Athens – where it all began…

I am Greek. I was born in Greece by Greek parents. When I came back to my country after 35 years of living overseas (even though I visited my parents almost every year) it was a completion of the circle of sorts. I came back to the place I was born… the place where it all started. For me it was always a philosophical journey rather than simply a sentimental one. Being in Greece today is not easy nor simple… nor is it as romantic as people may think. It takes effort, patience (read: loooooots of patience) and most of all… understanding. Understanding… as in consideration. Consideration… as in respect. Respect… as in mindfulness. You have to be mentally ready… you have to be comfortable in your own skin… you have to see Greece as something beyond a small country with big (current) troubles… you have to be aware and sensitive to what this tiny little country represents in the global sense.

It is so damn easy to be cynical. To be coy and clever and loud and full of bravado. To be arrogant and “knowing” in condemning  Greece for the current state it finds itself in. It is easy to be judgmental of all things wrong with the country today… I have been guilty of it myself. But lets just pause for a few minutes…

I came into Athens a couple of days ago on business and on a Sunday morning I got up early so that I can indulge into my favourite pass time in this ancient city. Like all large cities… if you really want to “see” them… if you really want the city to “speak” to you… you have to walk around early. You have to walk around when nobody else is around. You have to put yourself in places where the city can tell you it’s secrets…. speak to you… show you it’s history… it’s heritage… it’s tradition, it’s legacy, it’s pedigree.

In Athens there is only one place to do that in my opinion… the heights of Plaka, beneath the grand majesty of the Acropolis. This is where you see the ancient and the “merely” old… the elegance, the artful, yet exquisite simplicity of design. The glory of the ancient capital of the world. The place… where it all began.

There is not enough space on this blog…nor do you have the time for me to explain to you all the things that begun here. Needless to say all the things you consider as the very essence of western civilisation… all started here. Theatre, philosophy, science, medicine and a catchy little concept called “democracy”…. all started here. Physics and botany… zoology and biology… all started here. Almost everything that shapes western societies today… started here. The “Arts” as we know them… started here. Entertainment…comedy and tragedy… started here. The way you read, talk, calculate and apply logic, it all started HERE !

So as you join me for this extra special little walk… I would like you to think about where we are. This is not “just” a city. This is NOT my city… or yours… or just a Greek city. This is the where it all begun for all of us… you and me. All of the western world. This is where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked. This really is the place where it all began… in so many ways.

The higher up you walk towards the foothills of the Acropolis… the further back in history you go. It’s like a time-tunnel. When you get to the top of Plaka you look up… and all you can see is the imposing majesty of the Acropolis. It’s hard to comprehend that something so incredibly beautiful would’ve been built more than two thousand years ago. That’s two “thousand” years…
To this day there is nothing that comes even close !

as you look up you can see where the city began

the foothills of history…

every lane..every cafe…every taverna is hundreds of years old…

a lot of these old building have been lovingly restored… and the architectural
detail is exquisite

this is the charm of Athens from two centuries ago… in the foothills of the city of
two thousand years ago…

a lane built for carriages…

you tend to get lost in the details of present day architecture…
but then you look up, and you remember where you are…

how exquisite it must have been to walk around in those days…
how intimidating and/or thrilling it must have been if you were a visitor…

the foothills of the Acropolis are of course sprinkled with other ancient sites…
and yet, some say, only a tiny percentage of the ruins
have been excavated

the most famous building in the world still stands…
a fraction of it’s former glory… but still an exquisite
piece of architecture. Arguably the benchmark for every
other significant building project undertaken ever since…

and now there is a worthy museum to compliment the ancient Acropolis…
and just like the Athens Metro stations… its been built with care, taste and
and style that is complimentary to the sacred site

the size of the museum is impressive… although there is no doubt that a museum
twenty times as large is needed to house even a fraction of the ancient treasures
in storage around Athens…let alone the rest of Greece…

below the actual museum there are excavated parts of the old City… exposing
the advanced infrastructure that serviced ancient Athens

inside… the museum is a wonderful combination of the high-tech and ancient treasures…
all displayed in a typically Greek elegant simplicity

Alas… it was at this point, to my great disappointment – and I’m sure yours too, that I was pounced upon by the museum’s security staff. It was politely, but firmly, explained to me that photographs were NOT allowed within the museum itself. Quite frankly I am not surprised… nor do I blame them. There are already countless Greek treasures that were stolen and are now displayed – “for safe keeping” – in foreign museums… the last thing we want is the reproduction of the many priceless treasures this museum has on display. I know it’s a disappointment to many of you… but it just means you will have to visit for yourselves. Believe me you will be overwhelmed (hint: allow yourselves the time to enjoy it all… do NOT come to this place expecting to be out in an hour… there is far too much treasure to see).

the one thing I can show you… captured just prior to being surrounded by security,
is that below your feet (at ground level) is clear glass… through which
you can see the ancient city ruins below. Quite surreal !

the ruins below are the ancient outskirts of Athens.. clearly showing
the city’s advanced levels of planning and building  sophistication

Beyond the ancient ruins… Athens is now a very large city (four-five million officially… more than likely six-seven million+ with all illegals). It extends as far as the eye can see when gazing out from the Acropolis. Yet… standing on the foothills of the Acropolis on a Sunday morning… you can still get the feeling of what it must have been like all those centuries ago. At the time the world was different… and this city… Athens… was the centre of the known universe. What was being developed /debated/created here would have such an unbelievably profound impact on the rest of the world… in so many ways.

Athens is the capital of Greece… but it’s so much more than that. It belongs to all of us… because for all of us in the western world, this… is where it all began !

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18 responses to “Athens – where it all began…

  1. Such beautiful pictures, I love the history the world has to offer us. Having been to Egypt and seeing all the ancient sites was a dream come true, and I’m now setting my sites on Greece.
    Beautifully written, Michael, the passion and pride you have for your country shines through, and rightfuly so. Thankyou for the journey, Sheila

  2. Hola Michael, me encanta que nos enseñes Atenas, una ciudad que no conozco, me encanta tu pais…..y tengo ganas de conocerlo mejor

    Berta

  3. “This is not “just” a city. This is NOT my city… or yours… or just a Greek city. This is the where it all begun for all of us… you and me. All of the western world. ” – love the poetry of what you wrote…what a wonderful tribute to a magical place. I’ve been there three times now, but not since the new museum opened…so now I have a GREAT reason to go back!

  4. Hi dear Mediterranean neighbor!
    well yes sadly Greece has been badly noted just like Spain and now Portugal but hopefully we’ll come out of the crisis. Measures taken in Greece are quite drastic though.
    But back to beautiful Athens …I would love to stroll there one day and do this journey into time…
    Nice to know, you’re Greek !
    I’ll pass on your lovely wishes to the macho boy!
    Take care…xo

  5. Athens are so special, I spent there a week plus I’ve been there several times to go to different places. Unforgetable experience, I feel like I could live there

  6. Brilliant post Michael…I have explored some of those back streets near the Acropolis on my trip to Athens. Your abridged history lesson is perfect – a point well made. xv

  7. Thanks for the photo trip.

  8. Love the photos – the ciy ones bring back many happy memories of walking towards the Acropolis. We have the same photos of the museum but were lucky to visit it before it officially opened – when it was open for for free a couple of hours each day. No security guards then!
    Thanks for the time you take to post these entries. They do wonders for the soul.

  9. I stayed one night in Athens when I was a little girl (over forty six years ago) when we were returning stateside from Africa. I remember the candy vendors on the streets and the elevator in the hotel that had a window in the door and each floor had a color in lieu of a number. We ate croisants for breakfast and left the city on another airplane. It could have been any city really, but the colors and the buildings were so beautiful and it’s the only memory I have of traveling that young. Some day I’d love to bring my husband to Athens and your island, Santorini…soon I hope, very soon :D

  10. Caro Michael,

    Of course. I should have guessed. You are related to the Greek gods. This explains your anima, your eloquent passion. We should all be greatful Greece is inhabited by people like yourself. It will continue to live thousands of years. Economies come and go. Culture proves eternal. Buon week-end e bacione, ingrid in Umbria

    • I’m related to a few Greeks Ingrid… all distinctly mortal I can assure you (although the name is over 2000 years old… some very interesting ancestors from the Golden Age…more on that soon).
      Can’t wait to see some pics of your new abode and the renovation project.

  11. thank you for all your comments… shame there were no internal pics of the museum… but I don’t give up easily. Stay tuned ;-)

  12. Bravo Michael –
    Your post ( and the gorgeous images)
    was just stunning. I’ve thought of you so often
    as I’ve been reading about the current issues in
    Greece. It seems our entire planet has become
    such a chaotic mess .. . . we are all in this
    together.

    Judith

  13. A great post Michael. I certainly got the sense of history when travelling in Italy and would love to do the same in Greece. It is on my list. Lisa x

  14. How could I not stop by to wish my Greek friend a very Happy Easter? Thinking of you.

    I will toast to Greece tomorrow.

    All the best,
    Catherine

  15. I had the privilege of visiting Greece last July with my fiance for our good friend’s wedding on Santorini (at Santo Winery) and I am still blown away with the purely amazing country of Greece. The islands are holding our hearts hostage; we have talks almost daily about when we can go back. Reading your blog takes us back! Thank you for yours posts, and know that there are people in Fort Collins, CO who greatly appreciate your words!
    Also – we had a chance to visit the new museum in Athens and it was AMAZING!!!

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