breakfast was a delicious handmade slice of spanakopita – spinach pie, replete with layers of delicate phyllo and specks of salty pungent feta. It’s admittedly not what many of us think as a breakfast food, but it was what I craved.

I boarded my train, and several hours later disembarked into the flurry of the Athens train station where I found the subway to Syntagma Square, in the center of town. It was only a short walk from my hotel, but I was early for check-in and hungry so stopped first for a leisurely lunch of souvlaki.

This would prove to be fateful, as I lingered perhaps a little long over my meal. But it was delicious and the right thing for the right time.

You see, I had arrived in this ancient city without a plan – at least not much of one anyway. I don’t have much time here – not even 24 hours, really, so I had one thing on my list as a definite must, and that was the Temple of Hephaistos, which stands in the Ancient Agora

After lunch I gathered my bags and walked the few remaining blocks to my hotel where I checked in and hurried out into the streets surrounding the Acropolis, a constant companion that hovered in the sky above us. I knew my destination but still took my time getting there, pausing to view the Tower of the Winds, which tickled corners of my brain from my only other visit here so many years ago.

There is so much to see in this ancient city, so many ancient ruins that appear nonchalantly and unexpectedly at any corner. I had to keep looking things up.

When I finally arrived at the Agora, I almost didn’t recognize it, but then my memories began to rebuild themselves. I had forgotten the train tracks that border the site and its park-like setting.

Upon stepping up to the gate, however, I found that I had missed my window. Many such sites close at sunset, but not the Agora of Ancient Athens. Despite several hours of sunlight remaining, on this day in February it closed at 3:30. I had arrived at 3:45.

Thwarted in my plans I continued to skirt the Acropolis. I had not had not planned to visit the Parthenon on this trip, having been there before, but on some level I think I knew I would do so anyway. I have felt destined to return for years now.

The last entrance there was 4:15, and the ticket agent warned me “You have to be out by 5,” to which I responded, “I can walk fast.”

And I did, indeed hurry, pausing only to clamber up a precarious outcropping and risk another head injury to view the incredible site before making the final climb.

I had also forgotten the climb involved in getting here.

Few visitors were here this evening, and it was perfect.

Much restoration has been accomplished since my last visit. They have lain a concrete walkway, which was much needed as the prior ground was an irregular pavement of ancient marble. While that was perhaps more traditional, it was a challenging surface to walk on.

The Acropolis was absolutely magnificent today, and must have been even moreso in prior times, before the destruction and pillaging of the last couple centuries, when the Turkish occupiers stored explosives in the Parthenon and Lord Elgin desecrated the temples here to take the treasures to London.

High on that hilltop, in the warmth of a fading February afternoon, I hurried from temple to temple, viewing the remains, seeing what I could, and remembering what my mind would allow. I had no time to read or tarry, but simply being here was enough.

And at the far end of the hill that towered above Athens below, the Greek flag waved lazily against the cloudless azure sky. I paused to take it in and felt a strange pride. I’m of Greek descent, but not a Greek citizen. I have only been here three times, yet after this trip I feel like this country is, in some way, my place.

One of my places.

On my way back down I snapped one last shot of the Temple of Athena Nike. I took this photo when I was last here, but this time no other visitors would spoil the frame or rush me this time.

The descent into town was leisurely. I had no need to hurry and could stop at will for a few photos and to listen to musicians playing in the street.

Late in the evening I went to an absolutely touristy restaurant for moussaka. I haven’t had it this trip, and while it’s an almost stereotypical Greek food, it’s what I needed on this night.

I don’t think I broke much new ground today, but I didn’t need to. I just needed to take it easy enjoy myself.

And that’s exactly what I did.

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